September 12, 2005
Joe Harnell Remembered
Musical sons and colleagues featured in loving tribute
by Jon Burlingame
Approximately 200 friends, colleagues and family members honored the memory of composer Joe Harnell at a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 11 at the Alfred Newman Hall on the campus of the University of Southern California.
©2005 Jon Burlingame
Television producer-director Kenneth Johnson served as host for the 65-minute program, which featured remarks by many of Harnell's friends along with performances of music by the Grammy-winning, Emmy-nominated composer who died July 14 at the age of 80.
Harnell's pianist son Joel began the program by playing his father's classic bossa-nova arrangement of "Fly Me to the Moon," which won Harnell a 1962 Grammy. Other piano renditions of Harnell compositions were offered by Tamir Hendelman (the melodic "Memory of a Dream") and Ric Mandell (dramatic themes from his score for The Capture of Adolf Eichmann).
Fellow composer-arranger Van Alexander remembered Harnell as "a gentleman of the old school," while cousin Paul Hittelman cited Harnell playing piano "with breathtaking style, skill and grace."
Composer John Cacavas recalled frequent lunches with Harnell while both were at Universal in the 1970s (Harnell starting The Bionic Woman while Cacavas was scoring Kojak), and Universal scoring chief Harry Garfield coming over to the table where Cacavas introduced them. "Joe Harnell the piano player?" asked Garfield. "No, Harry, Joe Harnell the composer," replied Cacavas.
Composer Gernot Wolfgang, one of Harnell's USC scoring-program students, spoke of Harnell's generosity in offering an opportunity to orchestrate for a large orchestra and choir on one of Harnell's commercial assignments. USC scoring program director Brian King added thoughts about Harnell's role as a mentor and friend to dozens of students over the years.
USC Thornton School of Music Dean Rob Cutietta mentioned the Harnell Scholarship, and spoke warmly of Harnell's advice to Cutietta when the latter began working in television music.
Performing vocal versions of Harnell songs were son Jess Harnell ("Don't Let Me Never Be a Child"), Damon Kirsche ("Alice"), Pamela Lillard ("One More Time") and Leonard Grainger ("A Little Bit Older"). Son Jason Harnell's jazz trio played "Reflections," and Jess, Joel and Jason together performed a moving rendition of Harnell's "Lonely Man" theme from The Incredible Hulk with new lyrics by Jess ("My Father's Hands").
Johnson – who worked with Harnell for many years dating back to The Mike Douglas Show – saved his remarks for the end of the program. He recalled "the great big, robust presence" of the man and said he had vivid recollections of first hearing Harnell play the Incredible Hulk theme, "so powerful, so moving and so strong." In later years, he said, he had come to believe that "a large measure of the success of the series had so much to do with that theme and that solo piano."
Overall, he said, they had collaborated on 230 hours of prime-time programming including The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, V, TV-movies including The Liberators and Senior Trip, and various other series including Cliffhangers, Hot Pursuit and Shadow Chasers. And that total, he pointed out, didn't include another 770 hours of The Mike Douglas Show for which Harnell served as musical director.
Johnson cited Harnell's "tremendous artistic integrity" and remembered a note he once saw on Harnell's piano: "Bloom where you are planted."
Letters of condolence were also read from jazz artist Dave Brubeck and composer John Williams. Harnell's widow Alice and brother Stewart also spoke briefly.
Among those attending were fellow composers Ray Evans, Arthur Hamilton, Vic Mizzy, Duane Tatro, Don Davis, Jimmie Haskell, Dan Foliart, Bruce Babcock, Ira Hearshen, Ray Charles and many of Harnell's former USC scoring-program students.