Funeral services for Dr. James S. Ralston will be held at 11:00 a.m. , Saturday, November 17, 2012, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vermont. Burial will follow at Pioneer Cemetery. Dr. Ralston died on November 7, 2012, at Pioneer Ridge.
He was born in Columbia, Missouri, on December 18, 1930, to Lawrence T. and Minnie S. Ralston. In 1944 the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated from Southwest High School in 1948. He earned an Associate Degree from Kansas City, Kansas, Junior College in 1950 and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Kansas in 1952. He earned a Master’s degree in Music Education in 1958 and a Ph.D. in Music Education in 1973, both from the University of Kansas.
Dr. Ralston served in the U.S. Navy from 1952 to 1956 and remained in the Naval Reserve program, retiring as a Commander, USNR-R in 1974. He taught choral music at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1956 to 1962. Ralston joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1962 as a visiting lecturer in choral music. The following semester he was a graduate assistant in the School of Education. He was appointed assistant professor in choral music in 1963 and became a full professor in 1978. He retired from KU in 1994.
Professor Ralston also served as Chair of the Department of Ensembles at KU from 1976 to 1983; from 1983 to 1994, he was Director of the Choral Division. He was also associated with the Midwestern Music camp beginning in 1964. During his tenure at KU, Dr. Ralston worked with eminent choral directors such as Donald Swarthout, Clayton Krehbiel, and Robert Shaw. His choirs also performed with the Kansas City Philharmonic, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Wichita Symphony. They also performed for the conventions of Kansas Music Educators Association, Music Educators National Conference, and American Choral Directors Association.
Among the major works for chorus and orchestra that Professor Ralston conducted during his tenure are the following: J.S. Bach, Mass in B Minor and St. John Passion; Beethoven, Missa Solemnis; Berlioz, Requiem; Bernstein, Chichester Psalms; Brahms, German Requiem; Britten, War Requiem; Handel, The Messiah, Solomon, and Dixit Dominus; Haydn, Creation; Mendelssohn, Elijah; Mozart, Grand Mass in C Minor and Requiem; Orff, Carmina Burana; Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms; and Verdi, Four Sacred Songs (for Michael Palmer); and Mahler, Eighth Symphony (for William McGlaughlin).
During his career, Ralston was actively involved in the preparation and performance of many new works, mostly in conjunction with the Symposium of Contemporary Music at the University of Kansas. Included among the many composers were Lukas Foss, Norman Dello Joio, Vincent Persichetti, Gunther Schuller, and Libby Larsen.
In 1970 Dr. Ralston initiated a master’s degree program in choral conducting at KU, and in 1973 he began the doctoral degree program in choral conducting. Under his supervision, more than thirty students completed graduate degrees in choral conducting from the University of Kansas.
In nearly forty years of service to music and music education in the state, he conducted over fifty concerts of major choral works at KU, more than thirty Vespers performances, and taught choral music to students numbering in the thousands. In 1997 he was inducted into the Kansas Music Educators Association Hall of Fame.
Dr. Ralston was a member of the Monday Rotary Club and served as their song leader for forty-six years. Rotary honored him as a Paul Harris Fellow. From 1956-1962 he directed the Welborn Community Church Choir in Kansas City, Kansas; in the 1960’s he was the choir director at Plymouth Congregational Church; from 1973-2008 he was the choral director for Trinity Episcopal Church. Other honors include the Federated Music Club’s 1999 Kansas Musical Family of the Year Award and the 2003 Phoenix Award in Musical Arts.
He married Susan Frederick on May 17, 1975, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence. He is survived by his wife Susan of 37 years as well as four daughters: Julie Hodges and husband David, Keizer, Oregon; Joi Monnington and husband Mark, Kansas City, Kansas; Meghan Adams and husband Nick, Overland Park, Kansas; and Natalie Wilemon and husband Zane, Austin, Texas. Dr. Ralston also leaves thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a brother Robert T. Ralston and a sister Jean Barns.
Memorials may be made in his name to Trinity Episcopal Church and to KU Endowment for a graduate scholarship in choral conducting. Contact KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, Ks. 66044 A memorial concert at KU will take place in the spring.
Visitation will be on Friday, November 16, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home.