Born in England, Peter Godfrey was educated at King's College in Cambridge and was a chorister and choral scholar. War service intervened from 1942-45, with Godfrey serving as a Captain in the King's African Rifles. He later returned to Cambridge University to continue studies as the John Stewart Scholar in Sacred Music. From there, he attended the Royal College of Music and he was Music Master at various schools and Director of Music at Marlborough College.
In 1958 Godfrey came to New Zealand to take up the position of Lecturer in Music at Auckland University, later becoming Professor of Music (1974-1982). Alongside his university career, he was also director of Music for Auckland Cathedral of St Mary’s and Holy Trinity (1958-1974); conductor of the Auckland String Players (1959-1968); founder of the Symphonia of Auckland and Director of groups such as the Dorian Choir (1961-83), Auckland University Singers (1970-82), and the Auckland University Choral Society (1968-82). These groups have toured internationally to great acclaim.
In 1978, Godfrey was invited back to Cambridge as Acting Director of Music and Choir of King's College Chapel for six months. This appointment made him the only person to have been a chorister, choral scholar and Head of Music at Kings College Cambridge since the 15th Century. Returning to New Zealand, Godfrey became Conductor and Director of Music for the National Youth Choir (1982-88), Director of Music at St Paul's Cathedral in Wellington (1983-89), and Director of the Orpheus Choir (1984-91). One of his greatest accomplishments was to found the New Zealand Choral Federation in 1985. In 1989 he accepted a two-year posting as Director of Music at Trinity College, Melbourne. In recognition of his contribution to music, Godfrey received an MBE in 1978, a CBE in 1988, and he became Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland in 1982.