Harold Lawrence
(October 22, 1923-August 22, 2011)

As Michael Morgan described him: “Harold Lawrence made many contributions to the symphony and the youth orchestra over the years, but the greatest was his vision. Having worked with such large orchestras and with so many great artists, he brought a larger world perspective to all of our discussions. Small organizations need that in order to grow. His generosity was unfailing and he always retained a tremendous enthusiasm for all the arts, particularly as they impacted young people.”

Donate to Oakland Youth Orchestra's Harold Lawrence Memorial Fund

Oakland Tribune Obituary

Piedmont Post, 9/21/2011, An Oakland full harmonic life, by C.J. Hirschfield

Ashley James’ compilation of video clips from Harold’s films (MPEG-4)

Ron Penndorf's Collections
include many essays by Harold Lawrence 1 2

Harold’s first job in the late forties, was in the record business at the fondly remembered Gramophone Shop Annex across from the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He wrote about his first job:
“As a new employee of the Gramophone Shop, it was my job to arrive an hour and a half before the rest of the staff in order to take inventory and replenish the stock. It also gave me an opportunity to audition new releases… The Gramophone Shop was a record store with a special point of view. It championed the cause of recorded music at a time when most musicians had not yet recognized the enormous potential of the medium.”

Harold Lawrence was Director of Recorded Music at WQXR, The Radio Station of the New York Times circa 1950-1956. During this period he also wrote a number of articles for the New York Times.

Wilma Cozart by Harold Lawrence
"In a spring day in 1956, Wilma Cozart phoned to invite me to lunch. As recorded music director of WQXR, the radio station of The New York Times, I kept in close touch with record executives and producers. But meeting with the head of Mercury's classical division was always a special treat. Now in its fifth year, the Living Presence recording team was still making news in Detroit, Rochester and Minneapolis." copyright 2001 by Harold Lawrence, RECOLLECTIONS
Mercury C. Robert Fine, Wilma Cozart and Harold Lawrence
Mercury Records Living Presence team: C. Robert Fine, Wilma Cozart and Harold Lawrence

Mercury Living Presence recordings are so popular they continue to be released

June, 1962: The Mercury mobile recording truck goes to Moscow!
Harold's Audio Magazine article CBS News story on Mercury's Trip to Moscow

1962: Harold and Brice Somers with the truck in Moscow. photo by Bob Eberenz.
Photo, article and link courtesy of Tom Fine.

Harold Lawrence Discography (chronological)--6,623 KB
Harold Lawrence Discography 2
Harold Lawrence Discography 3 (Discogs)

Harold Lawrence was Music Director of Mercury Records from 1956 until 1967, during which time he participated in and produced over 350 Living Presence recordings, known as Mercury’s “golden age.” He is legendary among music afficionados and collectors for the unsurpassed technical and artistic excellence of this series.

Read: The Living Presence Tchaikovsky Suites by Harold Lawrence

Thoughts on the Early Years by Harold Lawrence (scroll down)

Tape Editing by Harold Lawrence (scroll down)
"My debut as a tape editor occurred in 1956 in the studios of Mercury Records in New York City. I had just been appointed music director. Wilma Cozart (Mercury's vice president in charge of the classical division) had returned from the label's first overseas recording trip, bearing cartons of tapes recorded in England with the London Symphony and the Hallé Orchestra." copyright 2002 by Harold Lawrence, RECOLLECTIONS

In 1967, Harold became the first American appointed as General Manager of the London Symphony Orchestra, the most recorded orchestra in the world (Sir Neville Marriner had suggested him for the job).  He recruited Andre Previn for the Principal Conductor’s podium. He inspired prestigious performances in the Soviet Union accompanied by composer Sir William Walton, appearances at the Edinburgh Festival, an historic Royal Albert Hall performance by Mia Farrow as Joan of Arc in Honegger’s dramatic oratorio and several landmark concerts by Leonard Bernstein.

Artur Rubinstein, Harold Lawrence, and André Previn by Mary Morris Lawrence
Artur Rubinstein, Harold Lawrence, and André Previn by Mary Morris Lawrence

John Georgiadis spills the dirt

1970 Feb. Harold & Leonard Bernstein in London
February, 1970 Harold & Leonard Bernstein in London

Just before working for LSO, Harold attended a dinner party where he was smitten by a “striking woman in a red dress.” In 1963 he married her -- famous news photographer Mary Morris. Mary became Harold’s love and partner, documenting his luminous musical career with her camera and assisting with projects, like transforming the abandoned Henry Wood Hall into a rehearsal and recording hall for the London Symphony Orchestra and assisting the orchestra’s conductor Andre Previn and movie-star wife Mia Farrow in obtaining the archbishop’s approval to adopt their daughter Soon Yi.

May 12, 1970: London Evening Standard: LSO Debut for conductor, 25

In 1973 Harold became Manager of the New York Philharmonic.
1973 May 11 NYT New Mngr photo
May 11, 1973 New York Times photo

In 1975 he was named president and general manager of the Buffalo Philharmonic, where he worked with Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas (current Musical Director of the San Francisco Symphony).

May 12, 1975: Buffalo Evening News: The Philharmonic Hires Manager of N.Y. Counterpart, p1

August 16, 1975: Buffalo Evening News: New Philharmonic Manager

In 1977, Edgar Kaiser persuaded Harold Lawrence to come to Oakland as President and General Manager of the Oakland Symphony, and he persuaded the board to hire the brilliant 29-year-old Calvin Simmons, whose life ended tragically in a boating accident in August, 1982.
Harold Lawrence with Calvin Simmons
Harold Lawrence with Calvin Simmons. (c) Barbara Toby Stack

Firmly settled in Oakland, Harold and Mary Lawrence played an important role in the Bay Area's cultural life for more than three decades. Harold served Oakland for years as a Mayoral appointee to its Cultural Arts Commission. He has served as grants panelist for the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oakland Arts Council. He has been a preeminent member of Oakland Rotary and the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, where he was instrumental in restoring the Necklace of Lights around Lake Merritt.

He served on the Boards of the Oakland Youth Orchestra and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and ran Harold Lawrence Productions, a full service video and post production company. He made documentaries on the career of Bruce Beasley, with particular emphasis on the creation of his “Vitality,” a bronze sculpture commissioned by the City of Oakland for the City Hall Plaza and another about Beasley and Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb about their partnership as community activists in West Oakland during the turbulent 1960s.
Harold behind the camera lens
Harold behind the camera

November 15, 1998: Oakland Youth Orchestra
Harold Lawrence, President

5/23/1999: Oakland Youth Orchestra Concert in Calvin Simmons Theatre: HL with KTOP staff Michael Munson and Jerome Newton. Harold is using and teaching the score-based real-time video editing. Barbara T. Stack photo.

Read about Harold Lawrence in “André Previn, A Biography,” by Martin Bookspan and Ross Yockey, Doubleday, 1981, and in the new “Orchestra: The LSO–A Century of Triumph and Turbulance,” by Richard Morrison, Faber & Faber, 2004.

For several decades Harold’s work was admired in Billboard‎ Magazine. Search Google Books with the string,
"Harold Lawrence" billboard

some New York Times articles about Harold Lawrence 1950-1980


Harold Lawrence--Artists I Have Worked With


Harold Lawrence Celebration of Life
Oakland Youth Orchestra String Quartet (Danielle Taylor, Rachel Taylor, Joe Hebert, Christine Senavsky),
Ashley James, Stephen Goldstine, Bruce Beasley, Libby Schaaf, Judy Johnson.

Harold Lawrence

(c) Barbara Toby Stack unless otherwise indicated.