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.