Ronald Center, the youngest member of a distinguished musical family, was born in Aberdeen on 2nd April, 1913. His early years were spent in his native city where he had the good fortune to study Piano under Julian Rosetti and Organ under Willan Swainson, two eminent musicians whose fame extended far beyond the confines of the Granite City. Ronald’s natural talent, combined with his early training, soon led to his recognition as a pianist and organist of outstanding ability and his services were in constant demand as soloist, accompanist, teacher, Church organist and Choral Society conductor.
In 1943 he moved to Huntly in Aberdeenshire where, after six years of gifted service as music master of Huntly Gordon School, he settled down to private teaching and composition, in which branch of music he was self-taught. In the orchestration of his musical scores he was greatly aided by his wife Evelyn, herself a distinguished soprano, who, with her husband as accompanist, broadcast with the BBC and toured frequently with Arts Council Groups. Their marriage, their mutual devotion and their close affinity in all things mutual, were indeed things of beauty.
Ronald’s ability as a composer was soon recognised. In 1944 his symphonic poem The Coming of Cuchulain was played by the Scottish Orchestra under the conductorship of Warwick Braithwaite. There followed broadcasts of his piano compositions and songs on the BBC Home Service in the “Modern Scottish Composers” series. Later he was persuaded by Walter Susskind to show him the score of Divertimento for String Orchestra, the outcome of which was its performance in Edinburgh, Glasgow and his native Aberdeen. The work was loudly acclaimed and described by one noted critic as “a most compelling work by a composer of some merit.”
The following information will show the wide variety and extent of Ronald’s compositions for voice, solo instruments, strings and full orchestra, all of which illustrate the intensity and car which he applied to all that he did. With all this he was a man of wide cultural interests in Art and Literature, a serious student but one endowed with a keen sense of humour.
His sudden death in 1973 at the age of 60 ended a musical career of great fulfilment and of still greater promise to things to come. One of his many pupils, by all of whom he was beloved, has written a fitting memorial which is reproduced in full after the list of works.
Works shown in Italics are lost.
Romance for violin and piano (orchestra)
Symphony No. 1
The Coming of Cuchulain
Nocturne for DylanThomas
Elegy for Joan Eardley
String Quartet No. 1‡
String Quartet No. 2
String Quartet No. 3
Suite for solo violoncello
Dance Rustique for violoncello and piano
Duo for violin and violoncello (also violin and bassoon, oboe and violoncello, oboe and bassoon)
Little Canon for violin and violoncello
1. Poco adagio e teneranebte
4. Energico e ritmico
5. Andantino (tempo rubato)
Pantomime in 3 movements:
Prelude, Aria and Finale
Preludio (Andante) for organ (transcribed by Jamie Reid-Baxter)
3 Preludes and Fugues
2. Poco Adagio (tempo rubato)
1. Prelude (Allegro)
2. Poco Adagio
3. Toccata (Allegro molto)
Three Studies (Etudes):
3. Allegro molto
Alleluia SATB with piano
As I lay upon a night (Words from the Selden MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford) SATB a cappella
Christmas now is drawing near at hand (Anon.)SATB a cappella
Christus natus hodieSATB with accompaniment
Dona nobis pacem Cantata for soli, mixed chorus, organ, piano, timpani and sidedrums*
Dona nobis pacem
Beat, beat drums
Word over all, beautiful sky (Walt Whitman)
Dirge for two veterans (Walt Whitman)
The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land
The Glory of the latter house shall be greater than that of the former
Glory be to God in the Highest, Alleluia
Festival of Carols 3 treble voices and harpsichord (piano)
1. Procession and Recession unison voices
2. Good Day, Sire Cristemas
3. Wolecum, Yule
4. Now make we merthè
5. As dew in Aprille
6. Spring Carol
7. There is no Rose
8. A Babe is Born
9. This little Babe
10. Deo Gracias
Gloria in excelsis Deo SATB with organ accompaniment
God be in my head (Serum Primer 1558) SATB a cappella
Hymn to the Virgin (Anon c. 1300) SATB a cappella
If Ye love me (St. John XIV, v. 15, 16 and 17) SATB a cappella
Kyrie Eleison SATB a cappella
