Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Harold Brown Remembered

Sad news out of Vancouver: Harold Brown, one of Vancouver's most beloved pianists for many years, passed away last week at the age of 93. David Duke writes in the Vancouver Sun:
Harold Brown was one of Vancouver’s most remarkable musicians, a pianist of extraordinary insight and a collaborative musician of strength and sensitivity. I doubt you can name a singer he didn’t work with; his was a musical mind of great originality, and he had a boundless enthusiasm for ideas.

He was a great friend of new music, and a source of practical but ever helpful advice for composers who bothered to ask for his opinion or criticism. I was lucky enough to watch him shepherd a set of my early songs from the page to premiere at that musical pressure cooker, the Banff Centre: HB and his singer made them sound a good deal more effective than they no doubt were, but I wasn’t going to complain.

Another memorable revelation was a performance—it must have been in the late 1970s— with mezzo Delia Wallis. In Schubert’s perhaps too-famous “Serenade,” HB turned the piano into the world’s biggest guitar; no performance I’ve heard since seems half as inspired.
I adored Harold's playing, which had a wonderful clarity of sound that he never lost, even in his later years. One of my fondest memories of Harold is a non-musical one, and took place in a rehearsal room (in the Yaletown Community Centre, I think) midway through an afternoon of voice auditions. This was in early 1998, the year that Wendy and I were married. I asked Harold if he had any advice for me on the occasion of our upcoming marriage that summer. His reply: "Yes, I've got some advice. The first 50 years are the hardest. After that it's easy."

A memorial service will be held this coming Saturday, January 15 at 1pm in First Unitarian Church at West 49th and Oak.


  1. he was special and will be missed. A real pioneer.

  2. Anonymous2:44 AM

    where are you, chris??? examining, to be sure.....

  3. It's such a busy week. Hopefully I'll have some time in the next while. Thanks for your concern.