Jack Ranney, 80: Edward Elgar's 'Nimrod'

Feb 28, 2021

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My dad was a violinist and an orchestra conductor. My childhood was centered around music. I didn't grow up listening to popular songs on the radio; instead, at my house, we listened to recordings of classical symphonies. Some of my earliest and proudest memories are of watching my dad in his black tuxedo conduct a concert. Other cherished moments are when he played "Ava Maria" at church on Christmas Eve and "The Lord's Prayer" at my wedding.

In November, when my dad was on a ventilator, we decided to put together a recording of his favorite pieces for him to listen to. One after another, my family immediately chimed in with songs to contribute, each with memories attached: Holst's "The Planets," Respighi's "Pines of Rome," Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Barber's "Adagio for Strings," etc. For me, it was Elgar's "Nimrod." Years earlier, my husband was just getting introduced to classical music and he asked my dad to suggest some pieces.

"Nimrod" was one and it instantly became one of our favorites. When my dad was hospitalized with COVID-19, friends and other family would ask what they could do to help - I asked them to listen to "Nimrod" and think about my dad. It is a beautiful, moving and emotional piece. I love it because it reminds me of a part of my dad that not everyone got to know or see. I will be forever grateful for the way in which my dad brought music into my life and how music will always be a source of connection to him. --Jillian Knutson, daughter

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