In Memoriam (May, 1941 - November, 2020)

Dr. Bruce Browne

browne-bruce-10-17-20.jpg

Bruce Browne was born in Oakland, CA in 1941.  He is the son of a businessman and a kindergarten school teacher and credited his mother with the fun and musical side of his personality.  His family moved to Walnut Creek, CA and he graduated from Las Lomas High School.  His high school choir director, Jim Schwartz, made a lasting impact on Bruce’s life in music. 

 

He attended University of the Pacific, taught middle school music and then went for his master’s degree at Wichita State University.  He taught for a few years at Montana State University in Bozeman.

 

He received his D.M.A. from the University of Washington under Rodney Eichenberger and has been privileged to work closely with Eric Ericson, Frieder Bernius, Robert Shaw, Andrew Parrott, Helmut Rilling and James DePriest.

 

Dr. Bruce Browne is. Emeritus Professor of Choral and Vocal Music at Portland State University. He was Artistic Director and Founder of Choral Cross Ties, Artistic Director of Portland Symphonic Choir (1979-2002), and co-founded Male Ensemble Northwest. He has been Guest Professor at University of Iowa; Boise State University; Oklahoma State University; University of Puget Sound; and abroad, at College of London and University of Guadalajara. 

 

Browne took great pleasure in preparing the Portland Symphonic Choir often for Maestro DePreist, and Maestro Murry Sidlin, during their tenures with the Oregon Symphony, preparing the PSC for works with Helmut Rilling (Haydn The Creation) and for Robert Shaw (Beethoven Mass) and many more works.

 

Choirs under his direction have sung by invitation at five National Conventions of ACDA, three of MENC, and one of ISME. His choirs have also appeared as guests of the countries of Greece, Spain, and Estonia, among others.

 

Browne has recorded on the labels of Freshwater Records, Telarc, Clarion, and Albany Records. In 2012, he founded “Choro in Schola”, a choir whose mission is to provide mentoring and promote excellence in at-risk high school choral programs. Also in 2012, Browne was honored by the Northwest Chapter of American Choral Directors Association, with their Northwest Leadership and Service award.   He recently was honored to receive the Oregon A.C.D.A. Choral Hall of Fame award.

 

Browne has been a music critic for Oregon Arts Watch, writing reviews for choirs, opera productions, and chamber ensembles.

 

Post retirement, Bruce founded Choro in Schola, a choir of Northwest professional singers who perform choral literature in workshop format to high schools in the Portland Metro area.  The successful organization continues, now under the direction of Dr. Jacob Funk, to offer opportunities for students to hear great choral music.

 

Bruce Browne was a tenor soloist, voice coach, choral and choral/orchestral conductor.  He demanded excellence of himself and his singers, but with passion and joy.  He was a life-long learner and continued to create opportunities for choral singers to learn and grow.  He was a teacher.

 

Bruce is survived by Daryl, his wife/partner of 46 years, two children, Melissa and Matthew and four grandchildren.
_____________________________________

The accolades and memories of Bruce and the influence he had on choral music in Oregon, the northwest, and (in fact) around the globe, have continued to pour in. Angela Hjertstedt, a former student and now a choral director herself, spoke so eloquently of Bruce's influence on her life. We feel certain Angela speaks for so very many of Bruce's students who have gone on to establish careers of their own in choral music/teaching.

Angela Hjertstedt says:

I’ve wondered how I’d be ever able to prepare myself for this day, when we would lose such a pillar of the choral community. But more than that, I have lost a mentor and one of my biggest cheerleaders.
 

Dr. Bruce Browne has left a legacy.  I am SO grateful for the many years I learned from him, right up until two weeks ago.  He was still gathering us (virtually) to push us farther…. To inspire us more…. To open our minds to the intricacies of music.

I sang in his choir for four years with rehearsals three times a week.  He did not miss ONE REHEARSAL.   No sick days. No car troubles.  No emergencies.  No excuses.

And you know what?  By his example, we learned dedication.  Through his leadership, we learned about work ethic.

Without saying a word about it, he showed us the pathway.

He led us to Truth without preaching a word.

He taught us how to be excellent by never settling for mediocrity.

He caused us to set our sights higher by keeping the bar just above what we thought we could attain.

He aroused a musical passion by being passionate.

He tuned our ears by being a microscopic listener.

 

He expanded our vocabulary by very creative “Brownisms” (as we called them. [🙂]  )

He expanded our world by taking us into it. (Germany, Estonia, Finland, NYC/Carnegie Hall, Canada, ACDA national, OMEA state, and more…)

He caused our minds to think more deeply by never settling for the surface.

He taught us how to conduct by making conducting an art form.

He brought music to life, and exemplified continually that it is so much more than black dots on a page.

 

He pushed himself to explore genres that were outside the traditional scope, especially then.  He was not afraid to step out of the boat of the Euro-centric choral world and take us sailing into waters too amazing to stay unexplored.

