Keith Larson was born in Mountain Lake, Minnesota and grew up in Kiel where a solo performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor at age 13 demonstrated his natural ability and interest in music.
Further music education included a piano performance degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a Master’s and PhD. degrees in musicology from Harvard. Traveling to Italy on two Fulbright Scholarships allowed him to pursue his passion for research in the dusty basement archives of libraries and churches in Naples where he studied musical manuscripts to support his doctoral thesis, “The Unaccompanied Madrigal in Naples from 1536 to 1654,” and to become fluent in Latin and in the Italian language and writing of that era.
In between advanced degrees he was a ballet school piano accompanist, a church organist at the American Church in Naples, authored entries in the Grove Dictionary of Music, wrote ballet criticism, and taught at the universities of Wisconsin and Texas. When he was a teaching assistant (TA) at Harvard, John Adams, then a freshman, was in his theory class.
Undaunted to learn that madrigals were not marketable, he used his love of languages, grammar and syntax to land a real job in 1983 as Alumni Class Notes editor at Harvard Business School, a job that he loved and continued until his death. Family visits were necessarily planned around “crunch time” for publishing deadlines. Despite dealing with thousands of illustrious HBS Class agents over his 38-year tenure, he was ever humble, tactful, and circumspect with their information.
Keith applied the same discipline of research to a new passion starting in 2002—Chintz pottery. Not content with simply collecting, which he did prodigiously, he made numerous trips for research in the British Museum and Staffordshire Pottery archives in England as well as to the periodical archives in U.S. libraries to understand and catalog sizes, shapes, and patterns of Royal Winton china. He quickly became known among a worldwide group of chintz aficionados for his deep and detailed knowledge and willingness to help identify pieces. Keith was an active member of several worldwide china collecting groups and a regular contributor of information to “The Crazed Collector Newsletter” and the “Chintz Friends Facebook Group.” He was working on the last chapter of a reference book on Royal Winton china at the time of his unexpected death at age 79 of complications of heart surgery in Boston.
Keith touched many lives along the way and he will be remembered for his gentleness, kindness, intelligence, wit, and self-effacing nature.
He is survived by his sister Constance Margaret Larson of Sandy Springs, Georgia and brother the Rev. Curtis Allen Larson of Neenah.
Memorial services and burial will occur at a later date at the family plot in Welcome, Minnesota.
Donations may be made in memory of Keith Larson to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University. Checks may be made to Harvard University with “for the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library” in the memo line and mailed to Harvard University, P.O. Box 419209, Boston, MA 02214-9209.
His chintz friends have set up a GoFundMe page for contributions to Oberlin.