Harvey Hess Collection

Manuscript collection: MsC-69

Harvey Hess Collection, 1946-2012. 19.5 linear feet


Harvey Jason Hess, III (February 14, 1939 - July 18, 2012)

Harvey Jason Hess, III, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, on February 14, 1939, to Harvey Hess, Jr., and Esther Miller Hess.

Mr. Hess graduated from Orange Township High School (Black Hawk County, Iowa) in 1956.   Immediately after high school, he studied French language and culture for a brief time at the Sorbonne in Paris.  He attended the Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, from 1956-1958, beginning as a music major.   He later received his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Religion from McPherson College in Kansas (1961) and studied Japanese culture at the University of Washington in Seattle (1963).  He also studied at Bethany Theological College in Illinois, in 1961-1962 and 1964-1965.   In 1995 he earned his master's degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Mr. Hess was licensed to preach in 1958.  He renewed his license in 1961.  He became an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren in 1962.

A trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in 1967 inspired a series of poems, Ruins Consequential.

In 1972 Mr. Hess moved to Hilo, Hawaii, where he resided until 1984.   In 1974 he wrote the libretto for The Naupaka Floret, a choral symphony based on Hawaiian legend.   The music was composed by Jerré Tanner.   In Hawaii, Jerré Tanner, visual artist John Thomas, and Mr. Hess formed a lifelong artistic collaboration.  In 1975, Mr. Hess and Mr. Tanner were commissioned to create the world’s first Hawaiian comic opera, Ka Lei No Kane (The Garland of God Kane), which was also based on Hawaiian legend.   This opera made its world premiere in Hawaii in 1977 and has since been recorded and performed many times in America and Europe.

Mr. Hess and Mr. Tanner also collaborated on the operas The Coffee Cantata (Hess English singing translation of Bach work), The Kona Coffee Cantata, and The Singing Snails: Na Pupu-Kani-Oe, as well as choral symphonies, song cycles, and many other works.

During his time in Hawaii, Mr. Hess also cultivated his interest in the Japanese poetic forms of haiku, senryu, and tanka.   He won acclaim in this field and published his poetry in several international journals.  In the summer of 1971 he and Mr. Tanner wrote a song cycle of English language tanka called Six Songs from a Winter's Pillow Book for contralto and 13- and 17-string Kotos.  It premiered in 1972.  The music was revised in 1979 and is now a symphonic song cycle.  Mr. Hess was listed in Who’s Who in the West and also The International Journal of Haiku Poets.

He was a correspondent for Ha`ilono Mele, the journal of the Hawaiian Music Foundation (1977-1979), and the music and arts critic for the newspapers Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today (1978-1983).   Mr. Hess moved to Spokane, Washington, in 1984, where he became the music and arts critic for the Spokane Spokesman-Review (1984-1987), continued to write poetry, and to collaborate with Mr. Tanner on musical projects.  He remained in Washington until 1987, when he returned to Waterloo, Iowa.   His Iowa roots inspired one of his poetic series, Th’Autumnal Sequence, which was originally written in 1970 and published in 2002.

Mr. Hess served as music and arts critic for the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier from 1987 through 2008, and as an instructor at the University of Northern Iowa (1989-2011) and at Hawkeye Community College (1992-2007).   He taught English, Creative Writing, and Humanities at both institutions.

Harvey Hess died of natural causes on July 18, 2012, at the age of 73.

Partial Bibliography

  • Lyric Images, (with photographs by Gary M. Mason); private publication, Waterloo, Iowa 1962
  • Orchid Art and the Orchid Isle (with paintings and drawings by John Thomas); Malama Arts Inc., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 1982
  • Hawaii Lyrics, Finial Press, Champaign, Illinois 1985
  • The Coffee Cantata and The Kona Coffee Cantata librettos, Malama Arts Inc., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 1986
  • The Singing Snails libretto, Malama Arts Inc., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 1986
  • Ka Lei No Kane libretto, Malama Arts Inc., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 1987
  • Skipped Stones--Faces in Time, Eight Pound Tiger Press, Cedar Falls, Iowa 1994
  • Th’Autumnal Sequence--Sonnets of the Fall (a collection of 53 sonnets,; Eight Pound Tiger Press, Cedar Falls, Iowa 2002

- David Hoing, September 2014


The Hess collection includes correspondence, publications, journals, worksheets, and newsclippings by and about Mr. Hess.