Laudate Dominum SATB with organ accompaniment
Magnificat (Luke I, v. 46-55) SATB a cappella
Now make we merthè (Words Anon. 15th century) SATB with piano or organ accompaniment
Nunc Dimittus ST in unison in 1st part, SATB in final section
Of a Rose singè we (Words from the Selden MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford) SATB a cappella
Omnes una gaudeamus (Words from the Selden MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford) SATB a cappella
Requiem Soli, SATB a cappella and with piano accompaniment
Sanctus Domine Deus SATB a cappella
There is no Rose of such Virtue (Words Anon. 15th century) SATB a cappella
This day (Words from the Selden MS. Bodleian Library, Oxford) SATB a cappella
Three Kings came riding (Parton dall Oriente, Laude Spiritiali - Conferati edition 1674) SATB a cappella
Withers Rocking Hymn (Words by George Withers [1588-1667]) SATB a cappella
Four Songs in praise of Spring (Shakespeare)
1. It was a lover and his lass
2. Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares
3. The sweet O the year
4. For Winter’s rains and ruins are over
If thou art sleeping maiden (Santa Teresa)
Evensong (Christian Gibbs)
The Unchanging (B. R. Gibbs)
Spring Sorrow (Rupert Brooke)
The Angel and the Child (Jean Rebone)
Scottish Song Arrangements
(Words by Robert Burns unless otherwise stated)
There was a lass (Melody by George Thomson, published in 1783)
Lassie wi the lint white locks (Tune: Rothiemurchies Rant)
The Lass o Gowrie (Words: Traditional. Air: Old Scottish Strathspey Loch Erochside)
O this is no my ain lassie (Tune: This is no my ain hoose published 1709 in the George Thomson collection)
Mary Morison (Tune: Anonymous)
A mans a man (Tune: Old Jacobite Air)
My love shes but a lassie yet (Words by James Hogg. Air: Lady Badinscoths Reel)
O a the Airts (Air by William Marshall)
Ca the Yowes (Air: Traditional Dorian Mode)
Simmers a pleasant time (Traditional Scottish Air)
Duncan Gray (Air: Duncan Gray; named after a Glasgow carter)
O Willie brewed (Tune by Allan Masterton)
There was a Lad (Air: O gin ye were dead, gudeman 1540)
Up wi the Carls o Dysart
Im owre young to marry yet
Ye Banks and Braes (Air: Lost is my quiet forever)
Loch Lomond (Traditional Scottish Air)
The Gallant Weaver
Dast May a braw Wooer (Air: The Lothian Lassie published in George Thomsons collection)
O, whistle and Ill come to ye, my lad (Air claimed to be by John Bruce)
My Heart is sair (Air: Somebody)
The Deils awa (Air: The Hemp Dresser)
Willie Wastle (Air: Tibbie Fowler in George Thomsons collection)
Corn Riggs (Air: Corn Riggs)
Published by Novello & Co. Ltd (Music Sales)
Published by Roberton Publications
*Published by Fagus Music
To Evelyn on the death of her husband Ronald
Think of me -
as one who shares your sorrow at this time.
For you a loved one gone - for me a friend.
One who inspired; who led; who brought to life
New worlds of music, and of song.
Weep not for
him who now has passed beyond all pain and sadness;
For in him was life - Life so full and vital, that even Death itself can not stamp
out the message left for all who wish to see;
That message shown to us through gifts so fine;
By one whose rare perception could discern the qualities of greatness - and use them.
Beauty through music; in art; in bud and flower,
Creations perfect picture.
All were to him a poem of Divine purpose,
All inspiration for him, to reveal to us through gifts and talents rare,
a message of love; and life, in all its poignant meaning.
How can we weep -
when he has given so much to us?
Would he have tears? No!
Rather weep for those who had the opportunity of knowing such a man -
and yet dismissed the opportunity as nothing.
Theirs is the loss indeed; for them the tears;
Lost words - lost chances - gone, for ever.
Yet we, who are at
times half-blinded by our own abilities;
To whom the worlds acclaim means to rise or fall,
Can learn humility from gazing at the heart of this fine man.
Unassuming, Honest and sincere,
To whom wastage of time was sin, when time is short.
Too short for all he had to do.
Life was a race; the goal - to leave the world a little richer than before.
He reached his goal.
Praise God for such a man!
Life has been enriched because he lived, because he wrote;
Because he cared.
Written by a Senior
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