John Railton … a tribute

It is with great sadness that I heard yesterday that John had died.
As a little girl of 11 I had relished his Festival Hall children’s concerts…. his charismatic presence at our school music festivals…. his immense energy at the ERMA choral courses… not to mention his wonderful performance of the Ravel Piano concerto for left hand ( his R little finger taking all the strong notes intended for the L thumb )
These were my early, more distant impressions. Later, by several years, I noticed he was living in Devon and plucked up the courage to have a piano lesson. His response was typically warm and supportive…. he laid his great big hand on mine and with a twinkle suggested very mildly that I might like to take my performance diploma.
He was mystified by my lack of key sense…. equally by my complete ignorance of harmony, but he patiently persevered and got me through.
Then another nudge. Why not take my teaching diploma with the Associated Board? Again, such encouragement and support.
How many pupils of his will have experienced not just his breadth of musicianship but also, his unfailing pastoral care and interest and not a little charming vagueness!
His influence in my musical life has been life changing for me. It was at his suggestion in 1996 that I embarked on the first of Beethoven’s last 3 sonatas. Whenever my tension got the better of me he would suggest some subtle alterations that could bring me back to stillness so that the essence of the music could then speak. I am sure there will be so many over the decades who will feel just the same.
His laid back (nearly to the horizontal) manner at pupil concerts and gentlemanly, unflappable humour in concert with his more nervy duet partner Kate, were an absolute joy, and there is this quality of joy in the particular sound he made at the piano. His arrangements for one hand were so good that those of us with 2 good hands would have been hard pushed to reproduce them.

My love and sympathy go to his family… Lucy, Ed and John.

I was privileged to have such a dear friend, mentor and teacher and I will miss him very much.


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6 Responses to John Railton … a tribute

  1. nickrno77 says:

    Thank you so much for your kind tribute to my Dad, we all miss him immensely, Nick

  2. Susan Westwood says:

    I will always remember John Railton, as I was lucky to have had the privelidge to sing at the Ernest Read concerts at the Royal Festival Hall when I was at Palmers Green High School. We always got to sing the Holly and the Ivy twice at the concerts. Always thought of him as favourite and an inspiration. Sorry to hear of his passing.

  3. Adrian Pitts says:

    John founded the Herts County Youth Choir which is having a 40th anniversary reunion on 28th Sept in Redbourn near St Albans and would like to remember John by singing his folksong arrangements from 1973 and to make a donation to a charity he supported. If his family read this could they suggest what this might be. John’s ERMA Christmas Concerts, tour of Strasbourg and personal support will be treasured memories

  4. Julian Gray says:

    Just dug out programmes from hearts county youth choir and cantata orchestra in the ’70s clearing out the attic. Best years of my life were marked by those fabulous musical events. Remember these with great affection. We all loved John. So glad I found your post.

  5. Musiewild says:

    ‘Mr Railton’was a huge influence in my formative musical years. I went to a local girls’ school when he was music master to the Ealing Grammar School boys. He turned to us to do mixed choir works. He lost his arm while I knew him. It is thrilling to see from this and from other sources how he continued to inspire so many for the rest of his life.

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