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