I am deeply saddened to hear of the tragic death of Paul Rooke. His was not a well-known name in the international world of classical music, but he was a doughty and invaluable worker at the coal-face. For many years he was a devoted school music teacher in the Hitchin area, and not a few of his pupils went on to have careers in music. He also, over a period of some 35 years, conducted the Hitchin Symphony Orchestra, where again he did remarkable work, not sticking to the safe and standard classics, but often performing unusual and interesting repertoire. He conducted a number of works by John McCabe, including more that one excellent production of his children's opera, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. John also performed his First Piano Concerto with the Hitchin SO, under his baton. In May 2018 Paul conducted Malcolm Arnold's rarely-performed Viola Concerto, with the Hitchin SO, when one of his former music pupils, Helen Sanders-Hewett, was the viola soloist.
Helen Sanders-Hewett and Paul Adrian Rooke. Photo © 2018 Andrew Hyde
Paul did helpful and useful work for both Elgar and Rutland Boughton, putting little-known or neglected works on computer. He also put a short, hitherto unpublished piano work by John on computer for me, as a kindness. In his invaluable work as a musician in the Hitchin area, Paul also played the organ for the parish church of St. Mary's.
Shortly before his accidental fall, in which he was severely injured, and which eventually ended his life, he was again happily conducting the Hitchin SO. He appeared to have many years still in front of him, and a busy season of conducting ahead, during 2019/20, which would also have included celebrating his 75th birthday with a performance of one of his own works, but it was fated not to be. Paul was a good and valued friend of John's and mine for over 40 years, and his loss is a severe one, for his family and for his many friends.
© Monica McCabe, November 20th 2019