Frederick Harris Music Co. Limited

The Frederick Harris Music Co, Limited. Publishing firm founded in London ca 1900, established in Canada in 1910, and controlled 1944-91 by the University of Toronto, then by the Royal Conservatory of Music. Frederick Harris (ca 1866-1945) founded his catalogue on copyrights purchased from C.J.

The Frederick Harris Music Co, Limited

The Frederick Harris Music Co, Limited. Publishing firm founded in London ca 1900, established in Canada in 1910, and controlled 1944-91 by the University of Toronto, then by the Royal Conservatory of Music. Frederick Harris (ca 1866-1945) founded his catalogue on copyrights purchased from C.J. Roeder, Leipzig. He also acquired the British Empire rights to many popular instrumental pieces and songs by composers as disparate as Sibelius and Carrie Jacobs-Bond (whose 'A Perfect Day' sold 11 million copies). Among his lucrative copyrights were Dvořák's Humoreske, Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, and Elgar's Salut d'amour. Harris first opened a Toronto office to protect his copyrights in Canada, and then entered into a Canadian partnership with (Oliver) Hawkes & Son of London. Hawkes & Harris represented the parent English companies in Canada until Hawkes' death in 1923. The store, which also sold violins and music of other publishers, was considered one of the largest in the Commonwealth and had a staff of over 30. The firm's imprint usually appears on Frederick Harris copyrights, but there was a plate-number series (H & H) of some 50 publications, including an edition of 'The Maple Leaf For Ever' and several songs by D.D. Slater. On Hawkes' death Harris acquired his partner's shares, and then moved (as the Frederick Harris Co) to Oakville, near Toronto. He discontinued the sale of instruments and made the English office a branch of the Oakville headquarters. (In 1971 the London office was reduced to subpublishing status under the control of Alfred Lengnick.)

Copyright Expert and Composer

An expert in copyright law, Harris successfully fought the importation of pirated editions from the US. He was equally successful, however, in publishing British copyright material which the original publishers, unfamiliar with Canadian law, had thought were protected in Canada. Though untrained in music, Frederick Harris did compose the melody of the waltz Sunset on the St Lawrence (1910), which he whistled to an arranger. The result was published under the pseudonym Maxime Heller.

Publisher for Royal Conservatory of Music

Harris' interest in music education led to an association with the Toronto Conservatory of Music (TCM) when he published the conservatory's introductory piano books in 1916 and vocal studies in 1924. By 1944 he had become the TCM's (later the Royal Conservatory's) exclusive publisher. Also in 1944 he turned over to the TCM his shares in the firm (which had become a limited company in 1941), stipulating that the profits be used for music scholarships and bursaries. By 1991 the catalogue was split between Royal Conservatory of Music materials and works by other composers and authors. Frederick Harris publications at one time included much choral music (most of it suitable for small, non-professional choirs) and piano music; in 1992 the company sold its entire choral catalogue to Leslie Music Supply of Oakville, Ont.

With over 450 publications in its catalogue, The Frederick Harris Music Co is the largest publisher of printed music in Canada. Among the composers represented in its catalogue are John Beckwith, Boris Berlin, Stephen Chatman, Clifford Crawley, Anne Crosby, David Duke, Pierre Gallant, Alexina Louie, Adelmo Melecci, Linda Niamath, Lorna Paterson, Oscar Peterson, Clifford Poole, Dale Reubart, Mark Sarnecki, Nancy Telfer, Barbara Wharram, Healey Willan, and Grace Vandendool.

Other Affiliations

In its early days, Frederick Harris had been an agent for many publishers both large and small, among them Novello (London) and Bärenreiter (Kassel, Germany). After 1991, though, it sold only its own music and recordings and managed its own rights internationally. Direct sales into the US market have become a major initiative. Prior to the creation of SOCAN the Harris company was a publisher affiliate of PRO Canada, but in 1973 established the sub-firm Harmuse to issue music by CAPAC affiliates.

General Managers

General manager of the company until his death, Harris was succeeded by R.G. Frederick Collier, and Collier (who died in 1969) by W. Ray Stephens. Stephens, who became president in 1979, retired in 1981. The company was managed 1981-7 by Wayne Gilpin, who was succeeded by Andrew Shaw in 1987. In 2002 Clarke MacIntosh became president and CEO of The Frederick Harris Music Co.

In 1996, after over 70 years of operation in Oakville, Ont, The Frederick Harris Music Co relocated to larger facilities in Mississauga, Ont.


Further Reading

  • 'The Frederick Harris Music Co. Limited,' Recorder, vol 7, Nov-Dec 1964

    'Frederick Harris lists largest inventory,' CanComp, 7, Mar 1966

    Gilpin, Wayne. Sunset on the St. Lawrence (Oakville, Ont 1984)