Ronald Arnatt (1930–2018): A Remembrance by Stanley M. Hoffman

Ronald Arnatt
Ronald Arnatt

My first memories of Dr. Ronald (“Ron”) Arnatt came during the early to mid-1990s when I worked as an editor at Scores International music engravers (formerly Commonwealth Digital). ECS Publishing was one of our main clients; both companies were in downtown Boston not far from one another. Ron would often stop by our office to drop off edited manuscripts for engraving, or to pick up completed projects which we delivered on floppy disks; sometimes I delivered those disks to the ECS office. I would ask Ron how he was doing, and he sometimes replied, “I’m in a bit of a rut,” in his quite pronounced English accent. To my knowledge, he never took to technology in a big way other than to email. So, with the advent of music engraving technology, he found himself somewhat out of his element. I was nonetheless struck by how knowledgeable he was and, above all, how very kind and gentlemanly.

In 1998, I was hired to work as Editor for ECS by its former owner, the late Robert (“Bob”) Schuneman. One of the primary functions of an editor at a music publishing company is vetting submissions to help the owner decide whether to accept them for publication, or to turn them away. For many years Ron was by my side, usually weekly, filling out evaluation forms for submissions. His informed comments were invaluable to Bob and me because of the keen insights he gained from his formidable experience as a composer, editor, organist, and conductor in both England and the US.

We worked together as co-editors of various titles more times than I can recall. We also had many good times together, both at work and socially, especially when ECS would have occasional staff parties and picnics. Even when things got slightly tense at work (as is bound to happen when people work at a business together for years at a time), he was always exceedingly civilized in how he comported himself, a real role model on how to live life fully and yet somehow gently. I was honored to serve as editor for many of his fine musical compositions and arrangements and, in turn, to have Ron critique my own compositions and arrangements. In all aspects of his work, he often thought of things in ways that I might not have considered otherwise, which was incredibly valuable. He is the only person in my life I can truly refer to as both a mentor and a friend.

As the years went on, Ron’s hours at work grew gradually fewer and farther between until he eventually retired; I forget precisely what year that took place. He also eventually retired from his other job as Director of Music and Organist at St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, MA. He and his lovely wife, Carol, whose death preceded his, were both battling various afflictions at the time, so he decided that it was best that they move to where there was family. After that, I could always count on exchanging emails and holiday cards with Ron for as long as he was able to write them.

Ron passed away on August 23, 2018. May both his memory and his musical legacy be blessings.

Below is a touching video of him playing piano at his house in Beverly Farms, MA.


Dr. Ronald Arnatt (1930-2018) had an exceptional professional career spanning both sides of the Atlantic. After receiving his music education at Trinity College, London, and Durham University in England, he emigrated to the United States.

In the United States, Dr. Arnatt held professorial or Director of Music positions at Trinity Church in Boston, Westminster Choir College in Princeton, American University, Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, the University of Missouri, and with the St. Louis Chamber Orchestra and Chorus.

He is known internationally for his choral, organ, and brass compositions. Dr. Arnatt was a Past President of the American Guild of Organists. His final post was Director of Music and Organist at St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.

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