Hitchin Symphony Orchestra
Conductor from 1984 to 2019
Paul Adrian Rooke (1945–2019) 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 then established himself as a freelance musical originator and editor; transcribing and editing music by Elgar in particular. Paul was Chief Originator (musical typesetter) for The Elgar Complete Edition.
Paul 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.
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. With them he 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, was always for British music of the nineteenth century and onward. This formed a large part of the orchestra’s repertoire under his direction.
Paul died peacefully in the early hours of 19 November 2019. His generosity to HSO knew no bounds and he is greatly missed. Paul lived each of his 74 years to the maximum and in addition to composing, conducting and playing music he indulged in his other passions of cookery, watching the Posh play football, curries, and supporting his old school and university college. He was also a devoted and hugely loved Grandad, which brought him a lot of pleasure.
Conductor from 1968 to 1984
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 Adrian Rooke, who directed it with such distinction until July 2019.
Malcolm kindly stepped in to conduct the rehearsals and concert for Janet Hicks' golden jubilee in November 2019 when Paul was unwell. Naturally, Malcolm was very sad about the circumstances that lead to him standing in temporarily as conductor. He was, however, pleased to renew acquaintances with old friends in the orchestra.