Written by: Joseph Cullen
Joseph Cullen, Director of the London Symphony Chorus, pays tribute to Richard Hickox who died on 23 November 2008 at the age of 60…
Richard Hickox was very much a musical father-figure to the London Symphony Chorus and over the years I have witnessed the way in which this status developed. What began as a working arrangement became much more of an artistic and personal gift to the Chorus. Richard later came to hold the title of Conductor Emeritus and demonstrated the loyalty which was such a mark of the man, offering the Chorus wonderful opportunities and bringing widespread acclaim through his concert performances and myriad recordings. It is not surprising that so many accolades and awards followed him in his work with the Chorus and elsewhere, such was his indefatigable commitment and enthusiasm. There was a certain type of loyalty which only he seemed to be able to draw from the singers, no matter the circumstances.
I was fortunate to have worked with Richard as singer, organist, continuo player and chorus master – sometimes simultaneously – and it was through his influence that I came to be a successor at the LSC. I am certainly not the only musician who will feel a great debt to him as he was as staunchly supportive of his fellow musicians as much as he was a champion of the music under his charge.
It is difficult to imagine that he will not just come in to a rehearsal in London to take over where he left off last time. The memory of our last performance with him – Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem in the Festival Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra – will be for chorus members a fitting way to remember him. I cannot recall his having been as pleased with a performance as he was that night and I wish that his family can somehow take a little consolation from the message of that particular piece of music.
The London Symphony Chorus gathered on Wednesday evening (26 November) in Hinde St Methodist Church and showed our respect for Richard Hickox by raising the roof by singing Parry’s I was glad. As well as being a great English choral work which was close to Richard’s heart, the text, Psalm 122, is a fitting way to say farewell.
I was glad when they said unto me:
We will go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls
and plenteousness within thy palaces.