Mr. Hess donated a small amount of material to the University of Northern Iowa Archives in increments from about 2000 through 2010.  University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson processed this material.  On August 31, 2012, after the death of Mr. Hess, one of his sisters donated a large quantity of material that had been stored in Mr. Hess's apartment to the University Archives.   Library Associate David Hoing processed this material and integrated the earlier material into one cohesive collection.   Because of the disordered state of the material when it was acquired, Mr. Hoing needed to impose his own, usable order on the collection.   He also created extensive notes and inventories as aids to researchers.

Mr. Hoing wrote an essay describing his work on this project, which can serve as a valuable guide for researchers interested in Mr. Hess and his work.

The use of some of this collection, primarily a portion of the correspondence, is restricted to Hess family members until September 2020.

Researchers who are interested in Mr. Hess may also wish to look at collections of Jerré Tanner and John Thomas, with whom Mr. Hess collaborated extensively.

Box Inventory

Notes on journals in the Hess collection, Boxes 1-4 (Box 4 also contains biographical material; see link below)

Harvey Hess was a prolific writer with a myriad of interests.  In addition to his poetry, essays, music and art reviews, librettos, plays, and short stories, he was also an ardent diarist.  Dating his journals was a difficult task, because more than half of his notebooks contain no date whatsoever.  Complicating this was Mr. Hess’s tendency to write on any scrap of paper that he happened to have on hand.  He often jotted down new material on the unused pages of notebooks that were already twenty or more years old. 

The journals represented in this collection begin in 1960 and continue through July 12, 2012, just six days before Mr. Hess’s death.  For notebooks lacking dates, several methods were used to determine when they might have been written.  Some were dated by context, such as references to certain movies, the release date of which is known, or mention of places where Mr. Hess was known to be living at the time.  For others, the copyright date and/or the logo on the notebooks themselves were used.  Subject matter frequently helped to narrow the time period.  For instance, early references to writing the libretto for his Hawaiian opera Ka Lei No Kane in an otherwise undated notebook placed the entries around 1975.

A less reliable method was Mr. Hess’s handwriting, which tended to become shakier as he aged.   However, his handwriting also became difficult to read when he was ill. Since he seemed to have battled ill health off and on for much of his adult life, handwriting alone could not always be counted on to give a reliable, or even approximate, date.  But it sometimes added secondary evidence to help confirm a time period gleaned by other methods.

The journals testify to Mr. Hess’s diverse interests.   Many notebooks contain only poetry, some of which is represented nowhere else in this collection.  He was an ordained minister and often meditated on theological and philosophical matters.  Literary criticism found its way into his journals, as did personal observations of nature.  His health was a frequent concern.  While mostly serious, on occasion Mr. Hess could display a playful, frivolous, and at times even ribald sense of humor.   He was especially fond of experimenting with language and creating plays on words.

These journals, then, are arranged in chronological order, oldest to newest.   For most of the notebooks it was possible to assign an approximate date, or at least a range of years during which they must have been written.  The few that could not be reliably dated by any method have been placed after the 2012 entries.

Box 1

  • Journals, 1960-1973

Box 2

  • Journals, continued, 1974-1989

Box 3

  • Journals, continued, 1990-2009

Box 4

Correspondence, Boxes 5 and 6

Mr. Hess was an avid letter writer, who in later years switched to email as his primary method of correspondence.  He received nearly as many letters and email messages as he sent.  Due to the large amount of correspondence, space constraints made it impractical to list the subject matter or contents of each letter or E-mail.  Instead, only the names of Mr. Hess’s correspondents, if known, are listed, along with the dates—again, if known.

Mr. Hess also had in his possession many letters to and from Jerré Tanner, and others, which did not involve him, but these letters were retained because they were among his papers and were therefore presumably were important to Mr. Hess.

Note:  A large number of letters have restricted access. These are located in the second half of Box 5 and all of Box 6.  They have not been cataloged, and the names of the correspondents are not listed.  Non-restricted correspondence is arranged in the following manner:

  • Dated correspondence written by Mr. Hess, chronologically by date, 1956?-2011
  • Undated correspondence written by Mr. Hess, alphabetically by name of recipient
  • Dated correspondence written to Mr. Hess, chronologically by date, 1958-2012
  • Undated correspondence written to Mr. Hess, alphabetically by name of writer
  • Dated correspondence written about Mr. Hess, chronologically by date, 1957-1993(?)
  • Dated correspondence written by, to, or about Jerré Tanner, chronologically by date, 1975-2011
  • Dated correspondence not to, from, or about Mr. Hess, but in his possession, chronologically by date, 1922-1996

If no date is known, but a range can be guessed, the letters are filed at the earliest possible date within that range. 

INVENTORY of unrestricted correspondence in Boxes 5 and 6

Box 5

  • Correspondence

Access to a portion of the correspondence in this box is restricted.

