Lionel’s Reflections

Lionel Harrison, who collaborated musically with Patrick for fifteen years.

I am honoured that JP has asked me to make a contribution to this web site.  Patrick was an extraordinary man and to do justice to his character, personality and kind-heartedness would take a literary talent far greater than mine. Patrick undoubtedly possessed such a gift and I shudder to think what he’d make of my efforts but I’ll give it my best shot.

It was about fifteen years ago that Hilary Burrage of the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation first pointed me in Patrick’s direction. He had produced a printed edition of SC-T’s Piano Quintet primarily so that he could have it performed at his Deia festival. As a long-time fan of SC-T’s work, I wanted to get hold of a copy of it so that I could organize a run-through of it with a gang of my buddies here in the UK with whom I regularly played chamber music.

I spotted what I thought were a couple of typos in Patrick’s score to which I alerted him and that’s how our correspondence started – or our “internet dating” as he was later wont to describe it.  He asked me if I’d be willing to proof-read some other scores he was working on. I’d undertaken a music degree but thereafter I’d drifted into a career as a civil servant; being involved in something which required me to apply some academic rigor in the musical realm was too tempting a prospect to resist.

I asked Patrick if he was aware SC-T had written a symphony; he told me he already had a photocopy of the manuscript which the librarian of the Royal College of Music in London had kindly sent him and so we got to work in earnest on producing an edition of it. It was at this time that Stephanie’s final illness took hold: Patrick mentioned he had to take her to the hospital for some tests and the next email I received from him a couple of weeks later told me of her passing.  After a couple of months, when he eventually felt able to face the world again, he told me that he wanted to carry on with the symphony as he found that the level of concentration required afforded a temporary distraction from his grief.

About a year after that, I retired from my civil service position and I paid the first of several visits to Mallorca to actually meet Patrick in person and it was then that a close bond formed between us.  I’d known, of course, that he was witty, articulate and smart, but what I discovered in meeting and spending ‘quality time’ with him was his inner strength and the depth of his humanity.  His world view was progressive and libertarian, and so in that regard we were kindred spirits.

He once told me that during one of his trips to the US he’d been invited to someone’s home for dinner and he’d taken along a bottle of wine as any considerate guest would, you might think. He said that from the horrified reaction displayed by his hosts, you’d have thought he’d come with a bag of cocaine to pass around. “And you wonder why I’ve chosen to live elsewhere than in the US,” he observed as he took a healthy swig from his Jameson’s. We never discussed the election of T—-; we didn’t need to. Yet, despite his self-imposed exile, he undoubtedly had that adventurous and pioneering spirit so characteristic of the American psyche.

On that first visit to Deia, Patrick took me to experience the glories of Son Marroig; seated at his grand piano there we played Schubert’s late F Minor Fantasie for piano duet – this magical experience has stayed with me and will do so until my own time runs out.  Patrick was a Renaissance Man: his knowledge and appreciation of literature and of the visual and plastic arts was far in advance of mine but somehow he never made me too aware of my inferior learning or the limits of my experience. It’s easy to understand why so many people loved him – he had the gift of friendship in spades.

We carried on for the next ten years producing somewhere in the region of fifty scores ranging from the epic endeavour of SC-T’s Thelma (360 pages of full score and 276 pages of vocal score) and symphonies by English composer Frederic Cliffe and the American William Gilchrist, to smaller pieces such as the fourth Piano Quartet of Alice Mary Smith and, as our final enterprise last year, arrangements of the Soler concertos for fortepiano and wind ensemble.

I formed the impression that Patrick never stopped regarding our publishing venture as therapy and a distraction from his sense of loss; for myself, working with him over the years gave a smidgen of validation to my considering myself some sort of musician and it also gave me something worthwhile to do in retirement. Thus, I’d like to feel that the exercise was of mutual benefit.

Even when we didn’t have a project on the go, we would exchange newsy emails or, if neither of us had anything of significance to report, we’d not let more than a couple of weeks go by without emailing (subject: “Checking in”) just to confirm the other was all right.

From what I can gather, he faced the prospect of his mortality with bravery and with a determination to deal with it in his own way – he wasn’t going to be dictated to. The steely inner resolve that had served him well all his life was now going to get him through his death very much on his own terms.

My life was immeasurably enriched by knowing Patrick and my world seems an infinitely greyer place without him. My only regret is that I knew him only for fifteen years instead of fifty.

Lionel Harrison