PETER ROSE & ANNE CONLON

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. In 2005, Peter and his family moved to the Scottish Highlands  where he became director of Lochaber Music School in Fort William, Inverness-shire until his recent retirment in 2021.

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 SchoolColne 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.

In 2009, One Sun One World was commissioned by WWF in celebration of its 50th Anniversary. The world première took place in the Royal Albert Hall with over 1500 children from schools in Kensington and Chelsea joined by 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 (2000), which celebrates the wonders of the natural world and of human achievement. In 2009, Caledonian Shadows was commissioned and premiered 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 volume 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 was published alongside Peter's MacKIllop Mass as part of the series Sacred Music from the Braes of Lochaber. Also included in this series was their hymn The Peace of God alongside another Mass setting from Peter, the Cille Choirill Mass


Their recently published series Hymns for a Changing World include The Thirsting DeerTeach Me to Trust; Love is Always PatientHelp Us to Love; Mary, Help Of ChristiansMay The Lord Encircle YouStay With Us, Lord, On Our JourneyYou, The Christ, Have Set Us Free; To You, O Lord, We Sing A New Song; This Is Our Faith. Also recently available is their carol On a Cold, Dark Night  which was originally written for CAFOD's World Gifts campaign. 

Their most recent work is the cantata Called To Be Happy, (75 mins) commissioned by the Maria Ward-Schüle, Mainz, Germany for its 300th Anniversary. Written for Narrator, Soloists, SSA Choir and Orchestra, the cantata received its première in March 2022.