Paul Adrian Rooke was born in Peterborough and educated at Bishop’s Stortford College and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. After graduating with a Music (Honours) degree he spent 36 years teaching music in secondary schools, before retiring in 2002. He has now established himself as a freelance musical originator and editor; transcribing and editing music by Elgar in particular. Paul is Chief Originator (musical typesetter) for The Elgar Complete Edition.
Paul has conducted and composed since his student days. The list of his compositions includes various carols and solo songs, song-cycles, a String Trio, a Flute Concerto, a Saxophone Concerto and an opera. His two symphonies were given their premières by Hitchin Symphony Orchestra in November 2001 and 2006 – both of which were very favourably received. Panegyric, written in memory of John McCabe, was given its first performance in July 2016 and Sixty Years of Harmony, a song written for the diamond jubilee celebrations of Stevenage Male Voice Choir, was given its first and several successive performances in 2018. Paul is currently working on his third symphony.
In April 1984 Paul conducted a most successful production of the children’s opera The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by John McCabe. This was performed in the presence of the composer. The following September Paul became conductor of Hitchin Concert Orchestra. He has now performed a wide repertoire of music by 20th century English composers, plus adventurous modern works by Jeremy Aknai, Malcolm Arnold, Douglas Coombes, Gordon Crosse, Peter Maxwell Davies, George Lloyd, John McCabe, Edmund Rubbra, Robert Simpson, Martin Vishnik – and himself. Paul’s preference, while acknowledging readily the supreme masterpieces composed by the great Classical and Romantic composers, has always been for British music of the nineteenth century and onward. This has formed a large part of the orchestra’s repertoire under his direction.
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.