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Editorial Musings with Basil Ramsey

In step -- remembering one who was

Occasionally called upon by a friend to arrange a well-known tune for use as an organ voluntary, my thoughts always return to the skills of Desmond Ratcliffe, noted in our time together as music readers at Novello. I have touched upon this matter before, mostly because of his skill with lean textures, providing exquisite sufficiency for supporting a tune with not a note too much. Previously I had expected an organ arrangement to present the essential notes as very much an adaptation to the requirements of ten fingers and two feet, with feasibility foremost and artistry in the shadows.

But with Desmond artistry/musicality in disposition of notes was foremost, his impeccable skills touching upon the truth of a musical miniature. This was linked to his delight in such a direction, and shadowed by a similar talent for crossword puzzles. He had an ear for one and an eye for the other. Even his enjoyment of a cup of tea was timed to the completion of a crossword puzzle, which put the efficiency of his inbuilt timer to shame if something else intervened. He invariably remained master of the situation, which was even more amazing to those who assumed him to be a bundle of nervous energy.

Supporting it all was the matter of living within a timeframe based on a passion for order and scheduling the day to meet its requirements reasonably and without undue haste. I viewed it all with the growing mortification of an individual destined for muddle and mend, which has dogged my entire life. I learnt a lot from Desmond, particularly those things in which he excelled and I fumbled. Some will enquire about the quality of his music. Whilst nobody would expect to find a Shostakovich in disguise, his taste and professionalism were always in step.

Copyright © 6 May 2003 Basil Ramsey, Yorkshire, UK





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