Box 6

  • Correspondence

Access to all correspondence in this box is restricted.

Short story, essays, previews, reviews, poetry--Boxes 7-9

This box contains formal prose works written by Mr. Hess, as well as his individual poems with titles.   Although it seems likely that he wrote more than one short story in his life, only “Nunc Dimittis Servum Tuum” was found among his papers.

His essays demonstrate the wide range of his interests and knowledge, as do his previews and reviews of music, theater, and art events.

Three essays among his papers were not written by him, but were retained to demonstrate his many interests.  Between 1978 and 2006 Mr. Hess served as art and drama critic for newspapers in three states:  Hawaii, Washington, and Iowa.  He published well over 350 previews and reviews in his lifetime, and wrote many more for which published versions may exist but could not be found among his papers.

The arrangement of this box is as follows:

  • Short story
  • Essays--complete, with titles, alphabetically by title
  • Essays--complete, untitled, alphabetically by subject
  • Essays--incomplete, with titles, alphabetically by title
  • Essays--incomplete, untitled (Uncataloged)
  • Essays--complete, not written by Mr. Hess but in his possession, alphabetically by title
  • Preview of music, theater, and art events in Hawaii (1, undated)
  • Reviews of music, theater, and art events in Hawaii, 1978-1984: chronologically by date; undated previews and reviews are listed after dated ones, alphabetically by title
  • Previews of music, theater, and art events in Spokane, WA, 1984-1987: chronologically by date; undated previews and reviews are listed after dated ones, alphabetically by title
  • Reviews of music, theater, and art events in Spokane, WA, 1984-1987: chronologically by date; undated previews and reviews are listed after dated ones, alphabetically by title
  • Previews of music, theater, and art events in Iowa, 1991-1996: chronologically by date; undated previews and reviews are listed after dated ones, alphabetically by title
  • Reviews of music, theater, and art events in Iowa, 1988-2006: chronologically by date; undated previews and reviews are listed after dated ones, alphabetically by title
  • Individual poems with titles: alphabetically by title

Box 7

 Box 8

Box 9


Early in his academic career Mr. Hess studied music, among other things.   He was a talented enough flutist to perform with the Waterloo Symphony Orchestra.   While primarily a poet and librettist, Mr. Hess also tried his hand at composing.  He did not consider himself a gifted composer, but he is known to have written some music.

However, many of the music manuscripts in his possession do not identify a composer, so it was not possible to determine which, if any, of them can be attributed to him alone.  It may be that his life-long friend and collaborator, Jerré Tanner, wrote all of the music contained in Mr. Hess’s papers.  These are filed in the folder labeled Jerré Tanner/Harvey Hess music.

Following these songs is music unquestionably composed by Mr. Tanner in which Mr. Hess had no involvement, other than having had the manuscripts in his possession.

The collaboration of Mr. Hess and Mr. Tanner was perhaps at its most successful with the composition of larger works, such as operas, cantatas, and song cycles.  The most famous of these was Ka Lei No Kane (The Garland of the God Kane), which was the first Hawaiian comic opera.  Later efforts such as the two Coffee Cantatas and The Singing Snails were also popular.

Another fine success was Boy with Goldfish, although Mr. Hess was not directly involved in its creation.   Hawaiian performers Leon & Malia wrote the libretto for this opera.  However, because Mr. Hess contributed much in the way of publicity and essays, Boy with Goldfish is listed here.

Ka Lei No Kane, the two Coffee Cantatas, The Singing Snails, and Boy with Goldfish have been performed and recorded internationally, as have many of Mr. Tanner’s solo efforts.

Mr. Hess and Mr. Tanner were also involved in the making of a documentary art film, Kani Liko Lehua, in the mid-1970s.

Box 10


Alphabetical by Title

  • Closing Chorus [Part of unknown larger work]
  • For a Lover and His Lasse
  • Hilo March
  • In Settlers’ Cemetery
  • Keepers of the Land
  • Love Song in the Diatonic Scale
  • Mano E (the Shark) [from their Symphony No. 3 Aumakua (Living Ancestors), created on commission from the Summit Chhoral Society, Akron, Ohio]
  • Moonlight Rides on Dusk Breeze
  • Night [3 copies]
  • On Coyness
  • Untitled
  • Virelay


Alphabetical by Title

  • Adagio for Flute [5 copies]
  • Aukele
  • High Seas to High Shoals
  • Kalakaua Diptych, A
  • Koni Au I Ka Wai
  • Ku’u Ipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One [2 copies]
  • Toccata Number II in F Minor, for Piano



