Vale Ralph Morton
Ralph Morton Tribute
We farewell Ralph Morton
Dr. Ralph Morton, after an eight-month struggle in hospital with a lymphoma, went peacefully after hearing his favourite anthem, Like as the hart by Herbert Howells playing on a CD.
I understand that Ralph was a National Council member of ACCA, the Australian Choral Conductors Association, 1989-1990 and then of ANCA 1999-2005. He was made a Life Member of ANCA in 2010. Latterly, he has been heavily involved with the RSCM as National President as well as Chair of the Queensland Branch.
“It was of course in church music that Ralph found his raison d’être. This was the place that allowed Ralph to bring all his “Ralphness” into the one sphere – his musicianship, his deep and abiding faith, his love of teaching, his empathy, his desire to serve, his sense of community, his regard for ritual and ceremony, his desire for the best that was possible – all this and more found expression in his work in the church.”
(taken from the Eulogy delivered at The Cathedral of St Stephen, March 4, 2016)
Ralph was Director of Music at the Anglican Grammar School in Brisbane for 13 years prior to taking up the Director of Music at St Stephen’s Cathedral Brisbane for some 12 years, as well as Director of Australian Catholic University Choir in Brisbane. He was Co-Founder and Editor of Morton Music, a specialist choral music publisher and Chairman of the Board of the National Youth Choir of Australia 2008-14.
I was fortunate to be able to attend his funeral on 2 March this year at St Johns Cathedral. The service could not have been a more fitting send-off for such a dedicated church musician. A large choir was assembled of past and present choir members from St Stephen’s Cathedral Choir, Schola and Chorale, as well as individual singers from St John’s Cathedral choirs and the ACU. His brother, Graeme Morton, did a sterling job in conducting most of it and then being a pallbearer at the end. A large congregation of colleagues and friends raised the roof in the hymns and lent a marvellous supportive atmosphere for Ralph’s family and friends. Our heartfelt condolences go to Cheryl, his wife of many years, and his immediate close family. I will miss him very much, both personally and professionally, and know that he will be greatly missed by the wider world of music, particularly in Australia, but overseas as well.
Michael Fulcher June 2016
Remembering Ralph Morton
Former singer of Schola
After I heard the news of Ralph’s passing via the flood of Facebook posts and email updates, I was inundated with a crippling feeling of helplessness. As always, it’s the age-old story of one not knowing how fortunate they are to have something until it’s gone. I’m not the greatest weaver of words, but what I can say with the utmost conviction is that Ralph Morton was a key figure in shaping the musician I am today.
It’s astounding that I didn’t have the opportunity to be taught or conducted by Ralph in my schooling years, and yet his influence in the Australian and international liturgical music scene has been felt by so many. Joining the St. Stephen’s Schola under his direction in 2012 was the beginning of a new avenue being drawn up in my life – professional consort singing in the service of a greater entity than any of us are aware of. It was a lot for an eighteen year old to take in, and I certainly wasn’t initially aware of the gravitas of the situation, nor of the true mastery of direction I had the opportunity to work with every week. Ralph had the winning combination of being musically adept, passionate about his work, and a genuinely empathetic and caring person. I shall always be indebted to him for the love and passion he instilled in me years ago, which could only have been a direct reaction to his tireless dedication to every project we were part of together. I recently listened to the recording of an interview I conducted for my honours thesis with him a couple of years ago. To have had the luxury of a couple of hours of sitting and talking about what we truly believe in and love about our jobs was such a joy. It brought back a multitude of memories happy times, and it’s heartening to know that his legacy will remain and is sure to be imparted by all whom he influenced and encouraged.
Former student (1994-98) & chorister (2000-13)
For Ralph Morton, choral music was all about participation. At St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane he directed what must be one of the only non-auditioned Cathedral choirs in Australia. This exemplified his belief that if one could work hard, listen and learn, one had the ability to sing in a choir. Ralph knew he could teach them the rest. And teach them he did, achieving remarkable results during his 15 year tenure at St Stephen’s.
As well as encouraging participation in choirs, Ralph was a strong advocate of congregational singing. He would often hold a 15 minute full congregation rehearsal before a large diocesan mass, even singing himself to demonstrate to the faithful that you didn’t have to be a trained choral singer to sing enthusiastically in Church. By the end of the rehearsal, he would have all 600 members of the congregation singing their hearts out. No mean feat!
Ralph was also a great supporter and motivator. He encouraged me to take classical voice in senior music performance at school which was a catalyst that lead to many wonderful musical opportunities for me later in life. Doubtless he made a similar impact on countless other students and choristers; such was the keen interest he took in those under his tutelage.
Ralph Morton was a musical constant in my life for over 20 years. I will always remember his keen wit, down to earth nature, dedication to choral music and the Church, and above all, his friendship. I will miss him greatly.
Former singer in Schola
So many joyful moments and experiences have been given to me because of Ralph Morton. I was first introduced to Ralph not long after he began working at The Cathedral of St Stephen and he invited me to be a cantor there. I was thankful for this opportunity and this began my long association with the Cathedral and with Ralph.
As a member of Schola, I was able to work with Ralph on a regular basis, though it never felt like work. His rehearsals were enjoyable and always involved a great re-telling of stories, his unique ‘Ralph-isms’ and the infamous slap of the cheek when he said something he shouldn’t have!
I feel privileged that I was able to work with Ralph not only as a chorister but also as a conductor. Members of my choirs from both Saint Laurence’s College and Loreto College have benefitted from being able to work with Ralph. Each time I have had the opportunity to conduct music for Mass at the Cathedral, my first request has always been that Ralph accompany us. To have Ralph at the organ always meant you were in safe hands. His presence and quiet calm always instilled confidence in me and you could always depend on his support.
Ralph was a true gentleman and such a brilliant musician. I will never forget the wonderful times I have experienced in my life because of him and I am so thankful that I was able to work with him for so many years. My life has certainly been enriched by his presence and I will miss him greatly – his guidance, his encouragement and his friendship.
Former singer of Schola
‘My principle memory of Ralph (apart from his significant musical talents) is his kindness. He always got the job done, but his care for all the people around him was manifest at all times. He was serious about nurturing musical talent and had a passion for education. He really invested in the people around him
Ralph hired me when I was in my early twenties to sing with the ACU Choir, and thence to the Schola of St Stephen’s Cathedral a couple of years later. Singing with the Schola was the perfect university job, with regular hours on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings, and I kept singing with the Schola until I moved to Sydney in my late twenties. My strongest musical memory of Ralph is of the Schola singing Jesu, the very thought of thee by Paul Halley. It is a thrilling piece to sing, and to this day, brings tears to my eyes as it never fails to remind me of Ralph.
His influence on me was something I probably wasn’t aware of at the time, but in hindsight, he allowed me space to develop my musical skills in a safe yet challenging environment, which has led me to where I am today, a professional singer in London. I have retained a love of church music which was definitely developed while singing in the Schola of St Stephen’s Cathedral for five years. I have sung in many churches in London, but none has the sense of ‘home’ for me that St Stephen’s Cathedral did (despite not identifying as Catholic, or even particularly Christian!).
After leaving the Schola, I got to know Ralph in a more personal capacity, and found him full of wit, humour and cheerfulness. I felt very sad at his illness and passing, partly that the world has lost such a kind and talented man, but mostly that I personally have lost an important mentor and friend. My one wish was that he knew the huge positive difference he made in my life. I hope that wherever he is, there is fantastic live sacred choral music in a beautiful acoustic for him to enjoy!’
RIP Dr Ralph