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Bruce Boyce (London, Ontariomarker, 1910 – 11 May 1996) was a prominent Canadianmarker baritone singer of opera, oratorio and lieder, who made his post-war career in Britain and became a professor at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker.

Early career

Born, John Bruce McClaren in London, Ontario, the American baritone, Bruce Boyce was the son of a Canadian veterinary surgeon. His father was not musical, but his mother sang and gave him early encouragement. At a young age his family moved to Superior, Nebraskamarker, in the mid-west of the United States, where his singing came to the attention of a teacher interested in drama. He left school at 17 and went to Californiamarker to seek his fortune, working on the harvest and at odd jobs. He began saving in order to study at Cornell Universitymarker, where he began as a medical student; but after some time, while working at all-night car-washing where he sang to himself for pleasure, he transferred to an arts course to study language and music. Becoming aware of his fine baritone voice, he joined the Cornell Glee Club, and was soon distinguishing himself as a soloist in university recitals. In his last year he was invited to sing at the White Housemarker, entertaining presidential guests after dinner. During vacations he sang in a professional quartet at a mountain resort. His success at Cornell led to his membership in the Quill and Dagger society.

In 1934 he won a scholarship to study abroad, and in the prevailing political climate of Germany and Italy decided to study in England, in London, with Reinhold von Warlich (also a teacher of John Goss and Pierre Bernac). Here he was introduced to lieder singing, and began to make this his principal forte. His first London recital was at the Grotrian Hall in 1936, after which he gave recitals every year and made many appearances in oratorio and broadcast. He also gave recitals at the Town Hall, New York, in 1937 and 1938, and was there when Britain declared war in 1939. He remained in the USA, and when the USA entered the war he joined the American Army Air Force. He spent the last years of the war as a member of the US Air Transport Headquarters. There was little singing done at this time.

Career recommenced

On demobilisation, Boyce decided to base his home and career in London and began with two recitals at the Wigmore Hallmarker in 1946, after which he was soon re-established as a recitalist and oratorio singer. In 1947 he accepted the invitation to take part in the Italian opera season at the Cambridge Theatremarker. The venture collapsed, but not before he had distinguished himself as Don Giovanni (40 performances), as Monterone in Rigoletto and as Marcel in La bohème. Then for several years his career widened to include a greater operatic base. he sang the Count in Marriage of Figaro under Erich Kleiber at the Royal Opera Housemarker; he was connected with the English Opera Group; he sang operatic roles on the continent of Europe, and he gave performances with the London Opera Club. He also continued in oratorio, most notably in the St Matthew Passion, and appeared in English music such as the Sea Symphony of Vaughan Williams.

At the same time he made a strong impression in recordings, especially in the successful Thomas Beecham recordings of Delius (A Mass of Life, 1953, and Sea Drift, 1954). He took part in recordings of Purcell's Birthday Ode for the Queen and Monteverdi Vespers (Oiseau-Lyre), the J S Bach B Minor Mass (Enescu, with Kathleen Ferrier, Peter Pears, Norman Walker, etc), the Lully Miserere, and Handel's Apollo e Dafne. However, increasingly it was as a lieder singer that he built the highest levels of his reputation. His lieder recitals were noted for their strong and intelligent construction and choice of material, and his singing of the songs for their roundness and firmness of tone, the flexibility and nuance of expression, and sureness of touch in exploring mood, capable of exploring the full emotional range of Schubert's works. Gerald Moore was sometimes his accompanist, who referred to him as 'that immaculate artist', and tells us that he was a large, tall man. Moore noted, Boyce 'is recognised in Germany today as echt deutsch with his superb enunciation and his knowledge of the literature.' He recorded recitals of lieder (three albums, of Schubert, Brahms, and Hugo Wolf) for Oiseau-Lyre. He also maintained a strong affection for British composers, notably Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, John Ireland and Ivor Gurney, in addition to Delius.

He became a professor at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker in 1956.

Bruce Boyce died on 11 May 1996 at Bishop Auckland, Co Durham, England.

References

  1. Moore, Am I too loud? (Harmondsworth 1966, 107.)


Sources

  • D. Brook, Singers of Today (Revd. Edn., Rockliff, London 1958), 33-37.
  • G. Moore, Am I too Loud? (Harmondsworth 1966).



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