Hitchin Symphony Orchestra

HSO is an exciting, friendly and bold orchestra. We perform three concerts a year. Our performances in November and May involve a full complement of players. The annual fund-raising concert in July is part of the Hitchin Festival and involves only our own players.


Hitchin Symphony Orchestra, formerly known as Hitchin Concert Orchestra, was founded in 1929 by Mary Ibberson at the Rural Music Schools Association. After being run for many years as an evening class at North Hertfordshire College, the change of name came in 1997 when the orchestra became a self-governing body.


The committee has worked hard to establish the orchestra as an efficiently run, friendly body of musicians and, as a result, the orchestra has gone from strength to strength. There are around 35 regular members of Hitchin Symphony Orchestra, drawn from across Hitchin and the surrounding areas.


Rowan Baker graduated with First Class Honours from the University of Southampton in 2011.  He has since graduated with Distinction from the Royal College of Music where he completed a postgraduate degree in conducting under the guidance of Peter Stark and Robin O’Neill.  Rowan has studied with Michael Rose (Olney Conducting Workshops), Mark Heron and Tim Reynish (RNCM), Howard Williams (CSSM), George Hurst (Canford Music School), Tomáš Netopil (International Conducting Institute), Paavo and Neeme Järvi (Järvi Academy) and Marin Alsop (Cabrillo Festival, Santa Cruz). While at the RCM, Rowan assisted and was guided by visiting conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Jac van Steen, Andrew Gourlay, Sir Roger Norrington and John Wilson.


Rowan has conducted Wimbledon Symphony Orchestra, Luton Symphony Orchestra, Croydon Youth Orchestra, Hertfordshire Philharmonic, Havant Orchestra, Farnborough Symphony Orchestra, Aylesbury Symphony Orchestra, NEC Symphony Orchestra, SFCM Symphony Orchestra, de Havilland Philharmonic, St Albans Symphony Orchestra, the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra, and all the major orchestras at the RCM. He currently works for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and has worked as an arranger and transcriber for the London Festival Opera. 


In 2015 Rowan received a full scholarship from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has been Music Director of Letchworth Sinfonia for three years. He is delighted to have started working with HSO in January 2020.



Janet Hicks started playing the violin when she was nine years old. She graduated (BMus) from the University of Birmingham, where she also won the Hayward Scholarship for instrumental studies. Her violin teachers included Anne Macnaghten and Ernest Element. Since settling in Hertfordshire in the late 60s Janet has developed an active career embracing both teaching and playing. Significant positions held include:

  • viola in the Macnaghten Quartet;

  • chamber music tutor at North Herts College;

  • founder member of the Phoenix String Quartet, set up specifically to present live music in schools.


Having ceased her work for the Hertfordshire Music Service in 2018, after 51 years, Janet continues to freelance as a player, run string courses at Benslow Music, and lead both Hitchin Symphony Orchestra (a post she has held since 1969) and Letchworth Sinfonia (since 1989).



The orchestra’s President from 1984 until his death in February 2015 was the composer and pianist John McCabe. Following his death, Katherine Arnold (daughter of Sir Malcolm Arnold) and Adrian Yardley (son of Edmund Rubbra) were invited to become Joint Presidents. We are delighted they both accepted and look forward to a happy partnership for many years to come between two people so closely associated with twentieth-century English composers – and to performing more of their fathers’ music.


Monica McCabe, John’s widow, is our Honorary Life President and we are delighted to continue the long association between Hitchin Symphony Orchestra and the name of McCabe.

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Robert Kiln
Charitable Trust

© Hitchin Symphony Orchestra 2019

Hitchin Symphony Orchestra is Registered Charity No. 1069554

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