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English composer, conductor and academic Peter Aston was born in Birmingham on 5 October 1938 and studied at the Birmingham School of Music and at York University, where he later lectured in music from 1964 in Wilfrid Mellers' newly established music department. He was professor of music at the University of East Anglia for a quarter of a century from 1974, and later became Emeritus Professor of composition. Whilst in Norwich he was a Lay Canon at the cathedral and founded the Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music. He was invited by Britten to conduct the Aldeburgh Festival Singers. In the 1990s he became principal conductor of the Sacramento Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra.
He is best known for his Communion service, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in F and other church music, but he also wrote vocal and instrumental chamber music, choral and instrumental works and a 1969 opera for children, Sacrapant the Sorcerer. Of particular note are his early Five Songs of Crazy Jane (setting W B Yeats for solo soprano) and the cantata My Dancing Day of 1966.
Peter Aston wrote extensively about music and worked as an editor of Baroque music.
He died on 13 September 2013, aged seventy-four. As part of a tribute, Sharon Choa, director of music at the University of East Anglia, commented: 'his love of teaching earned him much affection from all students. He founded the Friends of UEA Music scheme, rounding up a host of supporters to contribute towards creating scholarships for Performance students, ensuring that such teaching could be kept at a high level despite government cuts. These scholarships are still benefitting our students.'
As a mark of respect, the UEA's flag was lowered on 1 October 2013, when Peter Aston's funeral took place at noon in Norwich Cathedral.