top of page


Hitchin Symphony Orchestra

HSO is an exciting, friendly and bold orchestra. We perform two or three concerts a year. Our performances in November and May are annual fixtures and involve a full complement of players. When possible we also perform a concert in July as part of the Hitchin Festival, which often involves slightly fewer 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 studied for an MMus in conducting at the Royal College of Music under Peter Stark and Robin O’Neill, graduating with Distinction in 2015. He was subsequently awarded a full scholarship by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has received additional tuition from George Hurst, Marin Alsop, Paavo Järvi, Tomáš Netopil, Sir Roger Norrington and Jac van Steen.

Prior to this he read Music at the University of Southampton, where he majored in composition under Michael Finnissy and Matthew Scott. He was awarded a BA with First Class Honours in 2011.


Rowan has conducted over 25 orchestras around the UK, as well as Riga Sinfonietta, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic. He currently serves as Musical Director to Hitchin Symphony Orchestra (since January 2020) and Letchworth Sinfonia, and Principal Guest Conductor to the Charity Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra's conductors before Rowan were Paul Adrian Rooke (1984 to 2019) and Malcolm Hicks (1968 to 1984).



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.

bottom of page