By Rita Christopher / Zip06.com â¢ 12/01/2021 8:30 AM EST
Steve Bruce has been doing the same over Christmas for the past 25 years. It goes beyond the obvious: decorating the tree, opening gifts, enjoying a festive meal. For the past quarter century, Steve has conducted the Con Brio Choral Society’s annual Christmas concert, this year on Friday, December 10 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 12 at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church in Old Lyme. .
It is the 25th anniversary of the founding of the singing group and no one else has ever been the main conductor of Con Brio.
Steve has also conducted a variety of other vocal ensembles, including college and church groups. Additionally, Steve plays electric bass with the New Horizons Band at Centerbrook Community Music School.
For the holiday concert, Con Brio will present the favorite pieces he has performed in his 25-year history. The program will include three Glorias that represent three different eras of musical composition: the 17th century Baroque by Bach, a 19th century interpretation by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini and a Gloria by contemporary British composer John Rutter.
Bach’s selection comes from the composer’s Mass in B minor, which Steve describes as “one of the greatest musical pieces in Western canon”. The performance includes not only the singers of Con Brio, but also an orchestra.
Rossini, Steve points out, is best known for his operas, of which he wrote 39. Unsurprisingly, Steve describes his Gloria as more lyrical.
âIt exudes drama; it’s an exciting piece, âhe says.
Steve says Rutter, whose works Con Brio once performed, has been very popular with his audiences.
In addition to the Glorias, the concert will include two pieces that Con Brio sang during his first concert in December 1997, the “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” and “Hodie Christus Natus Est. “
In addition, the concert also includes familiar Christmas carols with audience participation.
Con Brio’s debut was in the local summer choral program, Summer Sings. Steve led one of the summer sessions and a number of attendees wanted to form an auditioned choir that would sing for the rest of the year. Steve was invited to direct it.
Vocal training, according to Steve, is not necessary for those who wish to audition for Con Brio, but the experience of choral singing is extremely useful.
âThere is magic in choral music. People sing who wouldn’t want to sing alone, âhe says.
Despite the focus on the Con Brio choir favorites for the upcoming concert, the very first piece of the concert is something completely new, a first of a composition Con Brio commissioned from William Thomas, director of the ministries of music to Christ the King and associated with the retreat. musical director at Goodspeed.
Thomas’ piece is instrumental, not choral. It will be performed by brass and timpani while the choir, as is tradition, will march from the back of the church to the risers at the front. Steve says Con Brio’s entrance is timed to accommodate the about two minutes Thomas’ piece will take.
Thomas wrote this music during the 2020 election campaign. He says the composition takes into account the divisions that persist within the country.
âIt’s not about red or blue, but it’s a hectic time,â he says. âSome of the music is quite dissonant, but freedom triumphs. The American heart longs for freedom. It is a fanfare for freedom.
Steve attributes his interest in choral music and choral conducting to middle and high school teachers in Greenwich, where he grew up. He majored in music at Davidson College, and he was also at ROTC, so after graduation he entered the military. He applied for a position where he could use his musical training. Nonetheless, he was sent to Germany as the head of supply management.
He left the military after three years with the rank of captain and received a doctorate in music from the University of Oregon. He taught at the college for three years before deciding on another career path.
Steve completed an MBA program at New York University designed for people with advanced degrees in the humanities. He got a job at Bloomingdale’s, but decided it wasn’t a good choice. He was in the office of an NYU career counselor when he received a phone call about recruiting. The appellant asked the counselor to “send one of these businessmen”. Steve remembers what happened next: âI jumped on the subway. Two weeks later, I was working at SCM.
Much of Steve’s professional career has been in writing and editing, part with his own company where he wrote a daily human resources newsletter that had some 250,000 subscribers.
âWorking full time, especially for a daily newsletter, is relentless,â he says.
Incessant either. Three years ago Steve retired. He and his wife Abby, who he met on a summer music program while in high school, considered moving to Asheville, North Carolina. But Steve, who had both sail and motor boats, decided not to.
“Too far from the water,” he concluded.
Con Brio 25th anniversary concert
Con Brio is hosting performances of its 25th anniversary concert on Friday, December 10 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 12 at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church, 1 McCurdy Road, Old Lyme. For tickets, call 860-526-5399 or visit conbrio.org. Masks and proof of vaccination compulsory.