2021: A Look Back

As the year comes to an end, it’s worth taking a look back at Rob’s achievements since his last update in June.

In June, the Prescot Festival took place in hybrid form, with a delicate balance of in-person events and online arts and music. Church services, art displays, footage from the Liverpool Cathedral Festival of Music and a cultural tour of historic Prescot were all part of the 10-day programme.

In August, Rob was interviewed as part of the Prescot Makers and Players project, in association with Imaginarium Theatre and Knowsley Council. The resulting short film also features clips of Prescot Parish Church Choir, of which Rob is associate director, singing his choral work For Mary, Mother of Our Lord, under conductor David Kernick. The piece was written for the 2018 Patronal Festival at St Mary’s Prescot, and was sung again at this year’s patronal.

Watch Makers and Players, Chapter 10: The Composer and the Choirmaster below, and see more local artists and crafters on the main project page at imaginariumtheatre.co.uk.

September saw several performing groups resume after almost eighteen months. Rob returned to conducting Phoenix Concert Orchestra in rehearsing light music repertoire, giving monthly bassoon performances in Bach cantatas with the Liverpool Bach Collective, playing principal bassoon with Liverpool Mozart Orchestra and, of course, directing a variety of choirs, orchestras and live events at St Edward’s College, where he teaches.

Among these events have been the South Liverpool Orchestra’s 45th Anniversary Concert (also marking Rob’s 10th anniversary as conductor) on Tuesday 7 December at All Hallows’ Church, Allerton, Liverpool. The programme included music by Nicolai, Bizet, Carwithen, Bush, Sibelius and Anderson, as well as congregational carols. The orchestra also performed three movements (Procession, Folk Song and Dance) from Rob’s own Festival Suite, commissioned by Knowsley Performing Arts in 2007; and the first live performance of his solo piano miniature Arietta (1990, recently revised), to an audience of 150.

On Thursday 9 December, the Prescot Festival team held its first large-scale event since March 2020, with the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert at Prescot Parish Church attracting an audience of about 235 and raising almost £250 for local good causes. Brassworks Quartet, Bluebell Park School Makaton Signing Choir and St Mary and St Paul’s CE Primary School Choir joined Prescot Parish Church Choir, who sang Robert’s 2017 meditation Alleluia (also sung twice on the First Sunday of Advent), with the composer at the piano and conductor David Kernick providing the opening and closing tenor solo. David also sang Rob’s setting of O Little Town of Bethlehem. Watch the videos below:

On Thursday 16 December, St Edward’s College held a successful Christmas concert, ‘Make It Magical,’ with Rob conducting the large-scale senior, chamber and junior orchestras, with massed choirs, choristers and soloists. Click here to watch the concert on the school’s official Facebook page.

Prescot Parish Choir, of which Rob is associate director, has been busy throughout Advent, with Sunday singing, Christmas services and a host of community events, including ecumenical ‘Carols around the Tree’ and visits to sing carols outside local care homes. Click here to watch Carols by Candlelight, Prescot Parish Church’s annual festival of lessons and carols, on Facebook.

And finally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent saw the premiere at Prescot Parish Church of Robert’s new setting of Ave Maria, which he dedicated to his late father, Bob Howard, as he approaches the 25th anniversary of his passing. Tenor David Kernick sang, with the composer at the piano.

Taking for granted the now-ubiquitous proviso that we are living in uncertain times, in 2022 Rob anticipates more composition and performances, including conducting engagements with Liverpool Mozart Orchestra and performances of his own works by the Choir of St Peter’s College, Oxford.

Don’t forget that the catalogue of Robert’s compositions continues to grow, with almost 200 scores now available for perusing, purchasing and downloading on Sheet Music Plus.

New Anthem: God of All Creation

Robert Howard’s latest choral composition will be heard for the first time on Sunday 6 June.

Members of Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing God of All Creation, a new anthem composed for the 2021 Royal School of Church Music Sunday Anthem Competition, using words by the Reverend Canon Gordon Giles.

This joyous, major key anthem, with modal inflections, features a series of memorable choral motifs in the main outer sections. A contrasting middle section uses imitation between parts and builds in volume and excitement, before an adapted return of the initial material. The work is framed by an introduction and extended fanfare coda in the accompaniment.

The premiere takes place during the Eucharist at 10am on Sunday 6 June, which is RSCM Music Sunday. All are welcome to attend this service of worship at Prescot Parish Church (Church Street, Prescot, L34 3LA), but it is essential to book ahead via Eventbrite.

Later in the month the choir will sing Robert’s 2016 motet Ave verum corpus (10am, Sunday 27 June). Again, worshippers are invited to book ahead via Eventbrite. Booking opens at 11am the Sunday before each service.

Last month the parish used Robert’s 2017 choral work Alleluia in their video ‘How do you pray?’ as part of Thy Kingdom Come, a ‘global prayer initiative’ from Ascension to Pentecost. The singers were by cathedral-based choir Liverpool 64, who made the recording in 2020. Watch and listen below:

The Prescot Festival will go ahead from Friday 18 to Sunday 27 June this year, with a mix of online and offline events. Highlights include the Prescot Heritage Trail, online contributions from Shakespeare North and Liverpool Cathedral, and the two Sung Eucharists on Sundays 20 and 27 June. Artistic director Robert will personally introduce the festival and draw proceedings to an end via specially recorded video messages on the opening and closing days.

Robert, who founded the Prescot Festival in 2005, spoke to Jessie Aru-Phillips of BBC Radio Merseyside about this year’s programme. Listen to the interview below, and browse the full festival schedule at prescotfestival.co.uk:

And finally, a reminder that the catalogue of Robert’s scores for perusing, purchasing and downloading continues to grow on Sheet Music Plus.

Robert Celebrates 30 Years Composing

The year 2020 marked three decades since Robert Howard began his composing career. As a pupil at Prescot School, in 1990, he wrote his first piece, Waltz in D, for piano.

Since that time, his compositions have racked up more than 300 live performances worldwide.

Despite the challenge of the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, it has been a successful year for Robert. Over 130 of his pieces are now available for printing and download via Sheet Music Plus, and more flexibly scored pieces have been published digitally by CoMA – Contemporary Music Making for All.

Nor has Covid-19 prevented public performances and even premieres. Rotations (2009) was performed by Stephen Mannings in March this year, and David Kernick sang the first performance of God So Loved the World in November, with the composer at the piano. Several performances of Rob’s Christmas carols are planned for December at Prescot Parish Church.


He has continued to compose, with Tantara, for solo trombone, among this year’s output; and he has revised and arranged several of his earlier compositions, many of which you can now hear or see in the Compositions section of this website.

And, in a final piece of good news, the Board of British Mensa recently announced they were to award Robert a Certificate of Appreciation for Services to Classical Music.

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    Biography

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