The Harrison medal of the Society is named in honour of Frank Llewellyn Harrison (1905–1987), the Irish musicologist who made a seminal contribution to the study of medieval music (especially music in medieval Britain) and to the study of ethnomusicology. Harrison held positions in Canada and the United States before being appointed to a Lectureship in Music at Oxford in 1952; he was appointed Reader in the History of Music there in 1962. Harrison subsequently became Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Amsterdam in 1970. A detailed account of his career and publications by Robin Elliott is available in EMIR, Vol. 1, pp. 469–471.
The Harrison medal is awarded by the President and Council of the SMI to recognize outstanding achievements in musicology. Laureates to date include Professor Christoph Wolff in 2004 (for his contribution to Bach scholarship), Professor Margaret Bent in 2007 (in recognition of her contribution to the study of music in the middle ages), Professor Kofi Agawu in 2009 (for his contribution to historical musicology, analysis and the study of African music), and Dr Christopher Hogwood in 2011 (for his exemplary combination of musical scholarship and the performance of early music).
In October, 2013, the President and Council of the SMI awarded the Harrison medal to Professor Barra Boydell and to Professor Harry White to mark the publication of The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. The formal presentation of these awards took place in the beautiful surroundings of the Deanery of St Patrick’s Cathedral in June 2014.
In 2016, the SMI Council has awarded the Harrison Medal to Professor Susan Youens, J.W. Van Gorkom Professor of Music, University of Notre Dame, for her outstanding contribution to Schubert studies in particular and Lieder studies in general. The presentation of the award followed by Professor Youens’s lecture "Reentering Mozart's Hell: Schubert and 'Gruppe aus dem Tartarus'" will take place on Wednesday evening, Organ Room in the Royal Irish Academy of Music on 23 November 2016 at 6pm.