Composing behind closed doors
Philadelphia's Harry Hewitt, prolific, gentlemanly and unknown, is getting a hearing five years after his death.
By David Patrick Stearns
Were it possible to completely live the life of one's imagination, Harry Hewitt would have succeeded in doing so.
The Philadelphia composer created 3,000 works over 60 years – 32 symphonies, an opera, songs inspired by Lord of the Rings – but was barely known to artistic colleagues living only blocks from his apartment at 19th and Pine. His concerts were off the grid, his recordings few, his recognition level nothing remotely resembling what composers crave – and need, in order to grow.
Gentlemanly, idealistic and possessed of a smiling, Buddha-like manner, Hewitt died in such obscurity at age 82 five years ago that fellow composer Jan Krzywicki made a point of speaking at a memorial service he feared would be sparsely attended. "Harry was kind to me; I wanted to support him," he recalled. Hewitt wasn't necessarily ignored; he simply never came to the attention of many Philadelphia musicians.
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