  • Correspondence About
    • May 27, 1976--Mr. Hess to John Thomas, Leon & Malia, and Jerré Tanner
    • Sep 22, 1976--Mr. Hess to unknown recipient, invitation to event involving Boy with Goldfish
  • Essay by Mr. Hess: “Boy with Goldfish: The Allegory of a Psychomachia” (2 copies also in Box 7)
  • Essay (presumably) by Mr. Hess [untitled, incomplete]
  • Picture Memoir [includes libretto]
  • Press release
  • Program for the Hilo College performance
  • Proposal for production
  • Working scenario--handwritten
  • Working scenario--typed [2 copies]


  • Published piano-vocal score [2nd copy is in Box 12]
  • Handwritten score


  • Cast, scene synopsis, character sketches
  • Character sketches [handwritten]
  • Character sketches [typed]
  • Funding request for
  • Libretto [incomplete – scene 3 only]


  • Correspondence About
    • Nov 19, 1975 – Richard Cornwell to Jerré Tanner
    • Mar 23, 1976 – Kalani Meinecke to Mr. Hess [2 copies]
    • Dec 21, 1976 – Mr. Hess to Richard Cornwell
    • Jan 21, 1977 – Richard Cornwell to John Thomas
    • Jan 22, 1977 – Richard Cornwell to Edith Kanaka’ole [2 copies]
    • Jan 24, 1997 – Richard Cornwell to Jerré Tanner
    • Mar 13, 1977 – Mr. Hess to Richard Cornwell
    • Mar 24, 1977 – Mr. Hess to Mr. Ayling [first name unknown]
    • Apr 23, 1977 – Jerré Tanner to Marianne Fleece
    • Apr 23, 1977 – Jerré Tanner to Richard Cornwell
  • Mr. Hess’s Master's Thesis from the University of Northern Iowa [lacking pp 1, 6-10, 54-60, 77-end]
  • Libretto [complete, typed--5 copies of different versions]
  • Libretto [complete, published version--3 copies]
  • Libretto [incomplete, typed--5 copies of different versions]
  • Miscellaneous Information
    • Biographical information about and quotes by Mr. Hess, Jerré Tanner, and John Thomas
    • Contract [2 copies]
    • Fact sheets
  • Grant applications
  • Newspaper articles
    • May 4, 1977, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
    • July 13, 1978, Hudson Herald (IA)
  • Programs
    • Hawaii Chamber Orchestra [2 copies]
    • World premiere at Brigham Young University/Hawaii
  • Publicity Releases
  • Research booklets for Ka Lei No Kane [2 booklets]
  • Registration form for ASCAP
  • Scenario
  • Synopsis [handwritten]
  • Synopsis [typed – 4 copies]

KANI LIKO LEHUA (Documentary film)

  • Fact sheet only


  • Libretto [7 copies]
  • Notes on the Coffee Cantatas
  • Production book [printed]
  • Production notes [typed--2 copies]
  • Program, Presidential Artist Series, Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo, Iowa
  • Program [typed--2 copies]
  • Scores to individual parts [incomplete--flute, cello, harpsichord, and percussion only]


  • Libretto [2 copies]
  • Score

PELE (Opera)

  • Script


  • Script


  • Notes, cast, scene and act summaries
  • Working scenarios


  • Score and libretto
  • Printed material


  • Moonlight Upon Snow
  • Essay on Loneliness and Love
  • Clouds and Spring Meadows
  • Hummingbirds
  • Evening Breezes Consort with Water Plants
  • Moonlight Rides on Dusk Breeze
  • Night
  • Falls on the Aneroid Trail
  • Autumn 

Box 11


  • Agnus Dei
  • Akahi Ho’i
  • Autumn
  • Christmas Madrigal, A
  • Closing Chorus (The Dance)
  • Clouds and Spring Meadows
  • Elégie Pour Mon Pére
  • Evening Breezes Consort with Plants
  • Falls on the Aneroid Trail, The
  • For the Horn in B Flat
  • Futility
  • Gulf Clouds [2 copies--art of unknown larger work]
  • Hilo March
  • Hawaiian Songbook, The
  • Hummingbirds
  • Ilio (the Dog)
  • Love Song in the Diatonic Scale
  • Lover and His Lasse, A
  • Kyrie Eleison
  • Kyrie I
  • Lorelei, The
  • Magnificat in the Myxolydian Mode [6 copies, 3 of which are incomplete]
  • Mano E (the Shark) [part of unknown larger work]
  • Moonlight Rides on Dusk Breeze
  • Moonlight Upon Snow [2 copies, 1 of which is incomplete]
  • Night [3 copies]
  • Nunc Dimittis
  • On Coyness
  • Overture (to unknown work) [8 copies, 3 of which are incomplete]
  • Osanna [2 copies, 1 of which is incomplete]
  • Rain
  • Recessional [3 copies]
  • Rhondo from “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
  • Sanctus
  • Sarabande
  • Solo Cantata 23rd Psalm
  • Spring Epic
  • Suite from the Singing Snails
  • Triptych Part III--Oh, You Who Were Once Mine [4 copies]
  • Untitled [Uncertain attribution--probably Tanner/Hess]
  • Virelay


