AUBURN – Bruce Gordon McInnes, 85, of Farmington, died on April 15, 2021 at the Androscoggin Hospice House in Auburn.
Born on Feb. 18, 1936 in North Smithfield, R.I. to William and Beatrice (Ellis) McInnes, he spent his early life in Woonsocket. As a youngster, he was recruited for a prestigious position as a choirboy at New York City’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, an experience that would constitute the formation for a life of making music.
Bruce graduated from Burrillville High School and Moses Brown School, after which he matriculated at Dartmouth College from which he received his bachelor’s degree majoring in music and romance languages. Upon his graduation, he was named a Fulbright fellow providing for his study at the Conservatoire de Paris and with the world-renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, as well as with Pierre Cocherau, Olivier Messiaen, and Darius Milhaud. He returned to the United States to earn his master’s in pipe organ studies and choral conducting at Yale University at which he also conducted the Apollo Glee Club.
In 1964, Bruce began a 21-year career at Amherst College where he served as professor of Music, director of Choral Music, College Organist, and, ultimately, as chairman of the Music Department. Especially celebrated for his leadership of the Amherst College Glee Club, he inspired his choirs to achieve international acclaim including on 10 concert tours to 56 countries on five continents. They distinguished themselves through participation in several major international festivals including at Athens, Baalbek, Byblos, Dubrovnik, and Tyre, and at the Casals Festival, Les Heures Musicale du Mont Saint Michel, and the Festival Estival de Paris. His choirs’ moving performances of sacred music, especially of the Renaissance, earned them invitations to perform in some of the world’s most prestigious churches including at St. Peter’s in Rome (during an audience with Pope Paul VI), the Cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris, Monaco (for Princess Grace and Prince Rainier), and Chartres, San Marco in Venice, and the Cathedrals of Vienna, Salzburg, Linz, Budapest, Prague, Trieste, and Byblos. On most of these tours the Amherst College Glee Club was sponsored by the U.S. State Department. In recognition of his transformative teaching, Amherst College awarded Professor McInnes an honorary degree in 1979.
After leaving Amherst College, Professor McInnes became Dean of the School of Music at Pacific University in Oregon. Three years later, he was appointed director of Choral Activities and Professor of Music Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. He then moved to New York City where he served as organist and master of the Choristers at Grace Church, and adjunct professor at Sarah Lawrence College. He also directed the Grace Church Choral Society. In 1999, Professor McInnes became dean of the Conservatory at the Cleveland Institute of Music from which he retired in 2001.
For the past 15 years, Professor McInnes has made his home in Farmington, Maine, where he directed the chorus at the University of Maine at Farmington and the choir at the First Congregational Church. His principal musical commitment over the past 25 years, however, was to Mastersingers USA which he founded and directed. A group of 50-100 singers, Mastersingers comes together magically once a year either for a long weekend reunion in an American city or to go on tour throughout Europe. Given the singers’ previous experience with Professor McInnes, understanding of his high standard and style, and commitment to musical excellence, the group has earned rave reviews across this country and Europe. In 2003, Mastersingers USA was invited to participate in the renowned Eisteddfod Competition in Llangollen, North Wales, at which the group sang the required selection in optional native Welsh winning first place for male choruses and prevailing against choruses from all over the world, and especially from England and Wales.
Throughout his career, Professor McInnes has attracted amateur singers to the challenge and aesthetic sublimation of sophisticated choral music spanning the decades. He has been celebrated both for the dynamism of his leadership drawing these singers to this art form and to their collective enterprise, and for the finished product representative of the best of choral performance. A charismatic, dynamic force, Professor McInnes had a knack for developing a warm choral sound, evocative interpretations, and creating an atmosphere for inspiring camaraderie.
In his complementary work on behalf of the profession, Professor McInnes served on the boards of the Associated Yale Alumni as well as the Intercollegiate Men’s Choruses which he also led as president and from which he received the Marshall Bartholomew Award.
Professor McInnes was predeceased by his parents, his brother William, and 11 beloved Boxer dogs he loved over the years. He is survived by his sister-in-law Marylyn McInnes, two nephews, a niece, and several cousins, as well as hundreds of former students and singers who benefitted from his leadership and friendship.
A private funeral will take place in the Weld Congregational Church on Saturday, 1 May at 2 p.m.; seating is limited. Maine Covid-19 guidelines will be followed. Interment will be at Mountain View Cemetery. A Memorial Service is planned for the fall. Gifts may be made in Professor McInnes’s memory to Mastersingers USA (c/o Matt Burnell, 11 Gramatan Ct., Bronxville, NY 10708 or to the Weld Congregational Church, Weld, ME 04285.
Memories may be shared in his Book of Memories at www.wilesrc.com. Cremation care and memorial services are being cared for and provided by the Wiles Remembrance Center: Adams~McFarlane Chapel, 137 Farmington Falls Road, Farmington.