Vale Harley Mead
Harley Mead Tribute
It is with much sadness that we acknowledge the tragic passing of our colleague Harley Mead. Harley was an inspirational character to many people in the worlds of choral music, music education and composition. He was the National Vice-President of ANCA, President of the ANCA Queensland Chapter and a tireless worker in the area of choral music in Australia and overseas. He was a prolific creator of over 80 works, mostly for choir. He was an experienced teacher of music and composition, having taught in various locations throughout Australia and overseas during a distinguished teaching career. He was a much sought-after adjudicator and clinician who willingly passed on his wisdom and creative ideas to whoever was in his charge. He was also a much-loved father, brother and son who will be greatly missed.
But Harley was more than just a tremendously talented and successful musician. He was an impossibly energetic and positive character who never failed to make the people about him feel better about themselves. He always gave everything of himself which never failed to energise and inspire those about him whether they were in his choir, his class or merely his presence. This has become clear since his passing as many people have posted tributes on the specially set-up Facebook tribute page.
From a fellow music teacher after Harley had worked with their students:
I don't think I've EVER come across such a positive and exuberant person as you! Thanks for the inspiration. shame I didn't really have my skipping / dancing / shimmying outfit on this morning! oops! thought i'd just be sitting quietly in the back row! Hahahaha...
Others noted his enthusiasm in front of a choir:
I'll never forget the dancing choir conductor
He embodied the joy that music can bring.
.........making us all feel like stars
Harley’s great love was working with young people, or “Young Musicians” as he preferred to call them. He never tired of doing his crazy warm-ups with his choirs, of teasing the best out of the youngest of singers at a festival, of firing ideas at young composers as they sought to find the creative voice within, sharing positive thoughts and ideas with choirs and individuals when he adjudicated them... he would do anything to encourage young musicians to be more passionate about music. He himself said:
"Being a Choral Conductor of Young Musicians is an honourable and noble profession… The work you do impacts on the lives of young people and gives the world beauty, joy and laughter. Not a bad way to spend a life."
These words were shared by a young man striving to become the best composer he possibly could:
“I want to say that he accepted me as I am and listened to my awkward words about how the music for my running song should sound. It took many tries and a lot of his patience but we got there. Harley gave me belief that I could make real music. I will never forget him.”
Harley was keenly committed to the development of choral music in Australia. He served ANCA with distinction. His wonderful efforts at being the driving force behind the recent Queensland Choral Convention held on the Gold Coast in June 2014 were amazing to observe. This uplifting and significant event simply would not have happened without Harley’s vision.
Harley’s music has been widely performed and greatly admired for many years. He was renowned for creating a new song for an event which would be perfect for the occasion. He “had the knack” of capturing the moment, challenging the singers and captivating the audience with his music. It is infinitely sing-able but often contains an unexpected rhythmic or melodic “twist” to add some flavor. He was a gifted poet and almost always wrote his own lyrics. And what lyrics they are! Unerringly positive and uplifting, they are so very suitable for young people in particular. One of his final set of lyrics looks like this:
When we gather together to sing peaceful unity, everyone knows that the children are free.
All that we ask is be kind to each other so we can have hope for today.
Hate is not a natural feeling, for children it can only be taught.
Laughing, singing, innocent harmony – listen to the Children.
A website is currently being upgraded to allow everyone to access his music forever. When these details become available, ANCA will happily share details with all and sundry.
Harley was farewelled at various events as people shared their grief and their memories. On the day before his funeral, there was an informal gathering of hundreds of his friends and admirers at the Voices of Birralee centre in Barden, Brisbane. Harley was a special friend of Birralee and their Artistic Director Julie Christiansen and so it was appropriate that this should be the venue for what was an unforgettable time of remembrance. It was a particularly important occasion for the many young people who had been so inspired by Harley across the years. They came in their hundreds to mourn, laugh, sing, remember, hug, write special messages and celebrate someone who could not be replaced in their lives. A special booklet of some of his music was prepared and sung by all who had gathered, young and old. Leading the singing were various people, in particular his good friend and fellow-composer Paul Jarman. Just as the sun was setting, everyone joined hands and released hundreds of balloons as they repeated his favourite saying: “Hugs and Chuckles”.
The funeral the following day, Tuesday 7 October, was an equally moving occasion. Again hundreds of mourners came together at the Southport Church of Christ to farewell Harley. Music, of course, was central to the ceremony. The program, beautifully prepared by Julie Christiansen, was rich with uplifting quotes from many of Harley’s pieces. The Master of Ceremonies was his good friend and colleague Peter Ingram. Harley’s first Deputy Principal Jo Bottrell spoke glowingly about his days as a teacher and working professional. His brother Mark and mother Shirley shared family insights while Paul Jarman touched everyone with his heart-felt tribute to Harley the man and musician. Choral performances of one of Harley’s favourite pieces, Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, and one of his own pieces, Farewell For Now, were directed by good friend and well-known conductor Paul Holley. The choir consisted of dozens of his friends who gathered that morning as their special tribute. There was also a wonderful photo presentation prepared by friends Jenny Moon and Tony Forbes; this was particularly touching for his three boys. Recordings of Harley’s music also featured as did remembrances of his unique sense of humour ensuring that the ceremony was filled not just with sadness but plenty of smiles which is just the way he would have liked it. Two further tributes perhaps sum up the emotions and feelings of the occasion:
There is a saying "that you may not remember what someone said, but you will always remember, how that person made you feel". This seems very apt for Harley who made every individual he met, feel special and valued. Harley made a difference. His music and his personality remain a gift for the world. Thank you Harley
(You are) an inspiration to many, a tireless contributor, a generous collaborator, a joyful prankster, a light in the dark - you will be missed by so many dear man. Sing with the angels xxx
Harley Mead, an unforgettable character!
Words by friend and colleague Peter Ingram