Cranbrook Symphony

Cranbrook Symphony Orchestra

Conductor - Michael Hitchcock

Born in Surrey, Michael Hitchcock studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and Christ Church College, Canterbury.

As a chamber-music and orchestral player, he has performed at many venues in South-East England including London’s Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey and BBC radio and television studios, and at Canterbury, Rochester and Chichester Cathedrals.  Michael has taught violin and viola since 1972, and for ten years from 1987 he was one of the Directors of Kent Music School.  From 1997 to 2013 he taught music at The Judd School in Tonbridge.

For thirty years Michael has been directing chamber music workshops and study days where players come together to explore a work in detail in a friendly, enthusiastic day's music making ending with a complete play-through

Michael is a sought-after conductor and orchestral trainer working with both adults and children.  He conducts the Cranbrook Symphony Orchestra, the Grosvenor Orchestra in Tunbridge Wells and the Weald String Players, and is a regular Guest Conductor of the Lydian Orchestra, North Downs Sinfonia, Tonbridge Philharmonic Orchestra, and Wealden Sinfonia.  For more than 25 years he has had the privilege of conducting the West Kent Youth Orchestra.  He works regularly with orchestras and ensembles at Tonbridge Grammar School.  Conducting engagements outside Kent and Sussex have included concerts in London, Paris, Rheims, Devon, Cornwall, Germany and Sweden.


History of the Orchestra

Cranbrook Symphony Orchestra (Kent, England) began in the mid-1960s, when Wilfred Oldacre, a retired clergyman and amateur flautist who taught Latin at DCPS (Dulwich College Prep School), gathered a group of players keen to join an orchestra. They met at a hut in the grounds of DCPS. Wilfred Oldacre conducted predominately in the early days of the orchestra, but on occasion a cellist, Cecil Irvin conducted.

The orchestra gained momentum during the 1970s when John Williams, then head of music at Cranbrook School, conducted the orchestra and met regularly at ‘Big School’ and was assisted by David Murphy of Angley School.

The orchestra flourished throughout the early 1980s regularly giving three concerts a year, usually in the Queen’s Hall, with good varied programmes that included a concerto. During this period the orchestra was conducted by Peter Aviss and led by Kathryn Aiers.

From 1983 the orchestra continued to prosper under the baton of Peter Currie, notably there were two concerts with the Cranbrook and Dramatic Society - a Viennese night and a Gilbert and Sullivan evening.

Towards the end of the 1980s the orchestra floundered but Lance Whitehead (current leader of the cellists) and others reignited the orchestra.

Judy Hollis, then head of strings at Ashford School and teacher at Sutton Valence School, too over the baton and became conductor in 1989. Under her guidance the orchestra became stable and prospered. Some ambitious programmes were performed, including a performance of The Creation with Sutton Valence Choral Society. She remained conductor until she retired in 2007 when Dr Michael Robertson took on the baton. Michael career has followed the path of teacher, harpsichordist, organist and conductor as well as a visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds.

Andrew Witham held the conductor's baton for too short a time, but he left his mark conducting the orchestra's most successful concert ever, with Laura van der Heijden, BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012 performing Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations in 2014.


Photography courtesy of Andrew Errington Photography
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