John W.F. Harrison

John W.F. Harrison. Organist, conductor, b Bristol 1847, d Toronto 29 May 1935. He began his training in piano, organ, and voice under George Riseley, the organist of Bristol Cathedral, then studied organ in London and singing in Naples.

Harrison, John W.F.

John W.F. Harrison. Organist, conductor, b Bristol 1847, d Toronto 29 May 1935. He began his training in piano, organ, and voice under George Riseley, the organist of Bristol Cathedral, then studied organ in London and singing in Naples. He arrived in Canada in 1874, living at first in Montreal where he was organist at St George's Anglican Church. He moved in 1879 to Ottawa, where he became the organist-choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral and music director of the Ladies' College. He reorganized the Ottawa Philharmonic Society (disbanded in the previous decade) in 1880 and conducted it in a number of major oratorio performances. He is credited with the first Canadian performances of Mendelssohn's incidental music to the Sophocles dramas Antigone and Oedipus at Colonos. In 1886 Harrison became organist at Jarvis St Baptist Church, Toronto. At the Church of St Simon-the-Apostle 1888-1916 he conducted a widely admired choir of 40 boys and men. He also conducted the Whitby Choral Society and the Musical Union of Toronto. For three years, 1892-4 he directed the annual festivals of the Church Choir Association, an organization of Anglican clergy and choirmasters (over 700 singers from 25 Toronto churches) of which he was president. In addition he was president (1893) of the Canadian Society of Musicians. He taught organ and piano at the Ontario Ladies' College in Whitby and was an examiner for the TCM and the University of Toronto. He donated a three-manual organ by Warren & Sons to the TCM in 1889. His wife was the composer and writer Susie Frances Harrison ('Seranus'). He himself was an amateur painter; his hymn tune 'Montreal' is reprinted in CMH vol 5. Little is known of Harrison's later years.


Further Reading

  • 'J.W.F. Harrison,' MJ, 20, Sep-Oct 1888