2023: The Year So Far…

It is hard to believe we are already three quarters of the way through 2023, but it has been a productive year so far for Rob.

As well as Postlude in Glory for organ, the Coronation-inspired Fanfare in Canon for brass quartet and a substantial revision of the earlier Invocation & Dance for bassoon and piano, the year has seen a foray into extended compositions: The three-movement Piano Sonata No. 1, ‘Bells,’ and the four-movement String Quartet No. 2, ‘Locomotion,’ clocking in at 23 minutes and 32 minutes, respectively. Note all that scores continue to be available for download at Sheet Music Plus.

Rob’s sacred choral repertoire remains in use in worship, with Prescot Parish Church Choir, among others, singing Bread of the World, God So Loved the World, I Gave You Love (The Good Friday Reproaches) and Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour. The solo voice and piano version of the 2022 Ave Maria has received four performances – a ‘mini-tour’ – with David Kernick singing it in Prescot, with the composer at the piano, and again in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral for the Francis Neilson Lunchtime Concert in March. This latter occasion also included the solo version of God So Loved the World, repeated for the Easter Vigil at Prescot Parish Church. Soprano Abigail Birch-Price also sang Ave Maria, first at All Hallows’ Allerton in May, then the following month as part of the Prescot Festival, again with the composer accompanying.

Listen to Abigail Birch-Price singing Ave Maria:

Jubilate Deo is as popular a choice as ever for choirs, enjoying several high-profile performances in 2023, by the massed community choirs of Liverpool Cathedral (Liverpool 64, Gilbert Scott Singers and Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir) at cathedral concerts in April and July, under the direction of Ian Wells, with Ian Tracey on the organ.

Christopher McElroy conducted the Choir of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (pictured) singing the piece three times in July, each with Richard Lea on the organ: At the cathedral mass for the Sacred Heart, at the Prescot Festival, and finally in a remarkable 140-voice choir, in combination with the boys, girls and lay clerks of Liverpool Cathedral Choir, at their highly successful Coronation-themed ‘Fit for a King’ concert. They also joined the voices of the Prescot Festival Chorus to sing Rob’s Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour in June (conductor Ian Wells, organist Peter Kwater).

Notable first performances have included the solo organ piece Postlude in Glory, given by James Luxton of Liverpool Cathedral at his solo recital at the Prescot Festival. September’s annual Parish Musicians in Concert, also at Prescot, saw a first performance of Praise the Lord (David Kernick, tenor, with Rob at the piano) and a premiere of Berceuse for piano.

Festival Still Flourishing

As it approaches its 20th year, the Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts is still going strong, with 2023 audiences averaging over 200 for main evening concerts and 1,700 in total. As well as seeing performances of his own works on the 19th annual programme, Rob conducted his South Liverpool Orchestra in the Proms-style Festival Finale (pictured below). The 10-day schedule was the occasion for debut performances from the Choir of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, pianist and organist James Luxton, and the Phil Shotton Big Band (pictured above). There was also a first-time event at Prescot’s new Shakespeare North Playhouse. Other concerts throughout the year featured Skelmersdale Prize Band in March (raising £125 for the festival, after costs) March, and Parish Musicians in Concert in September (raising over £330 for the parish).

Rob’s post as Assistant Head of Music Faculty at St Edward’s College, Liverpool, continues to occupy his weekdays. As conductor of the secondary school’s junior, senior and chamber orchestras, Rob has wielded the baton for two packed performances of A Night at the Musicals, a Leavers’ Concert in March and a Summer Concert in July.

Despite school commitments, Rob still finds time for regular performances as Principal Bassoonist of Liverpool Mozart Orchestra and Liverpool Bach Collective, ongoing conducting engagements with Prescot Parish Church Choir, and high-standard, sell-out performances conducting Phoenix Concert Orchestra in British and US Light Music in concert at St Ann’s Church Aigburth, and South Liverpool Orchestra in Coronation-themed repertoire at All Hallows’ Allerton and at the Prescot Festival in June (see above).