Desmond Ratcliffe’s first music teacher was his father William Ratcliffe who was a composer and organist at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London. The young boy used to go to the church with his father to hear him practise and sometimes Queen Mary would wander into the back of the church to listen. He learnt the piano and organ and after the early death of his father became a young chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where he started to compose.
He went on to be educated at Kingston Grammar School and was organist at a local church in Twickenham. He gained entrance to the Royal Academy of Music to study composition. Unfortunately the Second World War interrupted his studies when he had to go into the Army. When the war ended he took up his studies again at the Academy gaining many prizes. He went to work at Novello & Co Ltd in the Reader’s Room under the eye of Walter Emery the leading Bach scholar of his time. He was trained by Emery to become an excellent proof reader and music editor while he continued to compose choral and organ music and make many arrangements. When Faure came out of copyright it was at his publisher’s suggestion that he made a new edition of the Faure Requiem and found hundreds of mistakes in the full score. It was also at Novello’s suggestion that he made a female voice version of the Requiem which has proved very popular. On leaving Novello he went to live in North Norfolk with his wife while continuing to work as a freelance music reader for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Novello and Oxford University Press. At the time of his death on 11 April 2001 he was working on the Walton Viola Concerto for OUP.
[Biography by Shirley Ratcliffe]