MATTHEW ROOKE: COMPOSER

Photography by Sarah Jamieson

An exceedingly beautiful disc that I have no hesitation in making my record of the year

Gramophone

Born in England, of Scottish and Gabonese descent, Matthew Rooke’s works span an eclectic and diverse range of forms and creative partners, crossing the worlds of opera, classical music, contemporary jazz, rock and traditional music. Matthew’s wide-ranging catalogue of works includes two operas, orchestral and chamber music, and has produced new performing editions for reduced forces of over 10 operas from Debussy to Monteverdi. Beyond classical music, Matthew has produced scores for leading theatre companies in the UK, including the National Theatre; orchestrations for films, such as Outlaw King; and worked closely with acclaimed Scottish film composer Jim Sutherland on several projects as an orchestrator and musical collaborator.

Matthew has also performed for artists as diverse as Nitin Sawhney, acid jazz organist James Taylor, acclaimed folk and jazz soloists such as Fred Thelonious Baker and English fiddler Ric Sanders (Fairport Convention). Matthew was also featured as a soloist in Sir John Tavener’s Depart in Peace album (Linn Records). For Matthew all these experiences are part of a whole, constantly stimulating his work and growth as a composer.

Matthew is also an active opera producer, winner of five-star reviews in the national press, as well as a theatre director and play-writer. The past decade has seen a particular focus on his operatic works and classical music.

Combining musicians from classical and traditional backgrounds, the music often had a theatrical flair and alternated between careful scoring for the talented forces that Rooke put together. The diversity of styles and kaleidoscope of sounds cohered surprisingly well to make a satisfying whole.”

The Scotsman

Contact Katie Beardsworth for enquiries about commissions or performances of existing works.

You can read more about Matthew here.

Sample Compositions

CD Matthew Rooke – Music 2012-2020: Music for Large and Small Ensembles and Voices

This CD draws together a body of work created during the past eight years, spanning opera, orchestral and chamber music. Although not exclusively vocal, voices are an important part of Matthew’s works: the capacity for telling stories through many gradations, from epic drama through to the tiniest nuanced inflection, is one of the things that most attracts him to the voice. His language is accessible and reflects the diversity of his background and musical experiences, whilst offering something that has multiple points of entry for audiences whether they are immersed in the world of classical music or are coming to it from other genres.

JOSEPH KNIGHT

Joseph Knight is an aria from Matthew’s first operatic work, Flyting, which explored 500 years of interactions between Scotland and Africa. This aria was written for Gweneth Ann Rand and relates to an imagined meeting of Dido Belle, the bi-racial niece of Lord Mansfield of Perth and Joseph Knight, the slave who won his freedom based a short distance away in Dundee. As Matthew describes:

“[This work] was included in the opera following a discussion with Gweneth Ann Rand, in which we discussed the absence of those big arias in opera where an evidently black woman could soar and sing of her hopes and fears. Joseph Knight is an unashamedly lush and romantic answer to this question, harking back to the lush, noire-ish string arrangements of the forties and fifties, with a hint of sugar and spice”.

This work is available in both small chamber orchestra and strings only versions.

STELLA MARIS|MAGNIFICAT

Stella Maris|Magnificat is a setting of the Marian hymn and the Magnificat. The work is for chamber orchestra, soprano and tenor (the above recording features Katie Oswell and Austin Gunn). This excerpt is from the Magnificat and the recognition of life bursting forth. It can be performed as a concert item with an accompanying film by the composer.

HUNTERS OF THE SEA

Hunters of The Sea is an item from An Cadal Trom, the community opera commissioned by The Lammermuir Festival (premiered in Autumn 2018) as a companion piece to Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, and written for the same musical forces. “An cadal trom” means “a deep sleep” in Scots Gaelic; the opera reverses the roles of Orpheus with the mermaid as the main character, who has banished her erring partner to ever wander the earth through time until he can fully understand what he has done. In this scene, he has become a fisherman of the 1880s working the coast out of Dunbar Hunters of the Sea and has caught something strange and mystical in his nets our mermaid! This except features Andrew McTaggart and Penelope Cousland.

OPERA

Matthew Rooke has produced reduced scores for over ten operas, primarily produced for Berwick Festival Opera. The approach ranges from more conventional reductions through to more idiosyncratic, startling even, combinations of forces. Given that the restraints of Covid-19 and the severe restriction placed upon conventional performance of full-scale opera productions in conventional theatres, these scores present producers with some fresh options for presenting opera in non-conventional and even outdoor settings. Reduced scores include:

  • Orfeo, Monteverdi
  • Rita, Donizetti
  • Trial By Jury, Gilbert and Sullivan
  • The Silken Ladder, Rossini
  • Dido and Aeneas, Purcell

biography

Matthew Rooke was born in Oxford to Scottish and Gabonese parents and grew up in England in a family with English, Maori and Iraqi siblings. Matthew’s broad and wide ranging approach to culture is also translated into his music, through works that span an eclectic and diverse range of forms and genres, including opera and classical music, contemporary jazz, rock and traditional music.

Matthew Rooke’s path through music followed two parallel worlds.  In classical music, Matthew began as a double-bassist, working up through regional and County Youth Orchestras in Kent. At the same time, he began playing electric bass and guitar in rock and jazz bands. At the age of 17 he won a Cleo Laine Award which enabled him to study contemporary jazz with many of the leading practitioners on the  scene. After completing an MA at St Andrews in 1986, Matthew Rooke was a Robert T Jones Graduate Fellow at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he also won the Abe Laboriel Bass Scholarship and a Professional Music Award, and was taught arranging and orchestration by Richard Evans.

On returning to the UK, Matthew worked extensively as a session player and orchestrator/composer, before being invited to join the Arts Council as lead officer for establishing the African and Caribbean and Asian music circuits and as producer of the Arts Council recordings programme. This was followed by a period as Music Director of the Scottish Arts Council, during which time he made support for Scottish traditional music, jazz and other diverse music forms an equal priority for the council, whilst continuing to work in UK theatres. On leaving the Scottish Arts Council, his first assignment was as a featured soloist for Sir John Tavener in the live and recording premiere of Depart in Peace (‘An exceedingly beautiful disc that I have no hesitation in making my record of the year’ – Gramophone).  Following a period as Co-Director of Scottish Cultural Enterprise, Matthew returned to music as his sole focus on his appointment as the first-ever Music Fellow at Perth Concert Hall where, during 2010 and 2011, he began to work on Flyting: an hour-long work exploring 500 years of Scottish and African interactions (for Soprano, Bass-Baritone, chamber orchestra and Scottish folk instruments). In 2011, he was appointed CEO & Artistic Director of The Maltings Berwick Trust. Matthew was also a Trustee of The Theatres Trust (2009-2015). In 2018, The Lammermuir Festival premiered his second opera, An Cadal Trom, written for the same forces as Britten’s Noyes Fludde.

In the theatre, Matthew has created scores for Theatre Royal Stratford East, Talawa, The Leicester Haymarket and the Royal National Theatre. He has worked as Musical Director and arranger for Directors/Authors such as Yvonne Brewster, Tim Supple, Mark Bramble, John Dexter, Philip Hedley, Tim Flavin, Barrie Keeffe and Henry Krieger.

Since 2012, Matthew’s focus has been primarily on creating new work both as a composer and orchestrator, as well as opera/theatre producer and director.

Bookings

For bookings or further information, please contact us here.