The themes Susan Frances Harrison wrote about
Susan Frances Harrison née Riley (a.k.a. Seranus) was a Canadian poet, novelist, music critic and music composer who lived and worked in Ottawa and Toronto.
Susie Frances Riley was born in Toronto of Irish-Canadian ancestry, the daughter of John Byron Riley. She studied music with Frederic Boscovitz, at a private school for girls in Toronto, and later in Montreal. She reportedly began publishing poetry, in the Canadian Illustrated News, at 16 under the pseudonym "Medusa." After completing her education, she worked as a pianist and singer. In 1880 she married organist John W. F. Harrison, of Bristol, England, who was the organist of St. George's Church in Montreal. The couple had a son and a daughter.The Harrisons lived in Ottawa in 1883, when Susie Harrison composed the song "Address of Welcome to Lord Lansdowne" to celebrate the first public appearance of the new Governor General, the Marquess of Lansdowne. In 1887 the Harrisons moved to Toronto, where John Harrison became organist and choirmaster of St. Simon the Apostle, and Susan Harrison began a literary career under the pseudonym "Seranus" (a misreading of her signature, "S. Frances"), soon publishing articles in "many of the leading journals and periodicals." She wrote a number of songs published in the United States and England under the name Seranus, and published other songs in England under the name, Gilbert King. She was the music critic of The Week from December 1886 to June 1887 under her pen-name of Seranus. She wrote the "Historical sketch on Canadian music" for the 1898 Canada: An Encyclopedia of the Country. Susan Harrison was considered an authority on folk music, and often lectured on the subject. She used traditional Irish melodies in her String Quartet on Ancient Irish Airs, and French-Canadian music in her 1887 Trois Esquisses canadiennes (Three Canadian Sketches), 'Dialogue,' 'Nocturne,' and 'Chant du voyageur'. She also incorporated French-Canadian melodies in her three-act opera, Pipandor (with libretto by F.A. Dixon of Ottawa). Her String Quartet on Ancient Irish Airs, is likely the first string quartet composed in Canada by a woman. In 1896 and 1897 she presented a series of well-received lectures in Toronto on "The Music of French Canada. For 20 years Harrison was the principal of the Rosedale branch of the Toronto Conservatory of Music. During the 1900s she contributed to and edited the Conservatory's publication Conservatory Monthly, and contributed to its successor Conservatory Quarterly Review. She wrote the article on "Canada" for the 1909 Imperial History and Encyclopedia of Music. In addition, she wrote at least six books of poetry, and three novels.
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