Bart Ellsworth

Everybody knows Ricky Gervais is great, but I knew Bart Ellsworth was. He was young, but was a (or the) music critic for the Trenton Times. He was a fabulous pianist and organist, handsome, and very smart. He was also gay, I think, but you’d never have known it. What I found most remarkable was that, like Gervais and Georgie Price (my father), he could impersonate people, especially ordinary people he observed around him. He could sit in a crowded restaurant and focus in on a voice or two, tuning out all the rest, which is hard for me. There’s not much I can say about him, except that I found out somehow he died.

It was Bart who told me about hymn 354 (“And have the bright immensities/Received our risen Lord?”), a secret gem, in The Hymnal 1940. It was the second tune he raved about, but the first is great, too, and so are the words. It’s recommended for Ascension Day, but there are so many “obligatory” hymns for that day, it rarely gets played. There’s never been a hymnal as good as that one, and probably never will be.

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