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.

Scores Now Available on Sheet Music Plus (& Other News)

Robert Howard’s music is now available to download via Sheet Music Plus, ‘the world’s largest sheet music selection.’ Fourteen choral and piano solo works are already in the collection, and more are being added regularly.

Visit sheetmusicplus.com to browse compositions, preview scores, listen to audio excerpts and purchase sheet music.

Successful Festive Season

Advent and Christmas saw performances of Robert’s compositions, with Prescot Parish Church Choir singing his 2002 carol ‘A Babe Is Born’ on four occasions. Of these, the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert, with an audience of almost 500, is most notable; the event, which Robert helped organise in his capacity as artistic director of the Prescot Festival, raised more than £1,400 for local causes.

Robert also enjoyed several conducting engagements over the festive season, with Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, South Liverpool Orchestra, Phoenix Concert Orchestra, Prescot Parish Church Choir and the three orchestras of St Edward’s College. The LMO concert was a particular highlight, with BBC Radio Merseyside star Roger Phillips appearing to narrate Prokofiev’s much-loved children’s work Peter and the Wolf.

Piano Premiere 6 March

Stephen Mannings will give the first performance of Robert’s 2009 piano piece Rotations on Friday 6 March at Prescot Parish Church. The concert, which starts at 7pm, also features the Gilbert Scott Singers – Liverpool Cathedral’s official youth choir – and Danielle Louise Thomas, the mezzo-soprano known as the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ (pictured). Danielle will sing the solo part in a performance of the beautifully meditative 2017 choral work Alleluia. Visit prescotfestival.co.uk for more details of the concert, including ticket information.

Coming soon: News of other upcoming performances by Prescot Parish Church Choir, South Liverpool Orchestra, Liverpool Cathedral outreach choirs and the Prescot Festival Chorus.

Record-breaking Prescot Festival & More News

This year’s Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts broke records, with an unprecedented 1,700 through the doors of Prescot Parish Church and other venues.

The 10-day cultural celebration took place between Friday 21 and Sunday 30 June, and this year’s was the 15th since Rob founded it in 2005. Highlights included appearances by Dr Jazz & the Cheshire Cats, the Band & Drums of the Cheshire Constabulary and the world-renowned Liverpool Cathedral Choir. Maghull Wind Orchestra were joined by soprano Danielle Louise Thomas – the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ – for the Proms-style finale, which attracted an audience of 325, an increase of 100 on last year.

Two of Rob’s own compositions were performed during this year’s festival, with Alleluia (2018) opening this year’s ‘Come & Sing’ concert. The following day, Metropolitan Cathedral organist Richard Lea played the 2014 piece Meditation, dedicated to Lea and fellow organist Ian Tracey.

Elsewhere over the summer, Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir sang Robert’s Ave verum corpus, while the Ormskirk Music Society Orchestra played the stirring 2015 work Cortege. In May, Rob was soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, with the South Liverpool Orchestra.

Trinity Sunday, on 16 June, was the occasion of a premiere – Bread of the World, dedicated to Jacquie Kernick, who passed away on 26 March. The meditative hymn was sung by the choir during Eucharist at Prescot Parish Church.

Upcoming Performances

Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing Bread of the World again on at Parish Musicians in Concert later this month. Soprano Elizabeth Lyon will sing the solo voice version of For Mary, Mother of Our Lord (2018), accompanied by Stephen Mannings on piano, and the composer will play his own piano miniatures: Pastoral Intermezzo No. 2 (1994), The Mystery of the Trinity (1998) and Mother and Child (2000). All four compositions are premieres.

Parish Musicians in Concert takes place at Prescot Parish Church on Friday 27 September, at 7pm. Tim Hall, celebrating his 40th anniversary as Parish Organist, is joined by Prescot Parish Church Choir for 75 minutes of vocal and instrumental music, followed by cake and wine. Tickets are £5 on the door.

Looking even further ahead, Rob will conduct the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra for the first time on Sunday 8 December at 2.30pm in the Capstone Theatre at Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus (Shaw Street, Liverpool). The concert of ‘Festive Favourites’ features BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

June Performances Coming Up

April saw a double premiere, when Robert Howard’s new setting of the Good Friday Reproaches (I Gave You Love) was sung by the choirs of both St Mary’s, Prescot, and All Hallows’, Allerton, under the composer and Stephen Davies, respectively.

At Prescot, on the same day, Rob also conducted his own Ave verum corpus (2016).

Three choirs – Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir, Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir and the newly established Liverpool64 – assembled to sing Rob’s Jubilate Deo (2016) in the cathedral on Saturday 11 May. Stephen Mannings conducted, with a splendid accompaniment on organ, piano and timpani, as part of the ‘All Ages Sing!’ concert.

More performances are ahead for Rob’s compositions, both old and new.

On Sunday 2 June, Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing the 2017 anthem Alleluia during their morning Eucharist at 10am, with David Kernick conducting.

