I first met Ronald in April 1988 in Edinburgh.
The occasion was an afternoon of music-making,with Ronald playing and teaching-all part of Ronald’s 60th Birthday Celebration hosted by European Piano Teachers’ Association.
The energy, warmth, phenomenal pianism, breadth of knowledge, sense of fun, humanity, in the way he dealt with each little pianist, all of these and much more, still live in my memory after all those years.
Less than ten years later, Ronald and Marjorie had become the closest friends I had in Scotland.
Ronald was my constant mentor, always encouraging my interest in Traditional Music,offering me new musical worlds every time I saw him.
He and Marjorie were responsible for introducing me to Margaret Fay Shaw, who lived in Canna and whose seminal book, “Folksong and Folklore of South Uist”, has been a most important source for all our Traditional Music students. In time, Margaret became a friend and the greatest source of knowledge on everything to do with her many years in South Uist collecting folksongs and folklore.
When I started teaching piano on the new Traditional Music degree course, it was to Ronald I went, week in and week out in the early years of the course, to discuss, ask advice, and always, get more ideas, more musical examples, and even more importantly, he made me feel that it was possible to create a piano course which would incorporate as many aspects of pianism from every genre and yet, would be faithful to the Traditional Music ethos as well.
In the conservatoire, I needed a room with two pianos, in order to be able to demonstrate, as one would do if one were teaching fiddle. Ronald gave me great encouragement in the early days, to insist on this requirement. He could see that it was an essential element in the way traditional music should be taught.
From the start, I realised that it would be invaluable for my first-study students to go down to Ronald’s house in West Linton and to experience this unique world of his. I have also, to include his wife Marjorie in this, because they both shared his musical vision and this encapsulated a world-view of music, with no comparisons, only respect for all traditions and all humanity.
Ronald listened to the students’ own arrangements, gave them invaluable insights into their performances, from a pianistic point of view, a historical point of view, or, immediately, going to his bookshelves and producing some book which was relevant. Ronald invariably made everyone feel that they were special.
Always, we stayed for lunch in the kitchen, provided by Marjorie, and afterwards, there would be more music-making.
Ronald’s own musical output is well-known to some musicians but not to all and I had the great pleasure, over all the years, of getting to know all of Ronald’s piano music, which is based or influenced by folk music, including his arrangements of music by Percy Grainger and Frederick Delius.
Ronald celebrated his last birthday on 6th March 2016, sharing music and love with all his family.