In Memoriam Kenneth Ryder

"Whereas at the east end there is the altar, lectern and pulpit, each symbolizing in its own way the means of Grace, so at the west end there is a visual and aural expression of man's need to respond to that grace."

These were the words of Kenneth Ryder, organist at the 15th century church of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. He was speaking of the wonderful new organ (see photo above) built in 1984 by Peter Collins for his church. Kenneth Ryder was the driving force behind the three manual Werkprinzip instrument which is modeled faithfully on the organs of northern Germany, and is ideally suited to the works of Bach and other baroque composers. There is mechanical action throughout, and all the sections of the instrument are unenclosed.

Just as the organ of St Peter Mancroft is part of the 18th century Germany musical tradition, so Kenneth Ryder (right) was a direct descendant of the Kappelmeisters of Bach’s day. He saw music as an integral part of the liturgy, was tireless in his roles of organist and teacher, and made wonderful commercial recordings on his beloved organ in St Peter Mancroft. His house in the Cathedral Close in Norwich had an organ in the music room used for teaching and practice, and his New Year's Day Bach recitals were a fixture in the musical life of Norwich.

The following biographical informtion is taken from the sleeve notes for The Organ of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich (Merlin Audio 97009CD nla). Kenneth Ryder was born and educated in London. At the age of twelve he became a Junior Exhibitioner at the Royal Academy of Music. As a senior student he studied piano for five years with Vivian Langrish, who had a profound musical influence on him, and organ with Douglas Hawkridge. He held two organ posts in London before coming to St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich in 1963.

Kenneth Ryder gave organ recitals in many European countries as well as Canada. His experience with historically important continental organs resulted in a very close collabaration with Peter Collins in the design and specification of the St Peter Mancroft organ, which in 1984, was for him the fulfilment of twenty years' standing. He was Organist and Master of the Music at St Peter's, and took part in numerous ITC and BBC television and radio broadcasts from the church.

He was responsible over the years for the training and upbringing of dozens of young musicians (left) who are now full-time in the profession both in the UK and abroad. He regarded the nurturing of young talent as the most important aspect of his work in Norwich, where he was much in demand as a teacher of both organ and piano, as well as accompanist, adjudicator, conductor and performer. He appeared regularly in the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Kenneth Ryder retired last autumn to Aylsham, and died on 28th May 2006 after a short illness. There can be no more fitting memorial than the organ of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich.

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Bach at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich


Pliable said…
I have particular personal gratitude for Kenneth Ryder's recording, and recital performances, of the two preludes and fugues by Nicolaus Bruns, they opened my ears to this important composer.
Roger Hewett said…
God rest your soul, sir.

I just learned of your passing via my parents. I was one of your original 'Norwich Boys' Choir' members back in the early 70's. For sure you helped shape my musical career.

You touched the lives of so many.

Roger Hewett
Musical Director
Cirque du Soleil
Montreal, Canada
Anonymous said…
Keneth Ryder was my cousin. I last spoke to him from my late Mother's home in Colyton Devon where I had gone to attend her funeral.
As a resident of Sydney Australia since 1969 I didn't get to talk to him that often and when I visited the UK I never caught up with him in Norwich.

So my memories of this unique talent was from my younger days in Southgate ( My paternal Grandmother was organist at Christchurch in Southgate ) when he and his brother John played games with us and built things in the garden that only boys can build. he tuned my very first guitar...what a revelolation to have an intune guitar for once and my renditions of Bob Dylan songs never sounded better .
Vale Kenneth I will miss you just being you.
Graham Forsaith 1st cousin.

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