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Born: Jun 25, 1939

Date of Passing: Apr 13, 2006

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LAWRENCE IVAN RITCHEY Peacefully, and surrounded with loving friends and family, on Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2006, Lawrence passed on to his heavenly home, in time to conduct angelic Easter music for his Lord. The third of five children of the Rev. William J. and M. Elizabeth Hearn Ritchey, Lawrence was born on 25 June, 1939, in Connellsville, PA. He attended schools in many states, as his father served churches in the east and mid-west. By the age of four his incredible musical ability was apparent, and by the age of ten, accompanied by his preaching father, he played hymn requests every Sunday on the first live-to-air radio station in the United States - KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA, rarely needing music in front of him. At the age of 13, he made his debut performing a Grieg piano concerto under William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Also a fine clarinetist, violinist and vibraphonist, he soon discovered his love for jazz, as well as for the king of instruments, the pipe organ. He studied philosophy, maths and Greek at Houghton and Haverford Colleges, and music under Arthur Poister at Syracuse University, NY. In summertime Lawrence travelled south collecting folk music in the Appalacians, as well as preaching and leading the music for Christian tent meetings , culminating in playing for a Billy Graham Crusade. Accepted as a student of the legendary organist, Marcel Dupre at St. Sulpice, Lawrence studied the French repertoire and improvisation in Paris, France, for two years, with studies in composition at the Paris Conservatoire. Following those studies he recitalized across Europe and England, winning the International Prize in Improvisation in the annual Brussels, Belgium, competition. Returning to the United States he headed the Organ Department at the famous Settlement Schools in Philadelphia, PA, conducted several choirs, performed jazz at Birdland, NYC, and interviewed jazz greats on a weekly radio program. Specializing in J. S. Bach, he recitalized widely on the organ in North America, and desiring a change of pace, he came to Canada in 1963 serving churches as organist and choir master in Saskatoon, Thunder Bay and Regina, establishing the RCCO Regina Centre, the Regina Bell Ringers Society and The Saskatoon Summer Players. He accepted a position in 1969 at the School of Music, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, primarily teaching music theory, organ, harpsichord, pedagogy and Jazz history. In his tenure of 36 years, he served as University Organist, University Senator, Senior Fellow in Music at St. John's College and 13 years as Chair of the Board of the international, interdisciplinary publication Mosaic . As a fine wood craftsman he built two French - double harpsichords (one for the School of Music) and a grand piano Forte for Canadian pianist, Boyd McDonald. Lawrence was a commissioned and published composer of numerous works, mostly choral, as well as many published scholarly articles, and recently (2000) authored with colleague Charles Horton, an innovative, two year university music theory textbook, Harmony Through Melody (Scarecrow Press), now used at several universities in Canada and the United States. As a pipe organ consultant, he designed and created redesigns for many organs across Canada. He continued to perform regularly, as well as on CBC Radio and with orchestras, and in concerts of jazz and American popular song with his wife, singer Candace Ritchey. Also, since 1985, he delighted in weekly teaching a very special student, the musical savant, Clarence Asham, on whom several CBC documentaries were made. As well, he served many Winnipeg churches as organist and choirmaster, most recently retiring from St. John's Anglican Cathedral, where he also co-founded the annual Red River Festival. Having conducted the University Chorus and the Winnipeg I Philharmonic Choir, he was dedicated to early childhood musical development, and he and his wife taught a free Saturday Choir School for young children for 13 years. Retiring from the University of Manitoba in 2004, and being made an Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Lawrence and Candace moved east to their beloved Prince Edward Island, settling in Point Prim where they soon became active in the musical community and Royal Canadian College of Organists (ARCCO). Lawrence was continuing to compose, write on Samuel S. Wesley, keyboard improvisation and organ registration, and enjoy his gourmet cookery. The breadth of his knowledge and his unsinkable wit and humor, whether in the classroom or home, endeared him to hundreds of students, colleagues and friends, and it was always his nature to 'go the extra mile' for someone else. His vast improvisatory! Skills, repertoire and love of organ registration kept him in demand as a clinician. Lawrence lived life always to create something new, dedicating all 'Soli Deo Gloria'. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Candace Bernard Ritchey; and four children. Jourdan (Kelowna, BC), Matthew (High River, AB), Olivia (Winnipeg, MB) and Julian (Canmore, AB); and three brothers and one sister, William, Thomas, Elizabeth and Dennis. The family extends grateful thanks to the wonderful nurses and oncology team in Unit No. 1 QEH and Palliative Care in the Prince Edward Home, who made his days happy and comfortable, as well as to all his friends for constant and loving visits. Memorial services will be held in Charlottetown at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 April at Trinity United Church (Richmond Street), and in Winnipeg, on Wednesday, 3 May at St. John's Anglican Cathedral. If friends so desire, donations can be made to the Lawrence Ritchey Fellowship in Music Theory, School of Music, University of Manitoba (204-474-7546).

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Apr 20, 2006

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