Richard Cock was born in Port Elizabeth and educated at Woodridge Preparatory School and the Diocesan College in Cape Town. He pursued his musical studies at the Cape Town College of Music, where he graduated in 1971. In 1972, he won a scholarship to the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM), where he was awarded several prizes and diplomas. In 1978 he became Director of Music at the Cathedral Choir School and assistant organist at Chichester Cathedral. During his years in England he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.
After his return to South Africa in 1980, Richard, as Music Director from 1991, breathed new life into the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO). His innovative spirit saw the orchestra expand its horizons with open-air events, such as the successful Emmarentia Gardens Winter Series, Musical Fireworks and Pops Concerts, Music in the Zoo and tours from Cape Town to Cairo. In 1999 he left the NSO to pursue a freelance career and to stimulate music activities throughout South Africa, which he has done with marked success. Since then he has conducted symphony, choral and many major concerts in Johannesburg and throughout Southern Africa, plus light classical concerts titled Bach to Broadway, Flights of Fantasy and Lloyd Webber and Friends, as well as giving concerts for children and senior citizens. He is much in demand countrywide as a conductor for the popular Last Night of the Proms and Songs of Praise concert series. He has conducted Mozart’s Don Giovanni, in Bloemfontein, as well as tours of South Africa by international musicians such as Julian Lloyd-Webber, Joshua Bell, Lynn Harrell and Katherine Jenkins, and biannually conducts Starlight Classics, a concert-spectacular supported by Rand Merchant Bank.
However, it is as a choral trainer and conductor that Richard is best known. He founded the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg and the internationally recognized Chanticleer Singers in 1980. Both choirs are recognized as leaders in their respective fields. He was organist and director of music at St Mary’s Cathedral for 12 years and was elected a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music for his services to Church Music in South Africa.
For twenty years he was on the Board of Trustees of Business and Arts South Africa, as well as the Artistic Committee of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. He is currently the Chairman of the Apollo Music Trust, and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra. With Florian Uhlig, he directs the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival which is held every January. He is also involved in a number of successful outreach projects in Soweto and Eldorado Park, and further afield in the Western Cape and Limpopo.
In May 2000, he received an Honorary Doctorate in music from Rhodes University, in 2012, Parnassus Award from Stellenbosch University and in 2013 and a special Award from the ATKV for his 30 years dedication to spreading the love of music in South Africa. In November 2014 Richard received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts & Culture Trust, and in March 2020 he was awarded the Robert Grey Medal from Bishops College for distinguished achievements by an Old Diocesan, as well as a Luminary award from Michaelhouse in recognition of his contributions to the development and promotion of South African music and artists.
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