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 30 regular members of Hitchin Symphony Orchestra, drawn from across Hitchin and the surrounding areas.

Guest Conductor

Malcolm Hicks graduated in Music at the University of Birmingham, where he was also Assistant Master of the Music at the Cathedral as a student. After postgraduate studies in piano, cello, singing and conducting at the Guildhall School of Music, he has since enjoyed a full-time freelance career as a keyboard player, conductor and chorus-master, based in London. He has played extensively with all the major London orchestras, in South Bank concerts, Proms, many broadcasts for radio and TV, films, recordings, and on tour abroad, countless times to Europe, several times to the Far East, with concerts in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea - and to North and South America and the former USSR, principally, until recent semi-retirement, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Having always played for church (and synagogue) he has been organist at St James’s Piccadilly for many years. As a chorus-master he has had the hugely rewarding experience of preparing choirs for many of the most eminent conductors, from Boult to Boulez, with many illustrious groups, including the Royal Choral Society, London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, and BBC Singers. He has conducted a continuous series of concerts with choirs and orchestras, mainly in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Hampshire, and in central London. Malcolm was conductor of Hitchin Concert Orchestra (as HSO was called then) from 1968 to 1984. He became conductor of a choir in Farnham, Surrey at about that time, and relinquished conductorship of the Hitchin Orchestra, where he was succeeded by his very good friend and colleague, Paul Rooke, who directed it with such distinction until July 2019. Naturally, Malcolm is very sad about the circumstances that lead to him standing in temporarily as conductor. He is, however, pleased to have renewed acquaintances with old friends in the orchestra and to have had a part in Janet’s jubilee concert.



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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