Long Biography

John Wells was born in Stamford, England. He won an organ scholarship to King's College, Cambridge, where he studied with Hugh Macdonald, Philip Radcliffe and Roger Smalley, and worked with David Willcocks and the world-famous Chapel Choir. He accompanied the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 1967 and 1968, broadcast live to several million viewers.

He came to Wanganui Collegiate School (New Zealand) in 1969 as Director of Music and moved to Auckland in 1971, where he established a free-lance career as a performer, composer and broadcaster. He was involved with the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at that time with their musical director, Peter Godfrey. He was appointed Auckland City Organist for the first time in 1972, and was organist at Holy Trinity in 1994.

In 1978 he moved to Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana where he entered the doctoral programme for organ studies under Dr Oswald Ragatz. He graduated with high distinction in 1978 and returned to England the same year.

He spent the next eight years back in Cambridge where he was organist and choirmaster at Little St Mary's Church, tutored at the Cambridge University School of Music and was acting Director of Studies at St Catharine's College. In 1979 he organised the first Cambridge Summer Recital and in 1999 was privileged to play in the series 20 years later, by which time CSR had become one of England's leading summer organ festivals.

Returning to New Zealand with his NZ-born wife Anne and their three daughters in 1986, John Wells continued free-lance work. He was Deputy Conductor of the NZ National Youth Choir under Prof. Peter Godfrey and Dr Karen Grylls. He took up part-time work at the University School of Music as tutor in organ and aural skills, and was appointed Organist to the University of Auckland in 1994. During that year, he worked as Organist at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell with Peter Watts. He has played for more graduation ceremonies than he's had cooked breakfasts and publishes under the newmusic/newzealand imprint. He also works as an examiner and adjudicator, and was pianist for The Tasman Trio for many years. His compositions are performed and broadcast regularly (see John Wells: Composer).  He was organist for many years for Musica Sacra (a highly-regarded secular choir specialising in Anglican choral music).

He was Auckland City Organist from 1998 to 2012 and played a key role in the successful campaign to rebuild the Town Hall organ.  He is a past-President of the New Zealand Association of Organists, who made him an honorary Fellow in 2002 in recognition of his services to NZ organ music.   He has toured abroad frequently and given concerts in Australia, France, Poland, the USA and England.   He uses Pacific elements in his compositions; Maori melodies, haka and paatere rhythms can be found in works such as the Piano Trio and the Horn Trio.   He was responsible for the decision to base two of the stops in the new Auckland Town Hall organ on Maori instruments.

In 1989, he recorded NZ's first organ CD This is Alkan and has produced six more, all of which have received favourable reviews both nationally and internationally.   These include the entire Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach.   The CD of the Inauguration (featuring his Organ Symphony) has now been released and his own solo CD of the new Klais instrument was released at the 2011 NZAO Congress, when he wias one of the featured recitalists.   His Organ Concerto was premiered by the St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra with the composer as soloist in 1996 and has been performed several times in NZ, and also in Australia and the USA.   The Second Organ Concerto was first given in the Auckland Town Hall on the new Klais with Rebecca Lee (solo) and the Auckland Youth Orchestra under Antun Polyanich in 2017.

He was Director of the NZ branch of the Australian & New Zealand College of Organists from 2012 to 2017.

He owns his own Roland C-330 digital organ and a customised trailer, making him the first mobile organ recitalist in the country.  He gave the world's first organ concert in a shearing shed in 2017.   He looks forward to bringing organ music to the many parts of the country which have never heard a pipe organ. 

August 2019