In Memory

James Johnson


PLATTSBURGH – James Edgar Johnson, 79, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Plattsburgh on May 14, 2022.

He was born on September 1, 1942, to Edgar and Louise Johnson.

As a young boy, Mr. Johnson attended the Columbus Boy Choir School located in Princeton, NJ at that time.  He graduated from Plattsburgh High School in 1960, received his undergraduate degree from Williams College, studied at the Conservatoire de Geneve, and held a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Yale University. 

He was a well-known concert organist and concertized extensively throughout the United States, Europe and the South Pacific.  He was the recipient of awards and critical acclaim for both his performances and many recordings.  One of those recordings, James Johnson Plays Bach, recorded on the Flentrop Organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University, was nominated for a Grammy Award.  Mr. Johnson served as Director of Concerts at Harvard University for many years.  He was regularly recorded by the public radio station WGBH-FM in Boston.

Mr. Johnson was also a composer-of-note and many of his choral compositions have been published and performed.  He wrote a full-length musical, both libretto and score, titled Isle of Iniquity. “In addition to his musical interests, James studied architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1975-1976.”

He is preceded in death by his father, Edgar Johnson, and his mother, Louise Mueller Johnson.  He is survived by four siblings, Susan Johnson Aceto (Tom), Bonnie Johnson Lucas (Gary), Betsy Johnson Herlihy (Tom), and Scott Johnson (Carol), along with several nieces and nephews.

Services will be private and held at the convenience of the family.

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07/13/22 05:55 PM #1    

Stephen Doughty

When I went to the site and read of Jim's wonderfully fruitful life I had three feelings: regret; amazement; gratitude.  The regret was regret that I had not known him better.  When I was in the chapel choir I was always trying to hit the right notes.  Jim was laboring away at the organ, getting the right ones every time, always.  Never missed, and he had a task far more compicated than mine, with vastly more opportunities for error.  What I regret is that I never took the time just to step up to the bench he sat on and say, "Hi.  That's really something you're up to there."   Was it preoccupation on my part?  Too much hast to get on to other things once practice was over?  I'm not sure, but I didn't do it.  And that I regret. -- The amazement is not just the amazement that he did so well and shared so fully of his gifts and his music.  He had that in him, so seeing how much he was actually did isn't so much of a surprise.  It's the amazement of seeing anyone live so fully the gifts that are really within that special person.  That takes a lot of self-knowledge, personal discipline, and, unquestionbly at times, courage.  When somebody pulls that off, it's amazing.  Jim did it.  Completely. -- And that brings me to the gratitude.  As I sit here and think on this good, giving guy I wish I'd known better, I want to say out loud and strongly, "Thank you!"






07/14/22 06:19 AM #2    

Jay Freedman

I did not really know Jim, which always surprises me given the size of our class. I guess we traveled different paths. Nonetheless, Steve's beautiful and pointed remarks resonate. Clearly, a life well-lived and clearly, a classmate I wish I had known.

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