Richard Cooke was appointed Conductor and Music Director of the Royal Choral Society in 1995, and has appeared with them in many concerts in the Royal Festival and Royal Albert Halls, and in many of the country’s cathedrals. He has recorded Orff's Carmina Burana with them together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducts the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah, a tradition going back over 135 years, and their spectacular Christmas concert, both events taking place in the Royal Albert Hall.
He has been Music Director of Canterbury Choral Society since 1984, and in addition to their concerts in Canterbury Cathedral has given concerts with them in Lille, Boulogne and Rouen. The choir has been acclaimed throughout the south-east region of the UK, as well as in the national press. They perform a large and varied repertoire with leading professional orchestras, including many works from the Baroque and Classical eras with period instrument ensembles such as the London Handel Orchestra. He recently recorded Elgar’s Oratorio The Apostles in Canterbury Cathedral together with the Philharmonia Orchestra (link to Quartz)
As Music Director of the University of Essex Choir he has brought a similar level of artistic stature since his appointment in 1981. This has included for many years giving a concert each spring in Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Benjamin Britten’s concert hall. He conducted the first ever performance of the Britten’s War Requiem at Snape Maltings in 1987, a performance which drew effusive comments from Britten’s sister, who had urged Britten to perform it there in his own lifetime.
He has worked in collaboration with the many of world's leading conductors from past and present, including Solti, Haitink, Muti, Mehta, Bernstein, Abbado and has received a Grammy award and four Grammy nominations, most notably for his work as Chorus Master for Tennstedt's spectacular recording of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, and for Haitink's recording of Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony, both of which were also voted for top awards by Gramophone Magazine.
He was a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral and Choral Scholar in the choir of King's College, Cambridge, and Conductor of the London Philharmonic Choir from 1982-1991. Born in Cornwall, he returns there each summer for his favourite outdoor activity, body-surfing off the north Cornish coast. He also enjoys cycling and hill walking (climbing Munros and their equivalents) in Scotland and Wales. In October 2009, together with twenty-five others, he took part in a week of sponsored cycling through Jordan, raising money for the Canterbury Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre
Richard Cooke was made an Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Kent in Canterbury Cathedral in 2010, and an Honorary Doctor at the University of Essex in 1996, in recognition of his contribution to musical life both in Canterbury and Essex.
"…this was a performance to remember, in an acoustic distinctly favourable to Berlioz’s rich orchestral resonances. Much was owed to the direction of Richard Cooke, well on top of the work’s large scale architecture and broad sweep, his pacing intelligent…"
Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust (Financial Times)