Harold was my motherís younger brother. Any memory of Harold from my childhood is sketchy because my father and he held very strong and differing opinions about where they stood on the matter of politics. Were it not for the tireless devotion of my mother to both these men in her life, I probably never would have known Harold. It was she who insisted that he and Nancy and their daughters, Chelli and Alyssa, be included in holidays with us. In those days, child that I was, I merely sensed the tension between these two men. Much later in life, I came to realize how usual that kind of stuff is in families, happening across the continent at everybodyís Thanksgiving and Christmas, if not unfolding over precisely the same issues in precisely the same way. Anyway, I believe it was again at my motherís suggestion that I joined the Renaissance Chorus in 1957 when I was 15 years old. At the time, though I could carry a tune, I did not sing in any real way nor did I know how to sight read at all, and so for the whole first year, I just sat quietly in the tenor section, mouthing the words and struggling to learn among the most musical kids in the city. In the years that followed, I was swept completely into that stark and beautiful enveloping sound that is Renaissance music.
Short and slight of build with a high forehead and bushy eyebrows, Haroldís awkward stooped appearance changed dramatically when he was conducting - I was always completely taken aback by how graceful he became with baton in hand. His darkly funny sense of humor made him popular with us young people and his laughter was infectious, his eyes, twinkly. But it was his love for the music and for his students that captured my heart. Totally immersed inside each piece and how it was supposed to come out of us, he was clear in his explanations, gentle in his approach, frustrated at times with our performances but never angry with us personally, and very appreciative of each of us as important people in his life. I definitely fell in love with him then.
I always knew, of course, that Harold played the viola and that he had composed some pieces, but until recently, I had only one vague childhood recollection of having heard a lovely haunting song on a 78 record that I knew to be written by him. I also had no idea at all that he was considered an important 20th century composer by many in the field. In the past two years, I have learned of the ongoing devotion of many of Haroldís former students and of their desire to carry forward his legacy, and I have been deeply moved. My mother often told me that a personís spirit lives on in the people he/she touches in life. I have missed my uncle Harold since his death in 1979, yet I know more than ever that Haroldís gentle spirit moves through all of us as we sing, teach, play and compose music, or simply as we enjoy each otherís company in an unassuming way.