The other side of John Harmon

Peter Gillette

(Sandi Schwert)

Lawrence Conservatory faculty, the Lawrence Cello Ensemble, and guest violinist Marcia Henry will present a program of chamber music by John Harmon (’57) Monday evening, October 7, at 8 p.m. in Harper Hall.It’s quite a time for John Harmon. His jazz/fusion collective “Matrix” reunited this past summer to record a set of new original compositions.

But don’t expect bebop licks Monday evening.

“There’s this whole other side of John Harmon that the general public doesn’t know about,” said Robert Levy, Lawrence Wind Ensemble director. “He has composed an extensive amount of chamber music.”

In addition to his sizable contribution to jazz at Lawrence, Harmon has logged a considerable parallel career as a classical composer. Monday’s concert will present ten works for a variety of chamber ensembles and soloists, including a premiere piece.

Harmon composed “Songs from the Child Within” specifically for Monday’s performance, and with soprano Patrice Michaels in mind. Harmon’s wife Linda, a formidable musician herself, will accompany.

Guest violinist Marcia Henry visits Appleton from Peoria, Ill. She teaches at Bradley University in Peoria, and is an active soloist. She records with the Concordia String Trio, and in 1994 she traveled to Russia to solo with the Samara Philharmonic Symphony. Her summer festival stops include Wisconsin’s Birch Creek Music Performance Center.

Henry will perform two movements of John Harmon’s 1994 “North Country Suite” with Linda Harmon.

Other duets on the program include “Secrets,” with John Daniel on trumpet and Anthony Padilla on piano, and the recent “Pas de Deux,” with Ernestine Whitman on flute and Kathleen Murray on piano.

Michael Kim will perform “Moon Flower” for solo piano.

“A Night in July” captures the life of a farmer, and features tenor Rico Serbo, violinist Stphane Tran Ngoc, Whitman, cellist Janet Anthony, and Padilla.

Two pieces incorporate Native American themes. Fan Lei, clarinet, and Dane Richeson, marimba, will perform “Prayer for the Bison,” which honors the Great Plains tribes. Anthony commissioned “Eagle Feathers” for the Lawrence Cello Ensemble.

The concert closes with “Cody,” a piano trio performed by Tran Ngoc, Anthony, and Kim.

One can only hope that Harmon’s fruitful contribution to Lawrence may span yet another four decades. The 1957 graduate returned in 1971 to become the first director of jazz studies at Lawrence, while current director Fred Sturm was still an undergraduate student here.

While classical composition and Matrix have taken up much of his time, Harmon has taught generations of jazz piano and composition students, and continues to teach Jazz History.

His classical compositions have been performed by groups ranging from the Milwaukee Symphony to singer Flora Purim.

In 2000, Lawrence ensembles teamed with trumpeter Bobby Shew to record an album of Harmon’s compositions. That CD is available, as is the new Matrix CD, online.