Richard began his performing career with a recitation of A Visit From St. Nicholas at the age of three, following up with a solo performance of Silent Night at the age of 4, both in Sunday School Christmas concerts.

At age 4 he started piano lessons and before leaving this phase behind at the age of 19, he had nearly worn out six teachers. Organ instruction followed during high school and into post secondary with three additional teachers.

Richard was singing in various Christmas and Easter cantatas by the age of 9 and performing variety shows at the age of 10, including a solo performance for the Canada Centennial Ecumenical Services in Caledonia, Ontario.

He began a career as a church organist and choir director in Caledonia Baptist Church in 1975 and just recently celebrated 35 years in that capacity, having moved through Caistor, Tyneside, Burlington, North Burlington and Trinity (Hamilton) Baptist Churches, as well as Strathcona Presbyterian and his current position at Emmanuel United in Hamilton. Along the way he also became familiar with Anglican, Catholic, Christian Science, Pentecostal, and Associated Gospel denominations as interim or relief organist. He assisted a large number of churches by consulting on organ and piano search committees.

Richard has studied choral conducting under his cousin, composer/conductor Paul Chappel; as well as Austin Lovelace, Carol Geisbrecht, Denise Narcisse-Mair, Doreen Rao, Glenn Mallory, and Darryl Johnson. He has organized choral conducting workshops for Paul Chappel, Denise Narcisse-Mair, and Darryl Johnson. He has studied voice with Denise Narcisse-Mair and Susan Gudgeon (who has performed with the Canadian Opera Company and the Stratford and Shaw festivals).

He was chairman of the Hamilton (ON) Baptist Fellowship Music Committee for several years in the mid 1980s and conducted their massed choir for two annual concerts during that time. He has performed in choirs at Roy Thompson Hall (Toronto), Hamilton Place (Hamilton), and in the Baptist World Congress Choir at Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto) and was a member of the Haldimand Choralairs when they competed at the International Eisteddfodd in Llangollen, Wales, in 1974.

Richard began his cooking and baking career at a very young age, assisting Grandma with making cookies. This developed into a love of food as sustenance and as a creative medium. He began decorating cakes at age 9 and began entering baking competitions at the age of 13. He was the first male ever to enter the Haldimand County Agricultural Fair baking competitions and was relegated to the open classes when he was refused entry into the junior girls category (for obvious reasons). He retaliated by winning three first awards and a second in five entries that year. Entries and awards went on for a number of years until Richard retired when he moved away from the area. He then began to recognize other winners by donating trophies and prizes (for more than 25 years).

He realized after one year at Ontario Bible College that a full time music career was not appropriate, and so enrolled in George Brown College Chef Training program on the advice of a part-time employer. His cooking career spanned Holiday Inns and two private clubs from apprentice to executive chef before he moved to Dominion Stores as a baker. After six years there, Richard enrolled at the Faculty of Education, University of Toronto in Technical Education so he could become a teacher of baking and pastry arts at the secondary school level.

Looking back on 20 years there Richard says, "I have accomplished a lot with my students, sent many successful ones off into the food industry, set up a myriad competitions of which many were won by my students and I have truly enjoyed my time with the kids."

The Bakery Production Club of Ontario, Pastry Chefs Guild of Ontario, Bakery Council of Canada, Bakery Association of Canada, and the Skills Ontario and Skills Canada organizations have all benefited from Richard's work and enthusiasm with young people. He has designed and run local, provincial and national competitions, organized educational meetings and sessions, given seminars and written and edited correspondence courses, and sat on innumerable committees and boards dealing with education and apprenticeship.

His other hobbies include collecting old books and music, reading (voraciously - particularly sci-fi, fantasy, and dragons), building pine furniture (most of the pieces in his home), and trying new things (glass blowing will hopefully be in the future).

Since he retired from teaching a number of years ago, Richard has allowed another passion to consume much of his time. His love of history has led to associations with historical faires and festivals and most recently to a partnership in Blackthorn Productions, a medieval education and entertainment company based in Guelph Ontario. Blackthorn travels to schools and museums to present living history demonstrations and interactive displays to grade four students. Blackthorn also presents their unique brand of interactive history at historical faires, community events, corporate functions and fundraisers across much of southern Ontario.

If you'd like to talk to Richard about any of this, email him at richard@ractenor.com


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