Tributes paid to Ray, ‘one of life’s true gentlemen’

Dr Raymond Sturdy
Dr Raymond Sturdy

A much-loved musician and teacher who was a key member of the Stamford Bridge Singers has passed away after a long battle with illness.

Dr Raymond Sturdy was a man whose musical talents were widely sought across Yorkshire.

Michael Wiles, conductor of Stamford Bridge Singers, said:“He was an outstanding accompanist such that you forgot he was there. Nothing seemed to faze Ray, and his musical ‘sixth sense’ always pulled us through.

“Always modest and unassuming, putting others first, Ray was one of life’s true gentlemen.”

Proof of the high esteem in which the 65-year-old was held was evident when a huge number of friends and family packed into St Mary’s Priory in Malton for his funeral service.

Ray was born and spent his early years in Middlesbrough.

It was there that he was taught the piano, but he switched to the organ as a teenager and playing the instrument quickly became an all-encompassing passion.

Under the guidance of his teacher and mentor, Dr Conrad Eden at Durham Cathedral, he began to accompany singing pupils and choirs for the great Betty Middleton in Saltburn, a life-long friend who left him her grand piano which now resides in St Mary’s Priory.

Ray won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and, at the age of 22, gained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.

After graduation, a year of study in Paris followed with several notable organists, including Duruflé.

In the 1970s, Ray taught piano at Ampleforth College and became organist and choir master at St Cuthbert’s Church, Marton, where he met his future wife Debbie (née Clewes).

After moving to York in 1992, Ray held teaching positions at All Saints’ School, York; Moorlands School in Leeds; Cliff School, Wakefield, and Bootham Junior School in York, and was Musical Director of Wakefield Festival Chorus.

For 15 years he was the official accompanist for York Singing Festival. He was the 61st President of the York and District Organists’ Association.

Ray is survived by his wife, Debbie, and children, Laura and Jonathan.