Hitchin Symphony Orchestra

Registered Charity No. 1069554

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Hitchin Symphony Orchestra

About the Orchestra

Hitchin Symphony Orchestra was founded as Hitchin Concert Orchestra in 1929 by Mary Ibberson at the Rural Music Schools Association. The change of name came in 1997 when the orchestra became a self-governing body. Its motto is “Promoting Live Music” and its aim is to promote orchestral music in the Hitchin area by providing audiences with symphonic concerts performed to a high standard and by serving as a concert platform for local musicians, whether orchestral players or soloists.

The orchestra’s President from 1984 until his death in February 2015 was the composer and pianist John McCabe C.B.E. For the last 31 years the orchestra has been conducted by Paul Adrian Rooke and, since 1997, it has been run by its committee and is still under the professional musical direction of Paul Adrian Rooke and Janet Hicks. 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.

In October 1998 the orchestra held a very successful all-day open workshop on the Elgar/Payne Symphony No. 3 which culminated in a performance, the symphony’s eleventh and the first by an established amateur orchestra. This was attended by Anthony Payne who had recently completed the composition and orchestration of the work and who, before the concert, graciously submitted to being interviewed by Paul Adrian Rooke and to answering questions from the audience. The orchestra also gave a further performance of the symphony, with Elgar’s Variations for Orchestra (‘Enigma’), as part of the 1999 Hitchin Festival.

To celebrate the orchestra’s 70th anniversary in November 1999, a Gala Concert was given, the programme including John McCabe’s Oboe Concerto and Symphony No. 4 (Of Time and the River), performed in the composer’s presence, Elgar’s Soliloquy for Oboe and Small Orchestra and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5 in D. The oboe soloist was Lani Spahr from Boston, U.S.A. The concert also celebrated John McCabe’s 60th birthday, Janet Hicks’ 30 years as Leader and Paul Adrian Rooke’s 15 years as Conductor of the orchestra – a golden ratio, surely: 4:2:1 (!).

In 2004, in its 75th anniversary year, the orchestra gave two Gala concerts, one in May and the other in November. The first included John McCabe’s Burlesque, performed in the composer’s presence, Rachmaninov’s Pianoforte Concerto No. 2 in C minor, with the brilliant young pianist Samantha Ward, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. The second, an extraordinarily original programme, included the world première of the orchestral version of Rutland Boughton’s Reunion Variations for Orchestra and the second only performance of its version with Song-ending, sung from behind the audience in the Town Hall gallery by Sally Silver (Soprano). Also in the programme were Naresh Sohal’s Songs of the Five Rivers sung by Sally Silver and accompanied by a huge orchestra including tabla, dholak, synthesizer, harp and a great deal of exotic percussion. Again, the composer was in the audience to hear this, only its second performance. Finally, Sullivan’s suite The Tempest – his Opus 1 – was given a rare performance.

This page was last modified on 3rd December, 2015.