Perhaps writing down some memories I have of Harold Brown will help clarify why I have not done so before. Is it because somehow he remains alive for me? To this day, I do continue to conduct early music, including works I first sang under his inspired leadership: Ockeghem’s Credo Sine Nomine and that lovely Magnificat by Johannes Martini first come to mind, and there are other pieces too. It would be no exaggeration, moreover, to say that Harold strongly influenced my (at the time, ca. 1961) seemingly impractical decision to make my life’s career in musicology, and ultimately to conduct the Collegium Musicum of Keene State College in New Hampshire from 1972 to 1998.
My student years at the High School of Music & Art, 1951-1955, are milestones in my memory, for that experience rescued me from feeling like a Martian outcast among kids from a different world with totally different values from my own. Even the teachers there, for all their quirkiness, started making sense to me, though Harold Brown, as my intriguing music theory teacher, still struck me as being even crazier than I was at the time. It was not until I subsequently attended nearby CCNY, back amongst all those “normal” people again, that I realized I had best flee into the safety zone of the Renaissance Chorus of New York, conducted by the magically self-effacing Harold Brown. And what a wonderful bunch of singers, too, real people to whom I could relate while singing with the music held upside-down.
Therein lay the reality that continues to sustain me today, as I approach my seventieth birthday. For the rest of that world out there is quite a frightening place. Thank you, Harold Brown, for a gift for which I still cannot find adequate words to express.
And now it looks as though I have failed to capture his essence for you, the real Harold Brown. Yet those impressionable years singing under his visionary guidance represent so much to me. It’s in the music.
Raymond H. Rosenstock