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.”