end of an era

On April first, Dr. Bruce Borton conducted his last concert with the Binghamton University Chorus, the town/gown group with which I have sung since 1982. Bruce has been our director for the last twenty-nine years. Fittingly, the featured piece on the program was the Fauré Requiem, a piece that Bruce had known since high school and that had appeared throughout his career but that he had never conducted with our Chorus.

Last night, we gathered for a retirement party at the University. There were many community members from University Chorus and/or the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton, as well as faculty, staff, and alumni from the University. There were reminiscences with Bruce and his wife Nan, who has sung with us and taught piano in the community over the years, as well as among ourselves.

After dinner, there was a program of tributes from colleagues and alumni of the master’s program in choral conducting, some in-person and some recorded. (While the party was not a surprise to Bruce, the content of the program was, which made it all the more fun.)

Of course, there were musical tributes as well. The Madrigal Choir, who welcomed Bruce as their director several years ago and whom he will continue to direct in his retirement, sang a favorite piece of Bruce’s which had been written as a tribute to his college choral director. They then favored us with the Thomas Morley madrigal “Now is the Month of Maying” – with some special added humorous verses honoring Bruce, his music-making, and even his hobby, woodworking.

The women of Harpur Chorale, the select student ensemble, called Bruce up for a rendition of “Chili con Carne” during which they gifted him with the makings for chili, tortilla chips, beer, sunglasses, and a sombrero.

The pièce de résistance, though, was an audio recording of Bruce singing “Howdy There” from PDQ Bach’s Oedipus Tex, which members of the faculty had performed for an April Fool’s Day concert years ago. I had seen the concert and remembered it with fond affection and giggles, so it was fun to hear it again, although the ovation after it caused Bruce to cover his face with his newly-acquired sombrero!

The evening was a wonderful tribute to Bruce and a lot of fun, but, for me, it was also bittersweet. It marks the end of working with a choral director who knew me in my younger years when I was still also active in church music. It was also a reminder of people who were not there to celebrate with us, especially Peter Browne. In a slideshow that was playing during dinner, there was a photo of Bruce and Peter. Peter was the accompanist for University Chorus for many years, as well as music director of Trinity Episcopal in Binghamton. When Bruce’s administrative duties at the music department necessitated his cutting back on the number of choral groups he could conduct, Peter became an adjunct to conduct Harpur Chorale. Peter died unexpectedly two years ago.

Singing our last concert with Bruce was difficult for me. Besides it being my last concert with Bruce conducting, it was just after the first anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, which made the Requiem especially poignant. On the program, we also sang the stunningly gorgeous Fauré “Cantique de Jean Racine”. It was a piece that I first learned from Peter when I worked for him at Trinity. When I hear the introduction, my mind and heart return to singing it at Trinity Church, with a harpist accompanying and Peter conducting.

Memories are the only connection now to that era.

 

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Merrill Oliver Douglas in Eunoia Review

It’s my pleasure to share the links to two poems by my friend Merrill Oliver Douglas in Eunoia Review. They are “In the Basement” and “High Tide“.

Merrill is one of the Bunn Hill Poets; we meet regularly to workshop poems. Both of these poems are ones we workshopped together. It’s great to see them out in the world in their finished form.

Eunoia Review has accepted a group of Merrill’s poems which will be appearing in pairs over the coming days.  I will put out a post with all the links when they become available.

Congratulations, Merrill!

Tara Betts is the Poet of the Day!

Tara Betts is featured today in the Poem-a-Day series of the Academy of American Poets!

You can read Tara’s poem “Gentle Collisions” as well as her note on the poem and her bio, see her photo, and click on the audio link to hear her read her poem.

We were blessed to have Tara here for a few years while she earned her PhD from Binghamton University. I met her through Binghamton Poetry Project and Bunn Hill Poets. With her bright, shiny doctorate completed, she headed back to Chicago to teach. We all wish her well but miss her!

Beethoven and google

This google doodle is so much fun!  Even if you aren’t a musician, you can solve the puzzles of famous Beethoven works:
https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-ludwig-van-beethovens-245th-year

In February, I will begin rehearsals for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth with the Binghamton University Chorus and the Binghamton Philharmonic. We will also sing Beethoven’s “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” as well as a Brahms piece. It will be the last concert for their dynamic young conductor Jose Luis Novo. The whole community will miss him!

SoCS: concerts

I’m going to miss my daughter’s concert tomorrow. She is singing with the Hendrick’s Chapel Choir at Syracuse University, although she attends SUNY-ESF. They are allowed to take classes and participate in activities on either campus. When she was home for Thanksgiving, she showed me what they would be singing. I’m sure it will be a lovely concert, but it’s too difficult to attend an evening event in Syracuse, drive home for an hour and a half, and then be up early the next morning. B has a 6 AM conference call most weekdays and it seems especially early when daylight hours are so short as they are in our latitude in December.

It seems to be a weekend for missing concerts. I sang this afternoon with the University Chorus and Orchestra at the Anderson Center at SUNY-Binghamton. We sang Orff’s Carmina Burana and it went really well! Unfortunately, no one in my family was able to come hear it.

I hope next semester there will be less missing of concerts…
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Linda’s prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday is”miss.” Come join us!  Find out how here: http://lindaghill.com/2015/12/04/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-515/

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SoCS: Singing

Singing has been a constant in my life. As a child I sang at school and at church. In high school, I sang in the mixed chorus and in my final year made the Girls’ Ensemble. I could sing, do (simple) choreography, and smile all at the same time! I also was in a few musicals, nearly always in the chorus.

I really learned to be a good choral singer in college. At Smith, I finally learned to sing classical music, everything from Gregorian chant up through newly composed work. Granted, in those days, we sang Western music only. Today, I would probably get to do some world music as well. I also got used to singing in different languages. While I had sang mostly in English, with a bit of Latin, before college, I sang frequently in Latin and German, with some Hebrew and French.

For the past 33 seasons, I have sung with the Binghamton University Chorus, which is a town-gown group, meaning we have students, faculty and staff from the university, and community members participating. Some of our members are in their 80s; I know of at least one who has reached her 90s!

I hope that I will still be singing, if I am blessed enough to reach that age.

As the hymn says, “How can I keep from singing?”
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This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week was to begin the post with a word ending in -ing. Please join us! Find out how here: http://lindaghill.com/2015/10/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-oct-1015/

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Memories of Peter

Last May, our community lost a wonderful friend and musician, Peter Browne. I wrote about here and here.

Now that September is here, we are missing him again. At Binghamton University, Harpur Chorale, which Peter had directed for many years, has begun the semester under the direction of a talented local music teacher who earned her master’s in choral conducting at Binghamton U. a few years ago.

Yesterday, I wound up having an extended conversation about bladder cancer, which what took Peter’s life so unexpectedly.

Today, I put on the car radio in time to hear the last movement of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony.  I immediately thought of Peter playing this piece with the Binghamton Philharmonic at the Broome County Forum.

All reminders of Peter and how much he is missed.