The Man Behind the Music

Ralph Edmund Marryott
April 15, 1908 - August 24, 1974

Editors Note: This month the Jamesburg Network explores the life, works, and legacy of Ralph Edmund Marryott, a Jamesburg native who made many contributions to both the world of music and the Borough of Jamesburg.

Ralph E. Marryott as a Young Boy on display at Lakeview       Ralph Edmund Marryott was the second of two sons born to J. Edmund and Margaret Johnson Marryott. His family lived on Stockton Street in Jamesburg, across from Triangle Park (now Veterans' Memorial Park). J. E. Marryott had an insurance business and was known in the area as a vocal soloist. Ralph’s grandfather, Samuel Marryott, also of Jamesburg, fought in the Civil War. (Marryott Street in Jamesburg got its name from this family.) Margaret Johnson Marryott, daughter of Cornelius M. and Eveline Paxton Johnson, grew up on the Johnson farm on Spotswood-Englishtown Road in the Matchaponix section of Monroe Township.

      The charming full-length portrait of Mr. Marryott as a small boy (now on display in Lakeview) shows that he was a child of relative privilege in Jamesburg of the early 1900s. Mr. Ralph Marryott and his brother Franklin Johnson Marryott (1903-1996) had music lessons and began performing publicly in their teens. Franklin played the violin, the trumpet, and the mandolin. Mr. Marryott played the piano and organ. He studied with Miss Mary Davison of Jamesburg. Each year Miss Davison's students performed in a recital at the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg, where Miss Davison was organist and choir director.

      Mr. Marryott attended private schools and studied musical composition as well as instrumental performance. In 1926 he took over Miss Davison's position at the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg as organist and choir director. He taught music in the Jamesburg Public Schools, accompanied the Jamesburg Choral Society and gave piano lessons to students at his home. During his lifetime he became a prolific composer and arranger of sacred and secular works for chorus, organ, and piano. His most popular work was his arrangement of "The Ashgrove". According to the New York Times, which used to list all the Easter music performed in city churches, Ralph E. Marryott's works were performed somewhere every Easter during his prime music publication years. In 1950, he was elected to the American Society of Composers, Arrangers, and Publishers (ASCAP). During the forty-eight years that Ralph Marryott was music director at the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg, over 500 different people sang in choirs under his direction. Mr. Marryott also served as organist for Temple Ashe Emeth, New Brunswick and St. James Roman Catholic Church, Jamesburg.

Ralph E. Marryott in 1957       Towards the end of his career, Mr. Marryott gathered a group of Jamesburg High School Alumni still residing in the area to sing a cappella works in local concerts. He derived great pleasure from conducting the Alumni Choir, which was later called the Ralph E. Marryott, or R.E.M., Alumni Choir. He passed away in 1974 and was buried in Fernwood Cemetery with his family. He was survived locally by his first cousin, the late Louise Johnson Kerwin. Mr. Marryott's gifts to this church did not cease with his passing. Mr. Marryott bequeathed his organ sheet music and compositions, including handwritten manuscripts, to the Presbyterian Church.

      Mr. Marryott did not live to see the revitalization of Lakeview in the late 1970s. He would have been pleased that some of the things from his home on the corner of Stockton Street and Lincoln Avenue now grace the front parlor of the mansion. These include the wide Victorian stand displaying the same vases and ornaments that adorned the Marryott parlor for decades, in view of Mr. Marryott's many Jamesburg piano students.

Ralph E. Marryott's Victorian Stand now on Display at Lakeview

An Appreciation of Ralph Edmund Marryott
Prepared for the Jamesburg Historical Association
by Hannah Kerwin
September 5, 2002

Adapted and Edited for the Internet by Thomas C. Bodall, Jamesburg Borough Historian

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