Robert Ferguson (Conductor 1979-1999)

Robert Ferguson conducted the HCO from 1979 to 1999. To date Robert is our longest serving conductor having conducted over 50 concerts.

Robert Stanley Ferguson (1948-2023)
Robert Stanley Ferguson (1948-2023)

Robert was born in Havering in 1948. He first studied at the Guildhall School of Music and, at 18, at the Royal College of Music with Cyril Smith. He was awared the Hopkins Gold Medal, presented by the Queen Mother, and won the Dannreuther Prize for his performance of Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto. His concert debut was at The Royal Festival Hall in 1973 playing Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Theme. His London solo recital debut was a well reviewed concert of 20th century piano music at the Purcell Rooms in 1975.

In 1972 he joined up with Christopher Kite to form a piano duo, their debut was at the Wigmore Hall in 1973. They performed numerous times at the South Bank and on BBC Radio, to much critical acclaim. Their concerts sometimes employed reproduction or antique early pianos for the works of J C Bach and Mozart. They toured Ireland twice and performed at the Belfast Festival and Bath Festival. Robert recorded the piano music for the cartoon film ‘Rarg’, which has been broadcast several times on British TV. He also recorded the piano music for the TV film ‘The Grass Arena’, first broadcast on BBC2 and subsequently in Norway, Greece, Israel and Australia. He also recorded a series of nine programmes for Radio Television Hong Kong in 1992.

Initially Robert lived at the family home in Emerson Park, establishing himself as a music teacher in local schools and teaching. He taught the piano and conducted the orchestra at the Saturday Morning Music School held at Squirrels Heath Junior school, which later migrated to Chase Cross School and then at Engayne Saturday Music School.

In 1979 he took over from Robin Stone in conducting the HCO. Robert presided over what many say was HCO’s “Golden Period”. By the end of his tenure HCO was filling the Queen’s Theatre! Robert was also involved with teaching and was an examinar with the ABRSM.  This involved travel, often to Cambridge where he was teaching at The Perse School for girls and Anglia University. It also involved travel around the world. He eventually moved to Cambridge.

Brenda Dykes
Brenda Dykes

Robert also played in a duo with the flautest Brenda Dykes. Brenda played Mozart’s Flute Concerto no 2 with the HCO, Robert conducting, in 1977 see fhe full progarmme here. Their duo partnership lasted 35 years.



Many current members of the Orchestra remember him well and with great fondness. Karen Williams (violin and viola), now a Trustee and for many years our Secretary, says “I can see (and hear) Robert now with a glint in his eye and that beautiful clipped accent, full of his usual double entendres. The red wine always flowed freely at the committee meetings. We presented him with a mounted baton for conducting over 50 concerts with us during the 80s and 90’s. He was one of the few people I knew who used to light up a room”. Paul Kelly (violin), who was our Chairman, until recently, says “Robert attempted to teach me piano (with remarkably little success) and conducted at Saturday music school. He also accompanied me in my violin exams.” Paul did well and is still playing. Graeme Wright, our present Chairman, said that it was Robert that raised our standards and made the HCO what it is today.

Roberts Ferguson Conducting the HCO
Robert Ferguson rehearsing the HCO

Editor’s Note: Many members have told me some of Robert’s jokes and wonderfully funny stories of orchestra life with Robert. These extended beyond rehearsals and to his home in Cambridge. Unfortunately, I feel I cannot print any of them here.

Programme from one of Robert’s Concert of Spring 1999.
HCO’s 11th November 1984 Concert at Queens Theatre

You can download the Programmes  here.

Or search for Roberts’s concerts here.

Here are a few of the Programmes provided to us by Brenda Dykes: