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Julius Harrison (Composer, Arranger)

Born: March 26, 1885 - Lower Mitton, Stourport in Worcestershire, England
Died: April 5, 1963 - Harpenden in Hertfordshire, England


The English composer and conductor, ulius Allan Greenway Harrison, was the eldest in the family of four sons and three daughters of Walter Henry Harrison a grocer and candle maker, and his wife, Henriette Julien née Schoeller, a German-born former governess. He was educated at a Dame School in Stourport, and at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Hartlebury. The family was musical; Walter Harrison was conductor of the Stourport Glee Union and Henriette Harrison was Julius's first piano teacher. He later took organ and violin lessons from the organist of Wilden parish church, and sang in the church choir.

At the ago of 16 Julius Harrison was appointed organist and choirmaster at Areley Kings Church, and at Hartlebury Church at the age of 21. When he was 17 he directed the Worcester Musical Society in a performance of his own Ballade for Strings. He gained two Firsts in music in Cambridge local examinations and studied under Granville Bantock at the Birmingham and Midland Institute of Music where he specialised in conducting. e first came to wider public notice in 1908 with his cantata Cleopatra. The work won the first prize at the Norwich Musical Festival, adjudicated by Frederick Delius, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Ernest Walker. The Times commented on the inadequacy of the libretto, and praised Harrison's orchestration and melodies but complained that the work was "a series of pictures of unbridled passion devoid of all that ordinary people call beauty." The reviewer in The Manchester Guardian was more complimentary; though he commented on the obvious influence of Granville Bantock, and over-elaborate orchestration, he wrote that Harrison had undoubted talent.

Julius Harrison moved to London, where he took a job with the Orchestrelle Company, a manufacturer of rolls for player-pianos. He conducted amateur ensembles and was organist of the Union Chapel, Islington. In the latter capacity he wrote several pieces for the choir during 1910 and 1911, and his symphonic poem Night on the Mountains was played at the Queen's Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Harrison at the invitation of Hans Richter. The Times said, "The orchestral colouring is laid on with so thick a brush that the outlines get somewhat obscured in places, but it still contains some promising ideas".

For most of his career Julius Harrison was obliged to earn a living by conducting and other musical work, to the detriment of his composing. In early 1913 he was engaged as a répétiteur at Covent Garden, where he had the opportunity of observing Arthur Nikisch prepare Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Later that year Harrison was appointed to the conducting staff for the season. In 1914 he was assistant conductor to Nikisch and Felix Weingartner in Paris, rehearsing Parsifal for the former and Tristan und Isolde for the latter.

In 1915 Thomas Beecham and Robert Courtneidge presented a season of opera at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Julius Harrison was recruited as a conductor along with Percy Pitt, Hamish MacCunn and Landon Ronald. After a second season with Courtneidge, Thomas Beecham set up on his own account in 1916, and established the Beecham Opera Company at the Aldwych Theatre of which his father Sir Joseph Beecham was the lessee. Harrison, together with Pitt and Eugene Goosse, joined him as assistant conductors. In 1916 Harrison joined the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the technical branch. He was based in London, and was frequently able to conduct for Thomas Beecham, often wearing his uniform.

From 1920 to 1923 Julius Harrison was co-conductor of the Scottish Orchestra with Ronald, and from 1920 to 1927 he was also in charge of the Bradford Permanent Orchestra. From 1922 to 1924 he was a conductor for the British National Opera Company, specialising in Wagner.

In 1924 Julius Harrison left the opera company and took up an appointment at the Royal Academy of Music where he was director of opera and professor of composition until 1929. He returned to conducting in 1930 as conductor of the Hastings Municipal Orchestra, running an annual festival and, during the summer season, conducting up to twelve concerts a week. He raised the standard of the orchestra to challenge that of its south-coast rival, the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. He secured the services of guest artists including the conductors Sir Henry J. Wood and Adrian Boult, pianists such as Clifford Curzon and Benno Moiseiwitsch and singers including George Baker. He presented concert performances of neglected works such as Sullivan's and German's The Emerald Isle. After the outbreak of World War II, the Hastings orchestra was disbanded. From 1940 to 1942 Harrison was director of music at Malvern College. He then accepted a post as a conductor with the BBC Northern Orchestra in Manchester.

The onset of deafness forced Harrison to give up conducting. He had been closely associated with the Elgar Festival in Malvern, and his last appearance on the podium was at the final concert of the 1947 festival. He was a founder member and vice-president of the Elgar Society. Harrison died in 1963, aged 78, in Harpenden in Hertfordshire where he settled after leaving Malvern towards the end of the 1940’s.


His biographer, Geoffrey Self, writes that after 1940 Julius Harrison wrote a series of substantial works; he instances Bredon Hill (1942) and the Violin Sonata (1946), works which, in Self's view, are influenced respectively by Johannes Brahms and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Self rates Harrison's finest works as the Mass in C (1936–47) and the Requiem (1948-1957), which he describes as "conservative and contrapuntally complex, influenced by Bach and Verdi respectively [with] a mastery of texture and a massive yet balanced structure".

Julius Harrison's writings about music include Handbook for Choralists (London, 1928) and Brahms and his Four Symphonies (1939), and chapters on Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Dvořák in Robert Simpson's two volume study of The Symphony (London, 1967), which is dedicated to his memory.

Selected Works

Autumn Days
CA Fantasy of Flowers
I Love the Jocund Dance
In Celia's Face
Song of the Plough
Spring in the Air
The Canterbury Pilgrims (unfinished opera)
The Rival Fourth Fingers
The Wanderer's Song
Variations on Down Among the Dead Men

Ballade for string orchestra (1902)
Prelude Music for string orchestra and piano (or harp), Op.16 (1912); original for harp and string quartet
Widdicombe Fair, Humoreske for string orchestra, Op.22 (1916); original for string quartet
Worcestershire Suite (1918); original for piano
Romance, a Song of Adoration for orchestra (1930)
Cornish Holiday Sketches for string orchestra (1935)
Autumn Landscape for string orchestra (1937); premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in February 1937
Troubadour Suite for string orchestra, harp (or piano) and optional horns (1944)
The King of Navarre's Chanson
The Marriage of Yolande
Song of Spring
Dancing Song
Serenade for Strings

Bredon Hill, Rhapsody for violin and orchestra (1941)

Chamber music:
Prelude Music, Quintet in G♭ major for harp and string quartet, Op.16 (1912); also for string orchestra and piano (or harp)
Scaramouche for violin and piano (1915)
Pensée fugitive for vioand piano (1915)
Widdicombe Fair, Humoreske for string quartet, Op.22 (1916); also for string orchestra
Fanfare for a Masked Ball for 4 trumpets (1921)
Sonata in C minor for viola and piano (1945)
String Quartet

Paean and Tonus Peregrinus: Homage to César Franck

Rhapsody, Intermezzo and Capriccio (1903)
Barcarolle (1917)
Worcestershire Suite (1918); also orchestrated
The Shrawley Round
Redstone Rock
Pershore Plums
The Ledbury Parson
The Pixie Man
, Suite (1920)
Silver Bells and Cockle Shells (1920)
Severn Country, Suite (1928)
Dance in the Cherry Orchard (Ribbesford)
Twilight on the River (Bewdley)
Far Forest
Town and Country
Wayside Fancies, Suite (1948)
March Humoresque
An Old Legend
Columbine's Waltz
Summer Breeze
The Jolly Huntsman
Mr. Alberti Takes a Stroll
Outdoor Song: At the fair (1952)

Six Short Songs for medium voice and piano (1907)
Bonny Blue-cap for medium voice and piano (1908); words by Sir Walter Scott
Songs of Fancy, 4 Songs (1913); words by P. Ashbrooke
Little Untrodden Paths
Oh, Little Mist from the Sea
Silent Trees
At Daybreak
Four Songs of Chivalry
for voice and piano (1915); words by William Morris
Sir Giles' War Song
The Eve of Crecy
The Gilliflower of Gold
Three Eastern Love Songs
for voice and piano (1915); words by Edward Teschemacher
You Bring Me Pearls
O Jewel of the Deep Blue Sea
Caravan of Love
Four Narratives from the Ancient Chinese
for medium voice and piano (1917)
The Soldier
The Last Revel
There Was a King of Liang
The Recruiting Sergeant
Three Sonnets from Boccaccio
for high voice and piano (1919); words by Giovanni Boccaccio
On the Beach at Otahai (1920); words by E. J. Brady
Three Songs (1921-1927)
Merciless Beauty; words by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Escape from Love; words by Geoffrey Chaucer
A Lament; words by Sir Thomas Wyatt
I Know a Bank for soprano or tenor and piano (1928); words from A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Four Cavalier Tunes for tenor or baritone and piano (1930); words by Robert Browning
Boot, Saddle, To Horse and Away
King Charles
Marching Along
for baritone voice and orchestra (1932); words by Walt Whitman
Sea Winds for voice and piano (1932); words by Paul Askew
Memory Island for baritone and piano (1936); words by Paul Askew
Philomel for voice and piano (1938); words from A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Four Songs from Twelfth Night for high voice and piano (1948); words from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Come Away Death
Jolly Robin
O Mistress Mine
Clown's Song

Cleopatra, Dramatic Poem (Cantata) for soli (soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor), chorus and orchestra (1908); performed at the Norwich Festival in 1908
Harvest Cantata for soprano (or tenor) and contralto (or baritone) soli, chorus and piano or organ (1910); words by Rose Dafforne Betjemann
Christmas Cantata for soli and chorus (1911); words by Rose Dafforne Betjemann
Viking Song, Part-song for male chorus and pianoforte or orchestra (1911); words by Fred Adlington
Open Thy Gates, Introit Anthem for mixed chorus (with organ ad libitum) (1913); words by Robert Herrick
Prevent Us, O Lord, Anthem for mixed chorus and organ (1914)
Blows the Wind To-day for mixed chorus a cappella (1915); words by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the Forest for mixed chorus a cappella (1913); words by Heinrich Heine; translation by Francis Hueffer
Easter Carol for female chorus and piano (1921); words by Frederick Elliott
The Little Men for female chorus (1921); words by William Allingham
The Blessed Damozel for female chorus a cappella (1928); words by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
A Sunny Shaft, Part Song for female chorus and piano (1929); words by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Merry Miller, Folk-jingle for mixed chorus a cappella (1932); words by Helen Taylor
Magnifcat and Nunc dimittis for unison voices and organ (1941)
The Wild Huntsman, Fantasia for male chorus a cappella (1946)
The Dark Forest, Part-song for mixed chorus a cappella (1947); words by Edward Thomas
Mass in C for solo voices, chorus, organ and orchestra (1936-1947); premiered at Stoke-on-Trent in 1948; twice broadcast in 1952 and 1955
Missa liturgica for mixed chorus a cappella (1950)
Psalm C (Psalm 100) for mixed chorus and organ (1953)
Requiem Mass for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soli, mixed chorus and orchestra (1948–1957); first performed in 1957 at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival
Requiem for Archangels

Arrangements :
Harrison's many arrangements include versions of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, sundry Schubert songs (entitled Winter and Spring) and a "concert version" of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride all for mixed chorus.


Source: Wikipedia Website (November 2012)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2013)

Julius Harrison: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Julius Harrison (Wikipedia)



John Lucas: Thomas Beecham - An Obsession with Music (Woodbridge: Boydell Press,.2008)
Edmund Rubbra: Julius Harrison's Mass (Oxford University Press, 1950)
Geoffrey Self: Julius Harrison: And the Importunate Muse (Scolar press, 1993)

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