Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seven Friendly Fugues on SoundCloud

I have just uploaded seven of my Friendly Fugues to SoundCloud: the ones for Katchen Coley, Carl Viggiani, Clem W. Hitchcock, Blake Reynolds, Louise Faircloth, Lorry Yelding and Dr. Hoggard (the late great choral conductor Lara Hoggard, whom I could never address by his first name — he was always "Dr. Hoggard" to me and all the boys at Indian Springs School). Elsewhere on this blog I discuss these pieces. Scroll down to June 5 of this year for brief bios of the dedicatees and other information, and to August of last year for a description of the compositional process. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Partita for Wilhelm Gertz

A few days ago I uploaded one of my biggest piano works to SoundCloud — A Partita for Wilhelm Gertz. Gertz was, for about a decade, Wesleyan's eccentric piano tuner/technician. He had a piano business in New Haven, and had rebuilt the Wesleyan Dowd harpsichord back in the day. When the opportunity arose, we hired him to work on the pianos as well as the Dowd. His work was controversial. Some of us thought he kept the pianos in fine shape, and the harpsichord in superb shape. He brokered the deal with the Godowsky family that got Wesleyan Leopold Godowsky's Bechstein piano. He also helped us with the gift of two other pianos, and sold us the August Foerster piano that is now in Wesleyan Memorial Chapel (one of our best instruments).

When I get to that point in my memoirs I will write more about Wilhelm. He was a complex man, and he rubbed some of my colleagues the wrong way. Not all of them, of course. Some of them really liked him. He was a crusty old German, and very opinionated. His work was not consistent, and that created problems sometimes. But he did a lot of work for us at a minimal price, he got us some of our best pianos, and his tunings were gorgeous. Actually, I cannot remember any more beautiful tunings, especially when he tuned the harpsichord. He used a quasi-Pythagorean tuning that would last for about three months. In my experience, this was unique. Harpsichords are notorious for going out of tune, and tunings that last for three months are virtually unheard of.

Over the years we became good friends. When he died I was very distressed. I had written the Fugue first, when he was still alive, and began to compose the rest of the Partita shortly after his passing. When I played the premiere in the fall of 2013 I took the occasion to make some serious edits and even a few significant changes.

If you would like to get a feel for his personality, and a few nuggets of information about his colorful life, check out this little interview:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Today is Bill of Rights Day!

What better way to celebrate BILL OF RIGHTS DAY (December 15) than by listening to my setting? Check out The Bill of Rights: Ten Amendments in Eight Motets it the following link on SoundCloud.

This is the performance that we did when Justice Scalia was on the Wesleyan campus in March of 2012. Actually, it's edited from the best bits of both of the performances we did that afternoon. Even though we did it in honor of Justice Scalia's visit, and cleared it with his people so that he would be in attendance, he did not, in fact, attend. Rather, he went to his hotel room and rested for his lecture that evening. Or so I am told, unofficially. Officially we were informed by an official of the university, as we were waiting in the wings to go on stage (or, rather, the Memorial Chapel equivalent of "wings" and "on stage") that "Justice Scalia is unable to attend." No further explanation.

No matter. Between the two performances we had about 500 in the audience, and the whole experience was a resounding success, notwithstanding the no-show of the guest of honor!

Here is a list of all the performances of this piece. We're up to 23 now. Suggestions are in the air for a repeat performance in New Haven in 2015 and our first performance(s) in Virginia. It even looks like we are going to have a performance in Athens, Greece in 2015, and also one in Taiwan in 2016. Not to mention a performance by an excellent women's chorus (much closer to home), if I can finish up the SSAA version...

Public reading, South Congregational Church (July of 2005)
Wesleyan University, Memorial Chapel and the lobby of Olin Library (two performances,
     September 2005)

The Unitarian Meeting House, Hamden CT (2008)
Mitchell College, New London CT (2009)
The First Congregational Church of Lebanon CT (2009)
St Katharine Drexel Church, Alton NH, under the auspices of Arts on the Edge,
     Wolfeboro NH (2010)
Co-op High School, New Haven CT (2010), under the auspices of IRIS (Integrated
     Refugee and Immigrant Services), as a benefit for area refugees and immigrants
Sandisfield Arts Center, Sandisfield MA, September 17, 2011 (Constitution Day)
The Newseum, Washington DC, under the auspices of the Knight Foundation,
     December 16, 2011 (the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights)
Wesleyan University, two more performances, in conjunction with the 21st Annual
     Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression, given in 2012 by Justice
     Antonin Scalia
Monday 25 June 2012: A reading as a part of the series of SummerSings at St. Paul
     Evangelical Lutheran Church, 56 Great Hammock Road in Old Saybrook CT
Sunday 16 September 2012 at Faneuil Hall, Boston, two performances on the eve of
     Constitution Day
Wednesday 19 September at Trinity Chapel, Trinity College in Hartford
November 15, the Tenth Amendment performed at Brown University
November 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as part of the concert series at
     Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Bronx
Friday 6 September 2013 at Madry Temple Church, New London CT
Sunday 15 September 2013, two more performances at Faneuil Hall
Wednesday 17 September 2014 (Constitution Day) at Middlesex Community
     College in Middletown, CT
Sunday 30 November 2014, two more performances at Faneuil Hall

Twenty-three performances of a 38-minute new choral work — not bad, I think, even if it is in the style of William Billings. Now to get more conductors involved. All but three of these performances have been conducted by the composer. Thank you Suzanne Bartells and Jeff Douma — and a special shout-out to Ioanna-Vasiliki Koraki, who is seriously contemplating The Bill of Rights in Athens!

If any of you who read this know any good choral conductors, pass on the information! I think this work has a real future, but in order for that future to become present reality there have to be more conductors who do perform the piece — LOTS more of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Announcement about SoundCloud

I just bit the bullet and began uploading my complete piano works to SoundCloud. The recordings from the first four of the "This Is It!" series have been edited. These are performances, not studio recordings (that will come later). You can now hear the first four pieces from the first recital, presented in Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan on Sunday 29 September 2013, viz:

Tuckaway in Early Summer
Forty Times Forty
A Fugue for Sophia
A Fugue for Maeny

I've been blogging about these pieces for some time — now you can hear them!

To hear these pieces just go to and search for "NeelyBruceMusic." (Not case sensitive.)

This is about 28 minutes out of four-plus hours I will be uploading soon. And the whole series will be at least 12 recitals, finishing up in the summer of 2017. Maybe more than 12 recitals, at the rate I'm writing new piano music...