Catherine Ennis presented Peter with the RCO Medal in March 2013. This is the late Patricia Hurford’s acceptance speech at the RCO Presentation at Southwark Cathedral:
It is sad that Peter is unable to be here to receive his medal in person; but he is comfortable and calm in a Home that is able to look after him properly. There are two things that I would like to say on his behalf, especially to all of you who have just received your ARCO or FRCO. He would want to congratulate you most warmly, and would be delighted that your musicianship and hard work have brought you thus far on the complex instrument that was foremost in his life and work. Secondly, he would want to say ‘Thank You’ for the honour of being awarded the medal by his colleagues, and how pleased he is to be in company with John Butt and Mark Venning.
To these two points I want to add one of my own. You will all have become such proficient organists for a variety of good reasons. To these I am going to add a further reason that you may not know about: Music, and organ playing in particular, are extremely good for your health, especially in later stages of life. Peter had a minor stroke when he was 67, and could not even lift his left hand onto the keyboard unaided immediately after it. The physiotherapist who came to treat him at our home said, "There is no exercise that I can give you that will help you nearly as much as playing the organ". Peter was giving concerts again within 7 months of his stroke. The blind French organist Jean Langlais recovered even faster, and gave a recital just 3 months after his stroke. Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease – already quite advanced – early in 2008, but his playing was still superb. He gave his last public performance in 2009. By the end of 2011 his illness was much worse and there were all sorts of ordinary things he could no longer do; but he could still play Bach. For 18 months of the last two years Peter and I have been to weekly gatherings organised by the Alzheimer's Society called 'Singing for the Brain'. Everybody there joined in with the singing, including some people who could no longer talk, yet they could sing words set to music. Thus music, and organ playing in particular, can make all sorts of otherwise unattainable things possible. So if you ever have a difficult or dreary practice session, as you come down from the organ loft you could mutter to yourself, "Well, at least it did my brain some good"!