William Petter was born in 1982, the younger son of two musicians, Liza and Hugh. The family moved to Oxford in 1987, and William went to New College School, where his musical gifts flourished as a chorister. His musical facility also extended to playing the piano, organ, violin and guitar, as well as arrangement and original composition.
He returned to singing in earnest during a neuroscience degree at University College London, where he joined the student opera chorus. He went on to study tenor at postgraduate level at the Royal Academy of Music, gaining a DipRAM with distinction. He remained in London and enjoyed a successful career as a freelance musician.
William sang regularly with many groups including Philharmonia Voices, the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, The Choir of the Enlightenment, The Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia Voices and London Voices. He had a busy career as a soloist, underpinned by skills which were borne equally out of a committed application to the technical aspects of his craft, and by his natural aptitude and character. His romantic side gave him a particular flair for Schubert Lieder and twentieth-century English song, while in Bach's cantatas and Passions his particular skill as a communicator of sacred works allowed him to give compelling and authentic performances. He was a founder member and driving force of the Oxford Bach Ensemble, a group of both professional and amateur musicians which has raised nearly £20,000 over 12 years for charitable causes.
He directed several choirs, including Sine Nomine, Concordia Voices and most notably the professional choir of St Magnus the Martyr, where he worked for 10 years and made two recordings. Alongside performing, William was committed to helping others to find their voice, and enjoyed teaching singers of a wide range of ages and abilities, both privately and at Orchard House School in Chiswick.
William was diagnosed with clear cell sarcoma in 2013. As the illness progressed he continued to sing, conduct, teach and to the greatest extent possible, live life to the full. During this period William also began to develop his composition more seriously. All his recorded works, written during his latter years, reveal a young composer honing his craft, and in doing so finding his own distinct voice. His main works, all composed for sacred use, reflect his character — at once playfully exuberant, and of great sensitivity and spiritual depth. His works draw both on the experiences in total of a life immersed in music, and on the joys and sorrows particular to the challenging period in which he composed.
Plans to record his music were developed in 2016, with the big decisions on repertoire, performers and production team taken by William himself. Sadly he died before these plans came to fruition, on October 10 2016 — a month after his 34th birthday and shortly before the recording took place. Survived by his wife Rebecca and daughter Rose, other family members and his many friends, William leaves a considerable professional legacy not just in his recorded works, but through the gifts he made during his lifetime as a coach, director and — not least — a talented performing musician.