MBEs for inspirational school music pair

Peter Rose (centre) and Anne Conlon (holding cheque) with members of St Augustine's music department and representatives from CAFOD. Photo by John Brandwood. (s)
Peter Rose (centre) and Anne Conlon (holding cheque) with members of St Augustine's music department and representatives from CAFOD. Photo by John Brandwood. (s)

A former teacher at St Augustine’s RC High School, Billington, was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honour’s List.

Peter Rose, a graduate of the Royal Manchester College of Music, where he studied piano with Gordon Green, was appointed head of expressive arts at St Augustine’s in 1980, and his massed choirs of more than 200 children aged 11-16 soon became renowned for their wonderful performances.

The award came as a total – but lovely – surprise

Peter Rose

Peter worked closely with Anne Conlon, of Wilpshire, who was also awarded an MBE. A graduate of Liverpool University, in 1980, Anne became head of English and eventually senior teacher at Fisher 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.

Together they went on to produce some outstanding music highlighting the impact of humanity on the environment, and the awards recognise Peter and Anne’s services to musical education and conservation in the UK and abroad.

During a professional partnership which has lasted for more than 30 years, the pair have produced award winning musicals which have been performed across the globe thanks to commissions from the World Wildlife Fund, as well as numerous productions for television.

In June 2014, Peter and Anne returned to St Augustine’s and performed with more than 250 former choir members and musicians as well as the present choir to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.

The performance included songs from the environmental musicals, Yanomamo, African Jigsaw, Ocean World, Arabica, Song of Creation and One Sun One World linked by specially written narrations.

The Just One World concert formed part of a fundraising effort which raised more than £25,000 for the school’s CAFOD appeal.

Peter and Anne said: “We would like to thank all of those who have offered congratulations and expressed such great pleasure at our being awarded MBE’s in the New Year’s Honours List. The award came as a total – but lovely – surprise. We do have to say that the award’s citation ‘for services to music education and conservation, in the UK and abroad’ surely has to embrace every one of those who has been involved in our environmental choral works, whether as performer, colleague, parent, helper – and not least, close friend and family.

“In our Fair Trade musical, Arabica, we sang ‘...Are you sailing on an empty sea? Do you journey on your own?’. Well, Anne and I have certainly not journeyed on our own since The Conversion Job, our very first collaboration way back in 1980.

“For over 25 years, we enjoyed the company of generations of young performers from St Augustine’s RC High School in Billington, who through their amazing premiere performances in some of the country’s most prestigious halls introduced our music to a nationwide audience.

“They never failed to attract standing ovations, and through their phenomenal TV, radio and CD recordings, they inspired hundreds of thousands of children throughout the world to sing out proudly the message of conservation, reminding audiences on every continent of our responsibility to care for the earth and all its inhabitants. So we gladly accept this award on behalf of each and every one of them.”

Michael Wright, head teacher of St Augustine’s said: “We were delighted to hear the news that former St Augustine’s teacher, Peter Rose, had been awarded an MBE for services to education and conservation. Peter inspired generations of school choirs and band members with a love of learning and a lifelong passion for music, with many now following professional careers, while highlighting inequality and unfairness in a global society and taking action to address these serious issues. His contribution to the life of the school while he was here, and to the fundraising activities since he has left , have been outstanding.”

Having written many musicals, 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 also written sacred music which has regularly been featured on radio and television religious programmes includsing commissioned work for BBC’s Songs of Praise.

Peter is currently director of Lochaber Music School in Fort William and Anne has retired from teaching. Both continue to write together and are about to publish several new works during 2016. Their music is available on their publishing website: www.roseconlonmusic.co.uk