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Pamela Harrison (composer)

Pamela Harrison (composer)

Pamela Harrison (28 November 1915 28 August 1990) was an English composer, pianist and music teacher.[1]


Pamela Harrison was born in Orpington, England, and studied with Gordon Jacob and Arthur Benjamin at the Royal College of Music in London. During World War II, she worked as a school teacher.[2]

She made her debut as a composer with her String Quartet in 1944 which was performed at the Myra Hess National Gallery concerts. She went on to produce a variety of music, including chamber, orchestral and vocal music, with settings including Baudelaire, Herrick, Dowson and Edward Thomas.[1] Her work for small orchestra, A Suite for Timothy, was composed for the first birthday of her son in 1948 and first performed at Hampton Court in 1949.[3] The Viola Sonata was written in 1946 and performed a year later at the Wigmore Hall. Watson Forbes and Alan Richardson gave its first broadcast performance on 17 March 1951.[4]

Harrison married the cellist and conductor Harvey Phillips (1910 active until late 1970s) in 1943. They lived initially at The Red House, Crockham Hill, Kent, and then at "The Cearne", (previously the house of Edward and Constance Garnett).[5] Harvey was a member of the Hirsch String Quartet and made his professional conducting debut with the Jacques Orchestra at the Wigmore Hall in 1950 (at which he conducted his wife's Suite for Tomothy).[6] That year he formed the Harvey Phillips String Orchestra (with leader Hugh Bean), which included in its repertoire the Five Poems of Ernest Dowson for tenor and string orchestra - the first London performance with Peter Pears as the soloist on 15 December 1952 at the Royal Festival Hall[7] - and the Six Poems of Baudelaire.[8]

Pamela Harrison wrote her 1944 Cello Sonata for Harvey, who gave its debut performance with pianist John Wills at the Wigmore Hall on 9 May 1947.[9][10] In May 1959, Harrison's Concertante for piano and string orchestra with Eric Harrison (not related) as soloist was broadcast on BBC Radio.[11] An archive recording exists.[12]

Harrison's work was influenced by composers including E.J. Moeran, Arnold Bax and John Ireland, and French music. She also studied Dalcroze eurhythmics, giving exhibitions with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in Brighton.[1] She died in a car accident in Firle, East Sussex.

Selected works

  • A Suite for Timothy for string orchestra (1948)
  • An Evocation of the Weald (1954)
  • Brimstone Down for small orchestra (1958)
  • Concertante for piano and string orchestra (1954)
Chamber music
  • Allegretto for cello and piano (c.1935); published in The Strad, February 2003
  • Quintet for flute, oboe, violin, viola and cello (1944)
  • String Quartet (1944)
  • String Trio (1945)
  • Sonata for viola and piano (1946)
  • Woodwind Quintet (1948)
  • Sonata for cello and piano (1947)
  • Sonata for clarinet and piano (1954)
  • Clarinet Quintet for clarinet, 2 violins, viola and cello (1956)
  • Idle Dan, or, Nothing to Do for cello and piano (1959)
  • 2 Pieces for cello and piano (1959)
  1. White May Morning
  2. A Marsh Song
  • Badinage for flute and piano (1963)
  • Chase a Shadow for oboe and piano (1963)
  • Faggot Dance for bassoon and piano (1963)
  • Sonnet in D minor for cello and piano (1963)
  • Lament for viola and piano (1965)
  • Piano Trio for violin, cello and piano (1967)
  • Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano (1968)
  • Quintet for flute, oboe, violin, cello and piano (1974)
  • 5 Pieces for flute and piano (1976)
  • Drifting Away for clarinet and piano (c.1978)
  • Septet for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and double bass (1980)
  • Octetto Pastorale for wind octet (2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 bassoons) (1981)
  • Mariner's Way for flute and piano (1982)
  • Lullaby for cello and piano
  • Rock Grove Suite for flute, cello and piano (1989)
  • Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano
  • Epithalamium (1967)
  • Anderida, 6 Diversions (1960)
  1. Romney Marsh Goblin
  2. A Canterbury Tale
  3. Hoppers' Dance
  4. Childdingstone Cherry Pickers
  5. Ebb tide at Sandgate
  6. Faversham Fair
  • 6 Eclogues of Portugal (1960)
  • 6 Dances for Fanny Simon for piano 4-hands (1976)
  • The Lonely Landscape for voice and piano (1944); words by Emily Brontë
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away
I'm happiest now when most away
The night is darkening round me
The battle has passed from the height
The starry night shall tidings bring
'Tis moonlight, summer moonlight
  • 6 Poems of Baudelaire for tenor and string orchestra (1944–1945); words by Charles Baudelaire
  • 8 Poems of Walter de la Mare for voice and piano (1949); words by Walter de la Mare
  1. Blindman's In
  2. A Goldfinch
  3. White
  4. Dreamland
  5. Where
  6. Why?
  7. The Horseman
  8. Nicoletta
  • 5 Poems of Ernest Dowson for tenor and string orchestra (1951–1952); words by Ernest Dowson
Beata solitudo
Non suma qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae
Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam
Villanelle of Marguerite's
Soli cantare periti Arcades
  • The Kindling of the Day for voice and string quartet (1952)
  • 2 Songs for voice and piano (1954); words by Walter de la Mare
  • The Dark Forest, Song Cycle for tenor and string orchestra (1957); words by Edward Thomas
  • 8 Songs for voice, recorder and piano (1959); words by Walter de la Mare
  • Ladies' Choice for voice, violin, cello and harp (1969); words by Walter de la Mare


Selected recordings include:

  • English String Miniatures, Volume 5 – Pamela Harrison: A Suite for Timothy (1948); Gavin Sutherland (conductor); Royal Ballet Sinfonia; Naxos 8.557752 (2006)
  • La Viola: Music for Viola and Piano by Women Composers of the 20th Century – Pamela Harrison: Lament, Viola Sonata (1946) – Hillary Herndon (viola); Wei-Chun Bernadette Lo (piano); MSR 1416 (2012)
  • A Portrait of the Viola – Pamela Harrison: Sonata for viola and piano (1946) – Helen Callus (viola); Robert McDonald (piano); ASV Ltd. CD DCA 1130 (2002)


  • Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 210–211. ISBN 0-393-03487-9.


  1. Banfield, Stephen. 'Harrison, Pamela', in Grove Music Online (2004)
  2. Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers. p. 210. ISBN 9780393034875. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  3. "Pamela Harrison". Naxos. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  4. Radio Times, Issue 1426, 11th Mar 1951, p. 41
  5. Radio Times, Issue 1489, 25th May 1952, p. 15
  6. The Musical Times, Vol. 91, No. 1285 (March 1950), p. 110
  7. The Times, 16 December, 1952, p. 11
  8. The Musical Times, Vol. 94, No. 1320 (February 1953), p. 82
  9. 'A New Sonata', The Daily Telegraph, 10 May 1947, p. 5
  10. Radio Times, Issue 1479, 16th Mar 1952, p. 39
  11. Radio Times, Issue 1854, 24th May 1959, p. 31
  12. Remus Platen YouTube channel
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