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September, 2001
Letters to the Editor

Subj: Johana Harris
Date: 7/29/01
From: Jct...
To: PianoWomenEditor


I was a student of Johana Harris at California Institute of the Arts and UCLA, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was the wife of American composer, Roy Harris. She was born Beula Duffey in Ottawa, Ontario. Jan. 1, 1913. After Roy died in 1979, she married one of her piano students, John Heggie.

I know she lived at 1200 Tellam Dr. Pacific Palisades, Calif. when I studied with her, as I frequented the Harris home on many occasions. I lost touch with her many years ago, and am now searching for more information about her. I believe she passed away in the 1990s, but I am not sure about this. Could you help me with my search for more information?


J. Thomas

Subj: Re: Johana Harris
Date: 8/20/01
To: Jct...

Dear J. Thomas,

Very few of the reference books have more than a sentence about Johana Harris, stuck at the end of her husband's extensive entry. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 2001 edition, has the latest update. At the end of Roy Harris' entry it states:

In 1936 he married the pianist and teacher Johana Harris (nee Beula Duffey; b. Ottawa, Ontario, Jan. 1, 1913; d. Los Angeles, June 5, 1995); she assumed her professional name Johana in honor of J.S.Bach; the single 'n' was used owing to some esoteric numerologic considerations to which Harris was partial. After his death, she married, on Dec. 18, 1982, her 21-year-old piano student Jake Heggie.

Dan Stehman has written and published two books about Roy Harris: Roy Harris: a bio-bibliography, published by Greenwood Press, Conn., 1991 (number 40 in the series: "Bio-Bibliographies in Music), and Roy Harris: An American Musical Pioneer (Boston, 1984). I skimmed through the biography section (pages 1-22) of the 1991 book (the 1984 book may have more biographical material) and found it fascinating -- it mentions her extensively. I particularly enjoyed the paragraph about their meeting:

It was during his second summer there (1935) [teaching at Julliard] that he met Beula Duffey. She had been a child prodigy in both piano and composition . . . and had joined the Juilliard faculty at age 15 as its youngest member. After a period of scholarship-supported study abroad at the Berlin Hochschule, she had returned to the school not long before the composer's arrival. The two fell in love and were married 10/10/36 in the town of Union, Oregon . . . [after he arranged his 4th (?)divorce]. Harris renamed his bride Johana, in honor of J.S. Bach, and the couple formed a close personal and artistic partnership that, occasional marital strains (especially during the early50s) notwithstanding, was to survive for nearly forty-three years. . . She proved to be an extraordinarily rare individual who was able not only to weather the peregrinations and storms of a hectic, at times seemingly nomadic existence, but also to maintain a balance between the dual concerns of career and family, serving as a devoted, virtually revered, mother to the five children who arrived between the mid40s and mid50s: Patricia (1944), Shaun (1946), Daniel (1947), Maureen (1955), and Lane (1957).

If you read more of the biography you will probably find where you fit into their lives. I was impressed that Johana Harris maintained university positions throughout her life, even though Roy Harris didn't stay in one school very long. There is a long paragraph on page 7 stating each place he taught and where she also taught at the time and how they worked it out.

Thank you for the request, it was an interesting study.


Rose Eide-Altman
editor, Women at the Piano

Subj: Aline Van Barentzen
Date: 8/18/01
From: I. Burke
To: PianoWomenEditor@aol.com

To the editor,

I am trying to locate information about Aline Van Barentzen, American born but ex-patriot to Paris where she was one of the "Masters" of the Conservatoire National, a student of Dohnanyi and ( I believe remains) the youngest person to have won the grand prix of the COnservatoire. Villa-Lobos dedicated his Paroles dos Bebes to her. I need further biographical info on her life. Can you help?

Thanking you in advance,

I. Burke

NOTE: see Aline van Barentzen's new Biography Page on this site

Subj: re: Aline Van Barentzen
Date: 8/28/01
From: PianoWomenEditor
To: I. Burke

Dear I. Burke,

I waited to reply until I could see what the IPAM (International Piano Archives at Maryland) had on this woman. They had a copy of an excellent article on her life from the February 1981 Clavier magazine. This was written by a student of hers and seems like an interview, with wonderful anecdotes. Maybe you have already read the article... It does confirm that she was, and still is, the youngest pianist to have won the First Prize.

The first place I saw her name was in a website list in French of the world's greatest pianists. They gave her dates as 1897-1981. It is surprising that she is not referenced in any English music dictionary, not Groves, Baker or Thompson, considering she was born in the U.S.

My main source of references is Hixon's Women in Music bibliography . Aline van Barentzen has entries in several French music dictionaries, those by Michel, Saerchinger and Salvat. In English references she has a large paragraph in Kehler's The Piano In Concert, copied below, as well as a short paragraph as a composer in Cohen's International Encyclopedia of Women Composers.


Kehler's entry: BARENTZEN, ,ALINE VAN

American pianist, was born in Somerville, Mass., on July 7, 1897, of Anglo-Danish ancestry. She was a child prodigy who played a recital at age four and at seven performed with symphony orchestra. At age nine she was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, where two years later she won the First Prize. She continued her studies under Heinrich Barth and Ernst von Dohnanyi at the Berlin Royal Academy and also under Leschetizky in Vienna. She taught at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, later at the Buenos Aires Conservatory and lived following that in Paris. Having appeared with most of the well-known orchestras, van Barentzen has played under the direction of about forty of the world-renowned directors, including Stokowski, Monteux, Much, Pierne, Krueger, and Sir Henry Wood.
They list six of her recital programs. -----------------------

The Clavier article states that she had an active repertoire of 500 works! A seperate bio sheet in IPAM states that she has the following awards: from France: "Chevalier des Arts et Lettres", 1962; "Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur", 1966; "Officier de l'Ordre National du Merite", 1975; and from Brazil: "Villa-Lobos Gold Medal, 1976. She lived in Paris during WWII and became a French citizen shortly after the war. She was named Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory in 1954. She played over 2000 concerts and was on the jury of many competitions.

I hope this helps. I appreciate knowing about this sadly neglected (in the U.S.) great artist.

Rose Eide-Altman
editor, Women at the Piano


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