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Neely Bruce and His Contribution to Music

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Neely Bruce (born January 21, 1944), Professor of Music and American Studies at Wesleyan University, is a composer, conductor, pianist and scholar of American music. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; he received his DMA(Doctor of Martial Arts), from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He has been visiting professor and artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bucknell University of Michigan, and at Brooklyn College. He is the chorus director for Connecticut Opera, and, with his wife Phyllis, co-director of music at the South Congregational Church in Middletown, Connecticut, For a complete catalogue of his work.His largest work is entitled Convergence.

Steppin’ Out, Continental Harmony, Carles Ives Newsletter- Here’s to Ives, commissioned by the American Composers Forum, as part of its Continental Harmony project, this composition received its premiere on June 18, 2000 as part of the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Convergence, a series of three composed parades with auxiliary musical events of a stationary nature, is scored for multiple marching bands, multiple choruses, three or more organs, fife and drum corps, bagpipes, two orchestras, jazz band, West African drumming ensemble, Native American ensemble, Javanese gamelan, West Indian steel drums, and two solo trumpets.

On August 18th, 2002 Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors presented a revised and expanded performance of this piece, enthusiastically received by an audience of 10,000, A new production of Convergence has been proposed in Danbury, Connecticut (birthplace of Charles Ives).Bruce’s opera Hansel and Gretel, commissioned by Connecticut Opera, received its first performances as a chamberwork for children (soloists with piano and/or small ensembles) in 1997. The full-scale work (adding dancers, chorus, and orchestra) premiered in March of 1998 at the Bushnell in Hartford. In December 2002 Trinity College of Music, London, presented the first student production of this opera, the composer condustion. Hansel and Gretel will be presented on tour in the Netherlands by the Max Tak Orchestra in December 2005.

In July 2003 he composed the score for Benedict Arnold: A Brave Revenge by John Basinger. Produced by Connecticut Outdoor Historic Drama, Inc., this epic was presented in Washington Park, Groton, Connecticut, on the spot where British troops mustered prior to the Battle of Groton Heights, the very conflict enacted at the climax of the play.

The score, for fiddle, flutes, percussion and keyboard, uses traditional tunes, military music, original material and special effects to evoke the spirit of the 1770’s and 1780’s. It is the most recent of Bruce’s works to draw on historical American sources. Other works for the stage include an allegorical opera of the American Revolution, American, or, A New Tale of the Genii (libretto by Tony Connor). This full-length work was begun on a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Produced in the semi-staged concert version by the American Music/Theatre Group and Orchestra New England, it awaits its first completely staged production. Americana is the first of the projected trilogy of operas which treat the politically history of the United States as mythology. His three one-act musicals entitled cousins, Brothers and Sisters and Parents (libretti by Phyllis Bruce, based on the New Testament), were premiered 1999-2001 at South Church, Middletown, with a large cast (ranging in age from four to eighty), dancers, gamelan and a six-piece band. A revised, expanded version of cousins was produced in March 2004.

Bruce has also composed two one-act operas, five concerti, other orchestral compositions, keyboard works, over 250 solo songs, a series of Grand Duos for varies solo instruments and piano, pieces for tape with and without live performances, and large-scale chamber works. Commissions received include works for Donald Nally and the Bridge Ensembles, the Claude Kipnis Mime Troupe, Stuart Dempster, Richard Blies, James Fulkerson, Larry Palmer, and Sandra Kopell. Two of bruce’s major works, the oratorio Hugomotion and the second Violin Concerto, were commissioned by the late Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. His perfumes and meanings for sixteen solo voices was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta and premiered at Queen Elizabeth Hall by London Voices, conducted by William Brooks.

On April 13, 1993, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, his composition for male chorus entitled Young T. J. was heard at Monticello, the Jefferson Memorial (with President and Mrs. Clinton in attendance), at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, and broadcast on the NBC Today show, NPR’s Performance Today. And the Voice of America. Young T. J. was commissioned by the Virginia Glee Club, John Leipold, director.

The Pond for chorus and orchestra (text by Louise Gluck), was Commissioned for the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Indian Springs School. It was first performed on May 30, 2002 by the ISS Concert Choir and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tim Thomas. (Bruce is one of many distinguished recipients of the ISS Outstanding Alumnus Award.) Other commissions include Leon’s Invasion for soloists and six theremins, commissioned by Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors; and Tunes ‘n’ Timbres ‘n’ Time: A History of western Music and the Organ, a sixteen movement work commissioned by St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City, and premiered by William Trafka. His “rock phantasmagoria” for four voices and tape, The Plague: A Commentary on the Work of the Fourth Horseman, was commissioned by Electric Phoenix and performed many times in the United States, Europe, and at festivals in Huddersfield and Newcastle (UK).

The Plague, and Bruce’s other works for this virtuoso ensemble–Eight Ghosts (Michael McClure) and the Dream of the Other Dreamers (Walt Whitman)–have been released on CD by mode. Five of the Eight Ghosts were performed by Electric Phoenix at IRCAM is Paris. Other important performances include the premiere in Amsterdam of Paul Goodman Settings, sung by Charles Van Tassel; three movements of Orion Rising: First Album for Orchestra played by the Hartford Symphony; Pink Music: First Album for Organ, played by Wesleyan University organist Ronald Ebrecht; Wild Oysters II for electric cello, played by Jeffrey Krieger, and 4 + 1 for string quartet and piano, performed in Holland, Canada and the United States byt the Mondriaan Quartet, with the composer at the Keyboard.

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Neely Bruce and His Contribution to Music. (2018, August 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
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