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'A big, rude man who everyone in Highgate loved'

PUBLISHED: 15:10 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:42 07 September 2010

AN ECCENTRIC Highgate composer who had a gift for working with troubled children has died aged 59

Tan Parsons

AN ECCENTRIC Highgate composer who had a gift for working with troubled children has died aged 59.

Patrick Morris, who lived in Southwood Lane, built a reputation as a quirky songwriter and an avant garde composer of piano and organ music, and was a regular collaborator with local artists.

A week ago friends became concerned when they hadn't heard from Mr Morris for some time. They called the police and his body was discovered at his house. The results of an autopsy are still being awaited.

Andrew Williams, who had been friends with Mr Morris for 11 years, said: "He was very big, incredibly rude, and I will miss him from the bottom of my heart.

"He was like a booming church bell - a great big intellectual teddy bear. He had a lot of attitude and a slightly frightening way of standing with his legs slightly apart - his roll-up in one hand and his scotch in the other.

"I was very apprehensive once when I told him he was a bit like a light green, rusting Estonian diesel shunting engine. But he replied after a pause, 'Yes, I suppose I am.'

"I am a baritone and I sing at St Paul's Cathedral, and Patrick would always say: 'I don't want to hear about any of that choral shit.' He was very abusive, but he sometimes wore a pink corduroy sheepskin hat, and it sort of spoiled the effect."

Peter Gallagher, who is an artist and a warden at Lauderdale House, held several exhibitions at which Mr Morris played music.

He said: "We used to meet in Highgate Village where we'd spend lots of evenings together. I found out he was a composer of modern music and we started to take an interest in each other's work.

"Last year we made a film about one of his songs called Magnetic Personalities - he played the part of the guy who eventually gets the girl.

"He was a very learned man and he taught classes privately to students in Latin, Greek, philosophy and music. He was very well rounded and exceptionally knowledgeable. He was certainly a character, and was very committed to both his own work and to the arts as a whole.

"He was very amusing but I don't think he'd have suffered fools gladly. I liked him a lot and a lot of people will miss him. Highgate will be a sadder place for him not being around."

Mr Morris went to Highgate School, where he took up the flute and piano and started composing at the age of just 13 - although he was completely self-taught. He left school at 17 and studied for two years at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music.

He became a renowned maestro in the tradition of Eastern bloc composers including Cornelius Cardew, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

He made regular trips to Moscow and Prague, where he enjoyed large followings, but he could also be seen regularly performing at St Michael's Church in Highgate.

Friend Philip Diggle, who is also an artist, said: "I've known him for about nine or 10 years. He was an excellent teacher of children and was very good at guiding those who were having trouble back into education. I'd say he was very well liked in the village - everyone loved him.

"He liked to have a drink - he was a true Highgate man, and he was one of the last bastions of left wing Eastern bloc music. He will be missed."

Mr Morris was due to play a concert in Crouch End this summer. He is survived by his father and an aunt.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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