Neely Bruce, left, and Steve Collins
BRISTOL – Wesleyan composer Neely Bruce will lead a performance of his "The Bill of Rights: Ten Amendments in Eight Motets" in Bristol as a benefit concert for longtime journalist Steve Collins.
The April 17 concert at Prospect United Methodist Church will feature a choir of local and regional singers backed by an instrumental ensemble. Organizers are seeking singers, sponsors and program advertisers.
Bruce said he wrote the piece “in the style of William Billings, America's first great composer and a contemporary of the Founders.”
“The music I have written is tuneful and memorable. I already know that if you sing it you will become more and more aware of the Bill of Rights, and the condition is ongoing, perhaps permanent,” he said.
“If you sing a text, especially when you are young, you will remember it for life,” Bruce said.
Bruce said he wanted to do the free-will offering concert in Bristol because of the First Amendment tie-in to Collins’ resignation from The Bristol Press to protest unethical conduct by the paper’s editor and publisher.
Collins quit in December after 22 years covering government and politics for the local daily. He is now freelancing for CT News Junkie, an online news site, and recently wrote an e-book on what a Donald Trump presidency might be like.
Bruce said he decided to set the First Amendment to music after reading a 2004 Knight Foundation study that found half the nation’s youth had no problem with the government censoring news.
“The magnificent rhythms of the text were so captivating, and so much fun to set to music, that I decided to set the entire Bill of Rights” to music, he said.
His goal, he said, “is to have every singer in the United States sing this piece. I've got a long way to go, but the performance in Bristol will be Number 24. One step at a time.”
The concert at the 99 Summer St. church on Federal Hill will be Sunday, April 17 at 4 p.m., with a reception to follow.
Those interested in singing with the chorus, advertising in the program book, becoming a sponsor or otherwise helping with the event should contact Jackie Majerus-Collins at (860) 523-9632 or email BillOfRightsBristol@gmail.com.