Box 12


  • Ruins (Tanner/Hess)
  • Two Songs for High Voice and Orchestra, Cantata No. III – (Tanner/Hess/Appleman)
  • Song Cycle (Tanner/Hess)
  • Untitled Score (Tanner/Hess) [3 folders, missing pages 140-148] 

Box 13


  • Autograph book, Emma L. Goughnour, 1881 (Grandmother of Mr. Hess)
  • Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 1953 (Inscribed to Mr. Hess on Dec 30, 1962)
  • Don Quixote, New York 1949 (Inscribed by Mr. Hess)
  • McPherson College Yearbook--Quadrangle, 1960 (Belonged to Mr. Hess’s sister Lucy, contains photos of both)
  • The Oil Paintings of John (Paul) Thomas
  • Ars Oceana Incorporation Plan
  • Material about Ruth Suckow (Miscellaneous articles and publications)
  • Script for recorded program--This Land Planted: Seeds of the Prairie, Farm and Education. (Includes Mr. Hess’s comments on his family’s history.)
  • Mr. Hess’s published work:
  • Lyric Images (Book), 1963, with poetry by Mr. Hess and photographs by Gary M. Mason
  • Epos (Periodical), Summer 1967, includes poem, “Obituary”
  • Epos (Periodical), Fall 1967, includes poem, “Under Heaven”
  • South Dakota Review, v. 13 #4, Winter 1975-1976, includes poems “Aloha Hämäkua” and “Volcanic Pentacostal”
  • Cicada, v.2 #3 (Periodical), 1978, includes three haiku
  • Janus & SCTH, v.9 #3 (Periodical) [2 copies], January 1978, includes one haiku
  • Arkenstone, v.2 #3 (Periodical), May/June 1978, includes poem, “Beck the Rainbow”
  • Dragonfly, v.7 #1 (Periodical), January 1979, includes one haiku
  • Ha’Ilono Mele (Periodical), February 1979, includes essay, “Aunty Edith--A Coming Together of Life and Art”
  • Modern Haiku, v. X #3 (Periodical), Autumn 1979, includes one haiku
  • Kani Lehua (Periodical), 1980, includes essay, “In Memory of Aunty Edith”
  • Orchid Art of the Orchid Isle (Book – see Box 9 for poem titles), 1982, includes poetry by Mr. Hess and paintings by Johnn Thomas
  • Hawaii Lyrics (book),1982
  • The Coffee Cantata (Piano-Vocal score), 1985
  • Skipped Stones (Book), 1989
  • Collaboration between Mr. Hess and Philip Fass
  • Draftings, v.6 #1 (Periodical), 1991, includes essay, “The Physiology of Art in Bach and Milton”
  • Cultivator, v.2 #1 (Periodical), 1994, includes essay, “An Invitation to Give Ourselves a Chance”
  • Under the Cottonwood (Book – pre-release draft, 1999
  • Under the Cottonwood (Book – final publication), 2000, a collection of poetry, including some by Mr. Hess


  • Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole, Ethnobiology, February 26, 1979
  • Suite from “The Coffee Cantata”--Tanner, 1990
  • The Kona Coffee Cantata--Tanner/Hess [2 copies], 1994
  • Choral Lyric--Tanner/Hess, 1995
  • Aumaka--Living Ancestors--Tanner, 2001
  • Wilkes--Theme and Variations--Tanner, 2002
  • Theme for “Variations on a Naval Theme”-- Tanner, undated


  • Music from Six Continents (musical collection), 1992, includes Tanner’s Fragrant Harbor (Hong Kong)

VHS Tapes

  • Living in Iowa, undated
  • Champagne toast, undated
  • Readings of Esther, undated
  • Unknown content, undated

Personal Items

  • Crucifix
  • Packet of Japanese pine seeds

A small amount of material was arranged and described by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, November 2010; that material was re-processed and the remainder of the collection, acquired after Mr. Hess's death, was processed and arranged by Library Associate David Hoing, 2014; last updated, November 3, 2014 (GP).

Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307
Fax: (319)-273-2913
Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu