Peter Rose was a graduate of the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the RNCM), where he studied piano with Gordon Green. In 1980, he was appointed Head of Expressive Arts at St Augustine’s RC High School, Billington, Lancashire where he established a remarkably successful music department, with his massed choirs of over 200 children aged 11-16 becoming renowned throughout the world for their wonderful performances, in particular of the Rose-Conlon WWF musicals which were always accompanied by his equally impressive stage bands.
Anne Conlon was a graduate of Liverpool University. In 1980, she became Head of English and eventually Senior Teacher at Saints John Fisher and Thomas More RC High School, Colne until her retirement in 2005. Always a keen singer and instrumentalist, as well as a talented writer and poet, Anne was very happy to accept Peter’s request in 1980 to write the lyrics for their first musical collaboration: The Conversion Job, a highly amusing musical telling the story of Saint Augustine and his forty heroic monks as they set about their daunting task of converting Britain to Christianity.
Their second collaboration, The Kestrel Song, described the kestrel’s ability to adapt to the verges of our motorways. It won the BBC/WWF Sounds Natural Competition and led to a commission from Ivan Hattingh, WWF’s Head of Education, to write a musical highlighting the dangers being posed to the world’s rainforests. The resulting work (in 1983) was Yanomamo, the world’s first ecological musical - destined to become one of the most performed of all children’s musicals.
Further WWF commissions followed:African Jigsaw (1986) which explored the problems of migration from countryside to city in developing countries; Ocean World (1990) which told the story of a mother whale and her baby calf making their treacherous journey north; and Arabica (1996) which used the glamorous commodity of coffee to explore the injustices that arise from international trade and debt. These four WWF musicals have been performed by hundreds of thousands of children on every continent of the world: in such countries as Canada, USA, Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and nearer home, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Several have been award-winning television programmes including Song of the Forest (narrated by Sting for Channel 4), Ocean World (narrated by Sir David Attenborough also for Channel 4) - and African Jigsaw, broadcast as a ‘Splash Special’ documentary on ITV.
Peter and Anne's most recent WWF collaboration, One Sun One World, was commissioned to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of WWF. Its world première took place in the Royal Albert Hall in October 2009 with over 1500 children from schools in Kensington and Chelsea, the Choir of St Augustines, Lancashire, soloists from the Royal College of Music, London, and the English Chamber Orchestra augmented by students from the RCM.
Other large scale Rose-Conlon collaborations have included Daughters of Pendle (1985) a dramatic stage musical which tells the tragic story of 16th Century witchcraft in the Forest of Pendle in Lancashire; and Song of Creation, which celebrated the wonders of the natural world and of human achievement. More recently, Peter and Anne turned their minds to very different subject matter. In March 2009, the premiere performance of their newly commissioned song cycle - Caledonian Shadows - was given by the International Children’s Voices of Enfield directed by June Keyte MBE. This work reflects upon the drama of Scotland’s wild places.
Peter and Anne have throughout their careers also written much sacred music which has regularly been featured on radio and television religious programmes. Their Hymns for a Caring World includes ‘Care for Your World’ and ‘News is Whispered in Corners’, both originally written for BBC’s Songs of Praise. In September 2010, their hymn 'Lord, I Give My Life To You' (written in honour of Australia's first saint , Mary MacKillop) was sung during the Papal Mass in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. Broadcast throughout the world, the hymn has become extremely popular and in February 2011, it was published alongside Peter's new MacKIllop Mass as part of the series Sacred Music from the Braes of Lochaber. Also included in this series was their new hymn 'The Peace of God' alongside another Mass setting from Peter, the Cille Choirill Mass.
Their most recent publication is the series Hymns for a Changing World which include 'The Thirsting Deer', 'Teach Me to Trust', 'Love is Always Patient' and 'Help Us to Love'. Also recently available is their carol 'On a Cold, Dark Night' (Lord of the earth) which was originally written for CAFOD's World Gifts campaign. This is the first of a new series: Carols for a Caring World.