Harold Boatrite of Philadelphia, passed away on April 26, 2021 at the age of 89.
Acclaimed classical composer and beloved music teacher Harold Boatrite died peacefully at his home on April 26. A Solemn High Funeral Mass will be celebrated 10:00 A.M. on June 14th at the Cathedral Basilica Ss. Peter & Paul, 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103. All are welcome.
Harold Boatrite maintained his lifelong commitment to teaching music theory and composition to within hours of his death of natural causes. A faithful cadre of professional musicians and personal friends formed a steady flow
of visitors who kept Dr. Boatrite occupied as he battled lung cancer during his final years.
Tradition and the pursuit of beauty were always at the forefront of Boatrite’s mind. What he learned from the baroque and classical masters such as JS Bach and Ludwig Beethoven as well as 20th-century masters with
whom he studied with personally, he shared with his students. What he did creatively with this prodigious knowledge in his compositions he shared with audiences in concert halls locally and around the world.
It was by chance that a student of the legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin brought in a piece by the then unknown composer. After hearing Boatrite’s Sonata for Piano, the Head of Student Composers was moved to invite
Boatrite to be the composer-in-residence at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center where he studied under Lucas Foss and other luminaries of the day.
Boatrite enjoyed sharing stories of the music scene of the time such as when the great Rudolf Serkin, a notorious prankster, handed Boatrite an exploding fountain pen that failed to detonate until Boatrite handed it
back to the famous and hapless Serkin. Later, in 1961 Boatrite was invited by Serkin to be the composer-in-residence at the Marlboro Music Festival, and it was that resident group who premiered Boatrite’s Sonata for Cello
and Piano which was received enthusiastically. Boatrite would subsequently study under Aaron Copland and at Tanglewood Music Center as well.
Dr. Boatrite would return to his native Philadelphia to begin a long association with the Concerto Soloists, now known as the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, as New Composition Consultant. The Orchestra under the
brilliant direction of its founder Marc Mostovoy would play numerous compositions of Boatrites such as the Suite for Harpsichord and the Serenade for Oboe and strings. Boatrite’s reputation was such that he
attracted private students of the highest caliber who he taught theory and composition. It was known that a number of students at the best nearby conservatories of the day would “moonlight” at Boatrite’s studio on Waverly
Street in Philadelphia. Among Boatrite’s most well known students was the Jazz Prodigy and popular sensation, Nina Simone who used to show up at the Waverly Street studio with an entourage in tow. In a recorded interview she cited Boatrite as being among her most prominent influences.
Dr. Boatrite went on to the faculty in the Music Department at Haverford College where he lectured until 1980. Ironically, his favorite teaching assignment was Freshman Seminar in which he taught students the basics of
philosophy and rhetoric which many of his students of that era remember to this day. Harold loved the tradition whether it was philosophy, literature or music. Tradition is that which is handed on from generation to
generation, the best of each age. Tradition and the pursuit of beauty are what define Harold Boatrite. He sought to express beauty and perfection to the best of his ability in his compositions. He did this using the existing
language of his audience. In an era when many composers sought fame by pursuing the latest fashion or artificial academic construct, some holding their audience in open contempt, Harold used the forms and harmonic
techniques that were handed to him by the greats who came before. Harold wrote fugues and sonatas and employed themes. His harmonic technique was chromatic and extremely challenging, but always coherent. He didn’t seek to baffle and impress his audience; he sought to hand them a beautiful experience using the common language of the culture. Like the greats that came before him, Harold Boatrite belongs to the ages, but his music belongs to those wise enough to embrace the great inheritance. His music belongs to us.
Harold’s motets will be included in the Mass.
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