Richard Cooke - Musical Director
Richard Cooke was appointed Conductor of the Royal Choral Society in 1995, becoming Music Director in 1998, and has appeared with us in many concerts in the Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls. Most notable of these have been their annual Good Friday performances of Handel’s Messiah, and spectacular Christmas Carol concerts. He has directed concerts with the RCS in the cathedrals of Peterborough, Winchester, Salisbury and Southwark. He has also recorded Orff’s Carmina Burana with us together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Richard was a chorister of St Paul’s Cathedral and Choral Scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, where he conducted all the main university orchestras. He was Conductor of the London Philharmonic Choir from 1982–1991. Born in Cornwall, he returns there each summer for his favourite outdoor activity, body-surfing off the north Cornish coast. He also enjoys cycling and hill walking, climbing Munros and their equivalents, in Scotland and Wales.
He has worked in collaboration with the many of the world’s leading conductors, including Solti, Haitink, Muti, Mehta, Bernstein, Abbado and Klaus Tennstedt. He has received a Grammy award and four Grammy nominations, most notably for his work as Chorus Master for Tennstedt's spectacular recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, and for Haitink’s recording of Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony, both of which were also voted for top awards by Gramophone Magazine.
He has conducted in many European cities, most frequently in Sweden, where he has given concerts with the Gothenburg and Helsingborg Symphony Orchestras, and appeared throughout the country. He gave many concerts with the Opéra de Lyon choir and orchestra, where he was choirmaster for three years until 1995, and has conducted also in the Aix-en-Provence Festival.
He has been Music Director of Canterbury Choral Society for 26 years and the University of Essex Choir for 30 years. Both have established strong reputations in their respective parts of the country, performing regularly in Canterbury Cathedral, Snape Maltings, Norwich Cathedral and other venues. With Canterbury Choral Society he has recorded Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Ultimate Last Night of the Proms together with the RPO. Performances have included Mahler Symphonies No. 2, 3 and 8, Berlioz’ Grand Messe des Morts and La Damnation de Faust, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass , Prokoviev’s Alexander Nevsky, Britten’s War Requiem (including the first ever performance in Snape Maltings) and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
Richard Cooke was made an Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Kent in 2010, and an Honorary Doctor at the University of Essex in 1996, in recognition of his contribution to musical life both in Canterbury and Essex.