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Robert Hugill


Robert was born in 1955 in North Lincolnshire and as a teenager played the viola and the piano. At university in Manchester, where he studied Mathematics, singing gradually began to replace playing the viola. Also, whilst in Manchester Robert discovered the joys of opera going with some notable performances including Massenet’s ‘Thais’ presented by the Royal Northern College of Music and an a truly memorable ‘Twightlight of the Gods’ presented by the English National Opera conducted by Reginald Goodall with Rita Hunter as Brunnhilde.

Employment in Scotland led to a period as musical director of an Anglican (Episcopal) Church in Fife which rekindled Robert’s interest in writing music. Moving to London with his job, Robert joined the London Philharmonic Choir, continued writing songs and, almost by accident, became the musical director of The Pink Singers, London’s first Lesbian and Gay choir. With the choir, Robert toured Germany and Sweden as well as mounting performances of Hans Eisler’s cantata ‘Die Mutter’. Writing and arranging popular songs for the choir led to an involvement with a number of cabaret groups. Notable successes from this period included performances of Robert’s songs at the Edinburgh Festival fringe.

Looking for a smaller choir, in 1986 Robert left the London Philharmonic Choir and joined the London Concord Singers (http://www.londonconcordsingers.co.uk), with whom he still sings. He is now the Secretary of the choir. The choir have given the first performances of a number of his works.

Robert’s musical ‘Choices’ was first performed in 1990, at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre and at the Bridge Lane Theatre in Battersea. This was followed by a music review, ‘The Pleasure of Your Company’. As acting and cabaret contacts gradually retired from performance or left London, Robert started experimenting with writing more serious music.

In the early ‘90’s Robert joined the Latin mass choir of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, Chelsea. The choir does a full sung Latin mass every Sunday, singing all of the plainchant propers in addition to settings of the ordinary. Gradually this exposure to Gregorian Chant was to have a big effect on Robert’s music.

Robert’s first serious classical piece, ‘Three Prayers’ was first performed by London Concord Singers, conductor Malcolm Cottle, in 1993. Robert started a series of workshops on new pieces, run in his living room, bribing singers to come and sing by promising food afterwards. This led to the formation of FifteenB who gave their first concert in 1994, performing a programme of Robert’s music. They have since performed in and promoted nearly 20 concerts featuring Robert’s music. In 1998 they received a grant from the Lottery to present Robert’s cantata ‘The Young Man and Death’ with the Salomon wind octet. They will be appearing at the Chelsea Festival for the 3rd time this year, in a concert showcasing Robert’s motets.

Highlights over the years include Robert’s 1998 commission from the Crouch End Festival Chorus for ‘Here be Angels’ (recently presented in its revised version by London Concord Singers), the stage performances in Pittsburgh, USA of his incidental music to the play ‘Candle Dancing’; the 1999 tour and recording by The Burgundian Cadence of his Passion; the broadcast of the Passion on Vatican Radio as part of the Jubilee celebrations; the 2002 performance of ‘The Barbarian at the Gate’ by FifteenB with brass players from the Philharmonia orchestra.

Robert is currently working on his second opera and a sequence of motets for the church’s year. Robert’s first opera was first performed at Hoxton Hall in 2001. More information about Robert’s music can be gleaned from his web site, http://www.hugill.demon.co.uk/ and the web-site of his publisher, Spherical Editions, http://www.sphericaleditions.co.uk/

Over 20 years of concert going in London have given Robert some notable highs (and lows). His main interests are Baroque music (notably Handel) and Romantic opera. He also has a strong interest in late-Romantic composers, notably 20th century English ones. Robert is still waiting for an ideal staged performance of one of Handel’s operas, for a full London staging of Ethel Smyth’s ‘The Wreckers’ and for a staging of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Pilgrims Progress’ to match that given by the Royal Northern College of Music.

Robert lives in Brixton, with his partner David, who is a picture framer. Robert looks forward to the day when it will no longer be necessary to retain his day job as a computer programmer.

 

 

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