“Ramsay’s attentiveness to the complete range of possibilities of the instruments allows all the music to unfold with tremendous naturalness while never seeking simply to exploit instrumental techniques for their own sake. It is carefully made, thoughtful music that impresses with its balance between depth of content and expressive effect.” Fanfare Magazine, 2013
Graham Gordon Ramsay is in demand as a creator of vocal and instrumental works for venues throughout the United States and Europe. Born in California in 1962, Ramsay studied music at the Tanglewood Institute, Boston University, and the Fontainebleau School in France. He studied composition with such masters as Robert Sirota, Joyce McKeel, Theodore Antoniou, David Del Tredici, Narcis Bonet, and Andrew Thomas, and studied voice with Phyllis Hoffman and Irène Joachim. He has received commissions from numerous solo performers and ensembles including the Burgett Ensemble, the Seraphim Singers, and American Classics. In recent years he has been commissioned to create liturgical works for the choirs of King’s Chapel in Boston, St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island, and St. Thomas More Church in New York City, among others. His discography includes two albums devoted to his compositions on the Albany Records label: The Sacred Voice: Heinrich Christensen Conducts Sacred Vocal Works by Graham Gordon Ramsay (2011) and Compendium: Selected Solo Instrumental Works (2013). He is the recipient of various grants and awards, including a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Council for the Arts grant and first prize in the 2003 Roger Wagner Contemporary Choral Composition Competition for his setting of Psalm 121 for chorus and solo violin. His scores are distributed through the Subito Music Corporation.
characterization of the work
Influenced by his studies in classical vocal technique, opera, oratorio and art song literature, many of Ramsay's works are for the voice. These works include solo songs, song cycles grouped by poet or by thematically connected texts, choral works, pieces with narration, and works for solo voice with chamber ensemble. He honors the texts by making them singable, lyrical, and comprehensible. He does not use the text merely as a vehicle for the musical material, but melds line and lyric in a symbiotic manner. Ramsay's instrumental works also reflect a strong sense of line and lyricism. These compositions include works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestral pieces and dance suites, and incidental music for theatre.
One review says of the work:
“Certain composers of modern classical music abandon melody, rhythm, and even tonality in an effort to discomfit; they hope to jar the listener into questioning the nature and meaning of music through brute force. Graham Gordon Ramsay is not one of those composers. He does something that’s perhaps even more difficult. He achieves freshness and conveys emotion by invoking a familiar musical vocabulary, then poking, stretching, and inverting it in delightful and unexpected ways. We’re invited to listen and re-listen to his pieces, finally coming away with a sense that we’ve learned something through a genuine interaction rather than an aural assault.”
The relationship between composer, performer and audience is the steady focus of Ramsay's work. Often working in collaboration with specific performers and ensembles, his work draws on their unique strengths. This process involves tailoring the work not only to suit the artists, but the musical occasion and performance venue for each project as well.