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Archbishop of Canterbury honours Bangor Professor

Professor John Harper (right) with fellow degree recipient, Dr John Harris (left), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace.Professor John Harper (right) with fellow degree recipient, Dr John Harris (left), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace.The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has announced the award of the degree of Doctor of Music to Professor John Harper, a research professor in music at Bangor University. The Archbishop writes that the award recognises Professor Harper’s ‘distinguished contribution to the development and appreciation of church music as a scholar, administrator, teacher and composer, and to a greater understanding of the relationship between music and the liturgy of the church.’

Professor Harper comments: ‘While the work I have undertaken, and the people with whom I have worked, have been sufficient reward in themselves, this is a great affirmation not only for me but also for all those I have worked with and taught.’

In conferring the degree, the Archbishop of Canterbury is exercising a unique right granted by Act of Parliament in 1533 to award degrees on the basis of scholarship and learning. The degree of Doctor of Music will be conferred at a special ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 9 November 2010.

John Harper is Research Professor in Christian Music and Liturgy at Bangor, and founder director of the International Centre for Sacred Music Studies. He is currently leading a major ESRC/AHRC-funded research project on The Experience of Worship. He first came to Bangor as Professor of Music in 1991, where he expanded the work of the music department and established a series of initiatives in Welsh music studies and research. From 1998–2007 he served as Director General of the Royal School of Church Music; but he kept his association with the university as a research professor, and established collaboration between the university and the RSCM for sacred music studies. At the RSCM he took forward many other new initiatives in music, music education and publishing for churches and church musicians. He returned to north Wales in 2008 to focus on the development of sacred music studies at the university and on writing and research.

Most of Professor Harper’s working life has been dominated by church music in some way. During the 1970s he worked as Director of Music at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, receiving the Benemerenti award from Pope Paul VI for his services in 1978. As organist, fellow and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, from1981 to 1990, he directed the renowned college choir. He is also a composer. His works including a Jubilate written especially for the Queen’s visit to Bangor Cathedral for the Golden Jubilee celebration in Wales in 2002, and a bilingual setting of the Eucharist for the Church in Wales – Cymun y Cymru. Most Sundays he plays the organ at St Mary’s parish church, Llanfairpwll.

Publication date: 9 November 2010