Community leaders gathered at a local nightclub Monday evening to honor composer and Wesleyan music professor Neely Bruce, recipent of this year's Middletown Arts Commission Arts Advocacy Award.
The reception, hosted by the Shadow Room café and lounge’s owners David Gere and Nick Cacaci, also honored the Mayor’s Ball committees, which for six years have raised funds for city arts organizations.
Bruce, an integral part of Middletown’s musical landscape for over three dozen years, was given a standing ovation by those gathered.
“T.S. Eliot said, ‘April is the cruelest month,’ … but April has been glorious for me,” Bruce began.
“To all of you from all walks of my life — I see people here from so many aspects of my life, I see family, I see friends for the entire 37 years that I’ve been here, I see people from Wesleyan, people from South Church, people in the community at large — thank you so much from the bottom of my heart, it means more than I can say.”
He has served as choral director of the Connecticut Opera, professor of music and American studies at Wesleyan University, co-director of music at South Congregational Church with his late wife Phyllis (who passed away late last year) and leader of Shaped Note Singing sessions.
Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, himself a city arts advocate, then presented proclamations to members of all six of the annual Mayor’s Ball Committees.
“The arts are always underfunded and the best intentions to fund them fully are never fulfilled,” Giuliano said. Among others, the galas have raised money for Middletown High Goes to the Symphony and Oddfellows Playhouse — this year’s recipient.
“It’s pretty much established itself as an event to raise funds for some component of the arts,” Giuliano said.
On Sunday at 2 p.m. at South Congregational Church, 9 Pleasant St., Bruce will give a performance of “Cousins: a Musical,” a libretto by the late Phyllis Bruce, with music by her husband. A free-will offering will be taken in memory of Phyllis, to benefit the organ fund at South Church.