Hugh Roberton

Sir Hugh Roberton Photograph from GUL Roberton Collection

Sir Hugh Roberton
Photograph from GUL Roberton Collection

Sir Hugh Roberton was a prominent Scottish chorusmaster and composer. He was born in Glasgow in 1874, and he worked and operated in his home city pretty much all his life. He was knighted in 1931. Roberton was the founder and conductor of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, possibly Glasgow’s best-known choral group. It was operative from 1906 until 1951, when it was disbanded upon Roberton’s retirement. During its years of activity it won a great number of prizes and competitions, both at home and abroad, and its performances were widely broadcast. The Glasgow Orpheus Choir performed in over 1000 concerts in 40 years, including  at private events at Balmoral and Downing Street. Later, the choir was re-established as the Glasgow Phoenix Choir, by younger members who made Roberton the honorary president; but he died the following year, in 1952.

He was an acclaimed arranger of Scottish folk‐songs, which were often performed by his choir. Glasgow University Special Collections hold over 30 of his original songs, about 50 song arrangements, 100 original part-songs, over 200 part-song arrangements and most of the faux bourdon psalm settings in the series he arranged.

My Nannie’s Awa’

Play Recording:

This is Roberton’s 1923 effective setting for male voices of Burns’ song beginning ‘Now in her green mantle blythe Nature arrays’, but Roberton does not set Burns’ original choice of tune ‘There’ll never be Peace’.

O Wert thou in the Cauld Blast

Play Recording:

This is one of the most popular of Burns’ songs for composers to set. Here Roberton arranges Burns’ original choice of tune ‘Lennox love to Blantyre’.