Richard Cooke is now in his 39th season as Music Director of the University of Essex Choir, during which time the choir has gained an enviable reputation performing a wide repertoire in the East of England. He holds similar positions with the Royal Choral Society (since 1995) and Canterbury Choral Society (since 1984).
A boy chorister of St Paul’s Cathedral, and then Choral Scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Richard was Conductor of the London Philharmonic Choir for ten years from 1982, working with the world’s leading conductors, including Haitink, Muti, Mehta, Solti and Klaus Tennstedt. He has appeared many times in the concert halls of London with the Royal Choral Society since 1995. Most notable of these have been their annual Good Friday performances of Handel’s Messiah and spectacular Christmas Carol Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall. On Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War he conducted a performance of Britten’s War Requiem in the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Choral Society, the London Philarmonic Orchestra and an international team of soloists which included Bryn Terfel. This followed the earlier performance of the War Requiem with the University of Essex Choir at Snape Maltings.
Born in Cornwall, he returns there each summer for his favourite outdoor activity, body-surfing off the north Cornwall coast. He also enjoys cycling and hill walking (climbing Munros and their equivalents) in Scotland and Wales. In 2009 he took part in a sponsored cycle ride through Jordan raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Canterbury, for which many amongst the University of Essex Choir generously provided sponsorship.
He has conducted over one hundred and fifty concerts in Canterbury Cathedral with Canterbury Choral Society, including each year in the Canterbury Festival. In January 2005 they recorded Elgar’s Oratorio The Apostles with The Philharmonia Orchestra, released on CD in January 2006. He has also recorded Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Royal Choral Society and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He has appeared with the Gothenburg and Helsingborg Symphony Orchestras, and on many other occasions in Sweden and Denmark.
Richard Cooke had an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music at the University of Kent conferred on him in Canterbury Cathedral in November 2010. He was similarly honoured in 1996 by the University of Essex in recognition of his work for the musical life of the University.
2020 marks Richard’s last year as Muisc Director with the University of Essex Choir. His final performance with the choir will be JS Bach’s B Minor Mass on Saturday 2nd May in Snape Maltings Concert Hall.