Music Makers

Music Makers

Music Makers

Music Makers


My husband Bruce Kirkpatrick Hill died in Vladimir Illich Lenin Hospital in Cuba, on March 18th, 2012. Bruce’s departure has changed my life forever. His loss is felt by so many friends and family who loved him dearly.

Bruce gave me many gifts, but I’ll just talk about one big one here.

About 20 years ago Bruce had one of his famous impulsive ideas: we would drive to Buffalo to hear a performance of “The Dream of Gerontius” by Edward Elgar. After all, Buffalo is just over the border and it’s so easy to drive there (this from the Vancouver Island lad for whom travel to the mainland for a concert was a giant undertaking) so we did just that. Bruce had an in-depth knowledge of Gerontius, having written a paper on the piece’s harmonic structure for his MA at U Vic. Honestly, I was not all that keen on this stuffy English composer. I had a pre-conceived notion of his work and thought it would be pretty heavy and dull.  However, the record will show that this performance was a crossroad in my musical journey. Naturally, I cried like a baby, incredibly moved by the “Angel’s Farewell”, the expressive power and tenderness of this music. I also talked to the conductor who said that Gerontius was the most challenging work he had ever conducted. So, I resolved this was a piece I had to bring to Toronto and my big choir, Pax Christi Chorale.

I remember presenting the idea to my board of directors, who, in a leap of pure faith, agreed to undertake the risk of presenting this piece on our 2000-01 season. That performance engendered a deeper curiosity in Elgar’s works, and inspired many  visits to England, especially to the Three Choirs Festival and Elgar sites, more performances, research and listening.

This weekend is the next episode in the long story of Bruce and me and Elgar. I’ll be conducting Elgar’s oratorio “The Kingdom” on Sunday. After the dark and difficult time of mourning for Bruce, this performance will feel like Christmas. My friends and family will all be gathered to feast on this music, and to celebrate the great gifts of friends in our midst, and one who listens “upon another shore, and in a greater light.”

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13 Responses to Facing the Music

  1. Magdalene Redekop says:

    Beautiful story! You are very brave, Steph. I will be there and my listening will be enhanced by knowing this story.

  2. Sorry I won’t be able to attend, but work is work…

  3. John Terauds says:

    That’s a very touching account. I was thinking after I wrote up my interview with you how The Kingdom will probably turn out to be a much greater gift than you could possibly have imagined just a few weeks ago.

  4. I’ll be there, and I know how important it will be for you, both personally (in a number of ways) and professionally.

  5. Chris Thackray says:

    Beautiful Steph – we’ll be thinking of you and Bruce – I wish we could be there.

    • Asan says:

      He’s been an underrated cesoompr for at least a generation. Perhaps a reaction to the perception that he was the musical epitome of the pre-World War I British musical establishment?Certainly some of his compositions grate upon current sensibilities but the I can’t help noticing that many of the same people have no problems with … “Zadok the priest” how much more ‘establishment’ than a coronation anthem can you get? Similarly Purcell wrote music that was unabashedly devoted to royalty.If you take away the music that was written for specific political occasions you’re left with a large body of music written by a talented and sensitive cesoompr. Given the focus of this site it’s his religious music and his part songs that I write about. (I’ll post more of his part songs from time to time). Granted his solo songs can be a bit uneven but even they have many worthwhile moments.I’m glad you enjoyed this – it’s always nice to know a fellow Elgarian, not least because it gives me a further reason to post more of his music.Thanks and God bless you and your work.Mark

  6. Jo-Ann Dawson says:

    I’ll be there with a sizable SMM crowd, looking down from on high in the 2nd balcony. I look forward to it with great anticipation. Thank you for sharing the history of this piece and the unfinished trilogy.

  7. Jane McClean says:

    Just as we raised the rafters at Bruce’s memorial service at SMM, we Pax Christi members will be singing our hearts out as a tribute to Bruce and to you, our courageous leader.

  8. Joyce Turman says:

    Stephanie I am so excited to sing this music with you! Even though I was a little doubtful at the beginning, I have learned to trust your impeccable judgement on the choice of music and artists to sing with us. Not surprisingly, I have come to love this music by Elgar, challenging as it is, and I am impressed by your mastery of the piece and preparedness at every rehearsal. It will be a thrill to sing it for you, and especially as a tribute to our wonderful accompanist and musical companion, Bruce, who will be with us in spirit.

  9. Mary Gillmeister says:

    The show was a great tribute to you both – I was deeply moved by the whole thing.

    I remember Juicy telling me this story of the drive to Buffalo, I sang for you in that lovely Pax Christi Gerontius show (is it really 10 years ago!) and I also remember when you first told me about your idea for doing the Kingdom with Roderick Williams as Peter.

    Well, yesterday was a simply wonderful day, and I was so pleased to be able to view it all from my choice seat. Glorious!

  10. Chrystal says:

    Thank you for persevering in your goal of conducting The Kingdom with Pax Christi. It was a joy and privilege to share in performing such beautiful music with you yesterday, particularly in honour of Bruce.

  11. Shawn Brignolio says:

    Sunday’s performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom was the crowning glory of my musical journey thus far. Moving here from Sudbury in 1995 I came to Toronto with literally the clothes on my back and slept on the hardwood floors of my apartment for several months before I could afford a mattress. I was very homesick and very lonely in the big city. In order to meet people, I thought I would join a choir and asked my then voice teacher if she could recommend a choir/music director. She gave me two names; one being Bruce Kirkpatrick Hill. I could have never imagined what that telephone call to him asking if he would like a volunteer tenor would mean in the years to come. Not only did we sing beautiful music, I learnt the importance of marrying hymns, anthems and motets to the liturgy to reinforce God’s message. Bruce was highly intelligent and extremely well-read and and no matter how obscure the topic, Bruce could always offer some insight to the discussion. Through my association with Bruce I met his lovely and talented wife Stephanie and we had the pleasure of many joint musical ventures with Christ Church Deer Park and Calvin, a tour of Newfoundland and several dinner parties chez moi. When Stephanie asked if I would be interested in singing Elgar’s The Kingdom, I jumped at the chance because it was an opportunity to sing for Stephanie again, perform at Koerner Hall, to sing a piece rarely performed in North America and I would see my dear friend Bruce and others from the glory days of CCDP every Monday. Sunday’s performance seemed to encapsulate everything I have experienced in my 17 years in Toronto: the wonderful music making, the fellowship of friends and colleagues, the joys of friends I have met and the sadness of friends I have lost. Thank you, Stephanie, for including me in your journey.

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