Born in Glasgow, Hugh Roberton first came to prominence as conductor of the Toynbee House Choir. Following an internal dispute in 1906 he founded the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, choosing the name himself. Roberton was very much the driving force behind the Orpheus Choir, taking it to great heights nationally and internationally. As well as conducting he composed original music such as All in the April Evening, and produced new arrangements for traditional songs.
A hard task-master when required, Roberton insisted on the highest standards for the Orpheus Choir and singers had to undergo annual tests before being readmitted. He inspired fierce loyalty in the choir members, so much so that when Roberton was forced by ill-health to retire in 1951 they agreed unanimously to disband. Some members subsequently formed the Glasgow Phoenix Choir.
Roberton was also politically active. A committed socialist, he was banned from the BBC in 1941 because of his pacifist views. In 1931 he accepted a knighthood with some reluctance, regarding it as recognition for the Orpheus Choir.