It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we write to inform you that Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) bass Samuel P. Harbison III passed away on March 26.
Sam joined the MCP in 2008, during the tenure of former Music Director Betsy Burleigh. He had always loved music and the arts, but it was during his “second mid-life crisis,” as his beloved wife Diana says, that he embraced his natural talent as a singer, and became a valued member of the MCP family. MCP singer Earle Ashbridge remembers Sam best this way: “He always wanted the choir to be the best it could be…A great person!!”
When Sam wasn’t performing with the MCP, he was working at Google, and was well-known in the computer programming world, having written a book on the “C” programming language, used by countless students. Roy Matway, MCP singer, knew of Sam long before he knew Sam personally. Roy says, “It turns out that Sam and I were at CMU together, back in the days when programmers punched holes in cards and “personal computers” were as yet unknown. I didn’t know him then, but I did know “of” him, because I used his book to learn the “C” programming language….Sam basically co-wrote the most popular reference book for this language….At the same time, he was evangelizing about the personal computer as a concept (the SPICE project), which I also knew about….Now, almost 40 years later, we all have one pretty much…when I met Sam and started talking to him, there was that moment when I said, “You mean, you’re THE Sa, Harbison??” and then I realized that there’s no telling who I was going to meet in this….choir I had just joined.”
Sam always accepted any challenge (musical or otherwise) as a chance to push himself further, and to better himself. Even when he could not sing in the choir, he was always in the audience pushing us to be better musicians.
In honor of Sam, the MCP has set up the Samuel P. Harbison III Memorial Fund. All donations received in honor of Sam will be held in a reserve fund until Diana and her family decide how best to further Sam’s belief in the transformative power of singing and affording every person the opportunity to joyfully participate in art and life.