On Wednesday 5 June, Stephen Mannings conducts Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir in Ave verum corpus during Evensong in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral (5.30pm).

On 16 June, Trinity Sunday, Prescot Parish Church Choir sing a new hymn, Bread of the World, during Holy Communion at the 10am Sung Eucharist, again under David Kernick.

On Saturday 22 June, Alleluia features in the Prescot Festival ‘Come & Sing’ concert at Prescot Parish Church, alongside Vivaldi’s Gloria, under conductor James Luxton, of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. All SATB singers are welcome to participate, and the guests for the second half of the evening are Liverpool Cathedral Choir.

The following day, 23 June, sees Robert’s 2014 organ piece Meditation performed at the festival as part of a recital by Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral organist Richard Lea. Tickets are just £5, including wine & nibbles, and under-16s are free with a paying adult.

Then, on Saturday 29 June at 7.30pm in St John the Baptist Church in Burscough (School Lane, L40 4AE), Jim Cooke directs the Ormskirk Music Society Orchestra in a performance of Rob’s stirring 2015 work Cortege. Tickets are £10 and £5.

Looking even further ahead, Bread of the World and other Howard compositions will be on the programme on Friday 27 September, at 7.30pm, at Parish Musicians in Concert. This church fundraiser at Prescot Parish Church features organist Tim Hall and guest musicians, including Robert and other members of Prescot Parish Church Choir.

Howard Premiere: ‘I Gave You Love’ (Good Friday Reproaches)

Robert has once again added to Prescot Parish Church Choir’s repertoire with a composition of his own, ‘I Gave You Love,’ which will be sung during the Final Hour Liturgy (2pm) this Friday, 19 April, at St Mary’s Prescot. It is scored for SATB choir and congregation.

The music, a setting of the traditional Good Friday ‘Reproaches,’ is based on themes from Robert’s earlier motet ‘For Mary, Mother of Our Lord,’ written in 2018 for the same choir. It will dovetail with the anthem ‘Ave verum corpus’ (choir only, 2016). Organist Tim Hall is to accompany both.

Three performances of Robert’s ‘Jubilate Deo’ (2016) at Liverpool Cathedral in January and March were well-received. The last of these, by Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir, took place during the first Liverpool Cathedral Choral Festival Piano Competition on 21 March, of which Robert was a judge. A fourth performance in this majestic venue is on 11 May as part of the cathedral’s Spring Concert, this time with a massed choir comprising Liverpool 64 Community Choir, Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir and Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir.

And finally, the 2015 orchestral work ‘Cortege’ is programmed by the Ormskirk Music Society for 29 June. More details on this, as well as Howard performances at the 15th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts (21-30 June), will follow soon.

Successful Festival, Robert Howard Performances

Two of Robert’s choral compositions featured in this year’s Prescot Festival, with the 2016 setting of the Ave verum corpus receiving a performance by a massed choir of an unprecedented 120 singers from across the North West on 16 June. (Pictured. Photo: Alan Humphreys)

Alleluia, written in memory of Gerald Dyson in 2017, was the anthem for Festival Choral Evensong, closing the 10-day event on Sunday 24 June. Gerald was a long-time member of Prescot Parish Church Choir, who sang the piece accompanied by parish organist Tim Hall.

The festival, which Rob founded in 2005 and continues to direct, was a great success, welcoming over 1,600 people to a series of concerts and arts events in venues throughout Prescot and Whiston.

Performances & Premieres Ahead

More performances of Robert’s works are lined up for later this year. His new anthem For Mary, Mother of Our Lord will receive its first performance on Sunday 9 September in Prescot Parish Church, during the 10.30am Eucharist. It has been composed especially for the occasion of the 2018 Patronal Festival and dedicated to the church and to the composer’s own mother, Dorothy Howard.

The trebles of Prescot Parish Church Choir sing Jubilate Deo at Parish Musicians in Concert on Friday 21 September at 7pm in Prescot Parish Church. The concert will also see premieres of three early works by Robert Howard: piano miniatures Pastoral Intermezzo and Prelude in F (both 1993), and Pierrot (1992), for solo bassoon; each piece will be played by the composer himself. For just £5 on the door (u16s free with a paying adult), audiences will enjoy about 75 minutes of music from organist Tim Hall and soloists, followed by complimentary cake and wine.

On 6 October St Helens Choral Society will perform three of Rob’s motets – Ave Verum Corpus, Alleluia and Jubilate Deo. The concert, entitled ‘O Radiant Dawn – A Celebration of 20th & 21st Century Choral Music’ and conducted by Stephen Newlove, will take place at St Thomas’s Church in St Helens (Peter Street, WA10 2EB – please note the change of venue from that advertised earlier) at 7.30pm. Call 01695 625500 for ticket reservations or email info@sthelenschoralsociety.org. The cost is £10, or £1 for students.

Then on 17 November, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra will feature Robert’s 2015 work Cortege as part of a WWI remembrance concert in Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre.

