Mel Powell

Susie Allen (
Wed, 6 May 1998 21:27:41 -0700 (PDT)


Mel Powell passed away on April 24, 1998. He was a great influence on my
life and career and a true friend and colleague as well. Mel founded the
school that always resonated for me in my life (since the age of 19), and he
wrote the liner notes for my now out of print first album, "New Music for
Harp" (1981.) Another enabler of that album also left us in April,
composer Ivan
Tcherepnin, from the same nasty disease...and he was only 55 years old.

Mel left for me (and he knew it) the greatest gift around: a new work for
harp and his last composition. In the course of our 28 year friendship, he
always told me he would write for the harp right before he died. The work is
entitled "Seven Miniatures: Women Poets of China" and is dated January 5,

I will premiere the piece with Anne-Lise Berntsen of Norway on October 15th,
1998, in New York City at Merkin Hall. Also on the program will be premieres
for solo harp by Mel's students Cesar Mateus, Steven Hoey and Sean Griffin,
as well as a work on ancient Chinese themes by Los Angeles composer Joan
Huang. When he was in his final illness, I visited him, and we conversed
about the songs in the presence of his daughter, Kati Powell. He asked, "Can
you do them?" and I said, "Just barely". Clarinetist Bill Powell (no
relation) was present and said, "She is working hard on the pedals." Mel
said, "Well, she should have to do something, considering the level of
commission I received for the piece." (zero!!) He was joking til the end. I
thanked him for all the fermatas (which enable the pedaling), and he said,
"Well, I'm a fermata kinda guy."

This is shared with the internet community because I know that his music
will come to be of great importance for our time. I know that his influence
will be far greater that we can now imagine, and I hold his work and his
life as a great chalice for mine. And I will make all those pedals, even if
I have to grow another leg.

I did manage to express to him that he would potentially be solely
responsible for the improvement of harpists' pedal technique in the 20th
century with this a joke, and the work is really quite lovely.

I look forward to my own tribute in performance in October to my teacher, my
mentor and my dear friend, Mel Powell.

the note he wrote to accompany the work reads as follows:

"Susie, old dear: Here's that thing. Please see to it that the harp part is
not less than this side of insane. This will no doubt arrive at your house
just as you arrive at the hospital. There may be some deep symbology here.
Love & kisses -- know that the hospital will be a breeze, even if these
miniatures won't be.