He never stopped learning or listening or growing.  May we all learn from his example.

 

Thank you, Dr. Browne. I’ve never been able to just call you “Bruce”.  I know you wouldn’t have minded, but my respect for you is too great.Thank you for investing in me.  I will do my best to make you proud.

________________________________________

Dr. Bruce Browne’s immense contribution to choral music includes the three complete choral cycles of Morten Lauridsen (see info below) and sung by the professional group Browne founded in 1985, Choral Cross-ties. Singers in that chorus include many who are still active as conductors of choirs in the Portland area or who are still singing professionally. This list includes Dr. Scott Tuomi, current president of Oregon’s ACDA chapter as well as head of the music department at Pacific University. Pacific University was the site for the Cross-ties recording of the Lauridsen works. 

Bruce’s amazing choir from Portland State University, the PSU Chamber Choir impressed composer Veljo Tormis greatly during their 2003 tour in Estonia. (See info below for more). Tormis and Browne collaborated on a recording of many of the composer’s works, sung in English. ACDA members who attended the 2006 NW conference will remember the powerful and gorgeous performance of the Estonian composer’s works in a concert in Portland. 

Further information about Browne's work with Tormis can be found below, but first read about the "Cross-ties" recordings of Lauridsen's works in the “program notes” lifted from Internet sources and reproduced here: 

 

Lauridsen: Complete Choral Cycles/ Browne, Choral Cross-ties Release Date: 03/19/1996 Label: Freshwater Records Catalog #: 105 

Choral Cross-Ties, a mixed 24-singer chorus directed by Bruce Browne who founded the group in 1985, brings us three choral cycles by composer Morten Lauridsen, "Mid-Winter Songs," on poems by Robert Graves; "Madrigali: Six Fire-Songs," on Italian Renaissance poems; and "Les Chansons Des Roses," on poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. Reading the beautiful poetry which inspired Lauridsen in the extensive liner notes, the Graves in English, the Madrigali in Italian and the Chansons in French (all with translations), adds to our appreciation and feeling for the music. Lightly accompanied on piano, "The Complete Choral Cycles" is an extensive, demanding work made to look easy by a wonderfully versatile chorus. 

 

Individual Track Details: 
1. Mid-Winter Songs (5) by Morten Lauridsen 
Performer: Carol Rich (Piano) 
Conductor: Bruce Browne 
Orchestra/Ensemble: Choral Cross-Ties 
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; USA 
Venue: Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon 
Length: 15 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: English 

2. Madrigali by Morten Lauridsen 
Conductor: Bruce Browne 
Orchestra/Ensemble: Choral Cross-Ties 
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; USA 
Venue: Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon 
Length: 15 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: Italian 

3. Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen 
Performer: Carol Rich (Piano) 
Conductor: Bruce Browne 
Orchestra/Ensemble: Choral Cross-Ties 
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Venue: Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon 
Length: 15 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Language: French 

Portland State University Chamber Choir : Veljo Tormis on American Shores 

Review: Every recording has a story behind its genesis. In 2003 Estonian Composer Veljo Tormis heard the Portland State Chamber Choir while they were on tour in his country. Tormis was so taken with the brilliant artistry and expressive power of the ensemble he requested that Bruce Browne and his singers do a recording of his music sung in English. For almost two years the Singers, their conductor and the composer worked together on this project. Tormis was very prominent in the interpretation. He supervised the learning of the music in preparation for the Chamber Choir's appearance at the Northwest Convention of the American Choral Director's Association 2006.

 

Veljo Tormis, On American Shores is a recording with a significance of strong integrity by both Composer and Artist. Bruce Browne is emeritus Professor of Music and Choir of the Vocal and Choral area at Portland State University. He is also Conductor Emeritus of the Portland Symphonic Choir and founder and director of the professional choir, Choral Cross-Ties. The Portland State Chamber Choir is recognized as one of the top University Chamber ensembles in the United States. 

Songlist: St. John's Day Songs:, -Call to Midsummer Bonfire I, -Call to Midsummer Bonfire II, -Can't be Caught with a Gun, -Why St. John is Awaited, -St. John's Steed, -The Curse for Iron, -St. John's Song, Helletused, Three Estonian Game Songs:, -The Grindstone Game, -The Fingerbinding Game, -The Ship Game, Two Songs after Ernst Enno:, -Early Summer's Fairy Talk, -Soundlessly, Somewhere Murmuring Homeward, Three Songs from the Epic:, -Oh, My Gentle, Tender Mother, -Daughters of the Meadow Matron, -The Wave Rolls, Autumn Landscapes:, -It is Late in Summer, -Clouds are Racing, -Pale Light, -Painfully Red are the Leaves, -Wind over the Barrens, -Cold Autumn Night, -Heather, The Songster's Childhood, The Singer's Closing Words