Howard Compositions to Feature in Prescot Festival

Two of Robert Howard’s choral compositions will feature on the programme of this year’s Prescot Festival, of which he is founder and director.

In a concert commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One, the Prescot Festival Chorus will sing Robert’s haunting setting of Ave verum corpus. Either side will be two classic works by Gabriel Fauré, Cantique de Jean Racine and Requiem. In excess of 115 singers are expected to come from across the North West to join the chorus for the concert, which takes place at 7pm on Saturday 16 June at Prescot Parish Church.

In preparation for the occasion, Prescot Parish Church Choir, for whom Ave verum corpus was originally written, sang the piece during the Eucharist on Sunday 13 May. Later the same week, they led the way in singing Robert’s 2017 anthem Alleluia at an RSCM ‘Sing & Sup’ workshop/rehearsal at the Church of St Nicholas, Sutton, under the baton of Dr Ian Sharp.

Prescot Parish Church Choir will then sing the meditative Alleluia as the anthem on Sunday 24 June, at a service of Choral Evensong marking the close of the 2018 Prescot Festival. Canticles are by Richard Shephard (his Song of Mary and Song of Simeon in place of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, respectively). All are welcome to Prescot Parish Church at 6pm. The service is followed by the Proms-style Festival Finale, featuring the Maghull Wind Orchestra.

As well as Ave verum corpus and Alleluia, two more of Robert’s pieces received performances in May 2018. The composer himself played The Clown (1991) and Folk Lament (1994), both early works for solo bassoon, as part of the South Liverpool Orchestra’s concert at St James’s Woolton on 15 May.

Robert Wins Knowsley Cultural Volunteer of the Year

Robert was honoured to be named Cultural Volunteer of the Year at the 2017 Knowsley Sports & Cultural Awards.

At the gala ceremony on 13 October, Robert was declared winner for his achievements as Artistic Director of the Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts, which he founded in 2005 and directs to this day.

The festival itself won Cultural Event of the Year, an honour it first held in 2015.

Pictured: Robert Howard, David Kernick, Laura Howard & Dot Howard, with Mayor of Knowsley Cllr Frank Walsh and author Frank Cottrell Boyce

‘Exceptional Service’ Award for Robert Howard

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Dr Robert Howard has received a national award for his achievements with the Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts.

Rob founded the festival in 2005 and remains its artistic director over a decade later. Having begun as a weekend event, it now runs to 10 days every June and showcases an array of musical, artistic and cultural talent from the local community, the North West region and beyond.

In recognition of his pioneering work, BAFA, the British Arts Festival Association, has presented him with the Exceptional Service Award 2016. Announced at BAFA’s November 2016 conference in Hull, the certificate was officially presented to Rob in person during the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert on 8 December.

(On an a related note, that concert, which is organised annually by the Prescot Festival, attracted a record 420 people and raised over £1,100 for local charities. Local school, church and community choirs were joined by Brassworks Quintet for the lively family occasion.)

Picture: Revd John Taylor, Vicar of Prescot, presents Robert with his award

 

Performances, Premieres & a Birthday Milestone for Robert Howard

Following a string of successful performances of his works at this year’s Prescot Festival – and as he approaches his 40th distinguished year – Robert Howard has several more performances of his compositions in the pipeline.

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The composer himself will be at the piano on Friday 23 September at 7.00pm at Prescot Parish Church, when he plays three of his piano miniatures: Chorale for St Andrews, Still and In Memory. The third of these will be the premiere of the arrangement. You can listen to all three and view score excerpts on the compositions page.

The concert, which also features flautist Laura Bonnett, tenor David Kernick and organist Tim Hall, is a fundraiser for the parish, and tickets are just £5 on the door. Over an hour of music will be followed by cake and wine, included in the admission price.

December 2016 sees Robert in concert with the South Liverpool Orchetra, when he will be soloist in Elgar’s Romance for bassoon and orchestra. The SLO Christmas Concert takes place at Hope University Chapel on Tuesday 6 December at 8pm, and the £4 admission price includes a buffet.

Prescot Parish Church Choir give the first performance of the SATB arrangement of Robert’s 2002 carol A Babe Is Born on Thursday 8 December. Several local church and school choirs also take part in this Christmas concert, held in aid of the Mayor of Prescot’s charities. It starts at 7.00pm at Prescot Parish Church and costs £5 on the door, including refreshments.

Robert also has seasonal conducting engagements with Prescot Parish Church Choir, Phoenix Concert Orchestra and St Edward’s College orchestras throughout December.

And finally, Robert is delighted to announce that his two 2016 sacred choral works, Ave verum corpus and Jubilate Deo, both written for and premiered by Prescot Parish Church Choir, have entered the repertoire of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (Youth) Choir and the choirs of St Edward’s College, Liverpool. Listen to the original performances here.

Photo: Robert Howard conducts the South Liverpool Orchestra with trumpeter Hannah Mackenzie at the 2016 Prescot Festival (Christopher Lyon Photography)