OBITUARY

Dr. Bruce Prince-Joseph

August 30, 1925April 25, 2015
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Dr. Bruce Prince-Joseph, 89 of Kansas City, MO passed away peacefully Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the comfort of his home in the embrace of close friends. Bruce was born in Beaver Falls, PA, son of Lebanese immigrants Adele Prince Joseph and Hanna (John) Joseph. He moved to the Valentine area of Kansas City as a child. He became interested in music while attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the pipe organ quickly became his life’s passion. By his early teens, he gave his first organ recital at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. He attended the Norman School and Westport High School, graduating in 1942. After a year of working and saving money, he followed his dream to New York where he began studying with Pietro Yon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Within the first year of his studies, Bruce was hired as Chancel Organist there. He then began work in the undergraduate organ program at Yale, studying organ with Frank Bozyan and composition with Paul Hindemith. After graduation, he headed to California where he enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Southern California. During that time, he became Music Director of St. John the Evangelist in LA. He also befriended Roger Wagner and helped to found the Roger Wagner Chorale. When he completed his graduate studies, Bruce was granted a Fulbright Fellowship to travel Europe, studying pipe organs damaged during World War II and noting their restoration. While there, he was the assistant of Norbert Dufourcq at the Paris Conservatoire. He attended the Sorbonne, performed with Maurice Duruflé, was invited to play for Pope Pius XII at the Vatican, and was a guest upon invitation of the Queen Mother at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1953, Bruce returned to New York, securing work on the faculty at Hunter College of the City University of New York, eventually becoming Music Department Chair. In that same year, he was hired as both organist and harpsichordist for the New York Philharmonic. Three years later, Leonard Bernstein took over as conductor, leading to nearly twenty years of collaboration between the two. In 1963, after the completion of the Lincoln Center hall, now named Avery Fisher Hall, the new 98 rank Aeolian-Skinner organ was completed under the specifications of Bruce and Virgil Fox, celebrated organist of New York’s Riverside Church.

During the 50s, Bruce recorded several solo albums for organ and harpsichord. In 1965, he was nominated for a Grammy for a recording with Erick Friedman of Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord. He collaborated with his former teacher, Paul Hindemith, and also with Igor Stravinsky, whom he had met in Los Angeles while performing some of Stravinsky’s music.

After leaving New York, he moved to Nashville, TN where he pursued his interest in restoring old pianos. He rehabilitated the square grand pianos at both the Belle Meade Mansion Museum and the Traveller’s Rest Museum. In Kansas City, those same skills were used in rebuilding pianos at the John Wornall House, the Alexander Major House, the Simpson House, and Prairie Park, the country home of Mr. and Mrs. Whitney Kerr.

After his return to Kansas City, Bruce returned to the place that started it all, St. Mary’s Church, 1307 Holmes. The church was declining and in major disrepair. Bruce began work on rebuilding and expanding the organ, as well as relocating the “Bells of Peace” carillon there. This carillon was originally given to the World War I Liberty Memorial in 1965. As Music Director at St. Mary’s, he nurtured and supported numerous organizations including the Fine Arts Chorale and newEar contemporary chamber ensemble. After his work at St. Mary’s came to a close, he spent some time working on a new organ project at St. Therese Little Flower at 58th and Euclid. As a result of a renovation at St. Mary’s, the carillon was removed and given to St. Therese where it was installed and brought back to service.

Bruce had the opportunity throughout his career to work and record with such well-known conductors and composers as Ansermet, Bernstein, Bohm, Boulez, Cantelli, Copland, Fiedler, Hindemith, Kostelanetz, Krips, Kubelik, Maazel, Menuhin, Metropoulos, Monteux, Oistrakh, Previtali, Sargent, Schippers, Shaw, Solti, Steinberg, Stokowski, Stravinsky, Szell, Wallenstein and Bruno Walter. Among many awards and citations, his most prized were the Bishop’s Shield for service to the Episcopal Diocese of Western Missouri - 1993, and the “Kansas Citian of the Year” given by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas City – 1999.

A Solemn Requiem is planned for Saturday afternoon, July 11th at 3:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, 1307 Holmes, Kansas City, MO. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Guild of Organists by sending a check to: AGO New Organist Fund, Bruce Prince-Joseph Scholarship, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1260, New York, NY 10115. Contribute online at https://www.agohq.org/contribute. Arrangements by: McGilley Midtown Chapel, 20 W. Linwood Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri 64111, (816)-753-6200

Services

  • Funeral Service Saturday, July 11, 2015
REMEMBERING

Dr. Bruce Prince-Joseph

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March 11, 2016

Sorry to hear about the passing of my cousin bruce. we were not notified of his death and just found out. His family here in beaver county pa were saddened by the news. May he rest in peace.

Donald P. Joseph

Martin Amsel

July 11, 2015

"Bruce became a dear friend when he was one of my first professors at Hunter College. We remained in touch all through the years. When he moved up to Scarborough from NYC, he coincidentally became a neighbor. One of my greatest memories of Bruce was when he accompanied me in a performance of a Brahms clarinet sonata. What a thrill! He will be missed. Requiescat in pacem, my friend." Martin Amsel

Bob Hansmann

July 11, 2015

I first met Bruce when he studied guitar under me in N.Y. What began as a guitar student/teacher relationship in the early '70s blossomed into a lifelong and most dear friendship.

I miss him dearly, and am thankful for each and every moment spent together and conversation shared. I am grateful for his long and blessed life, and for his peaceful exit from that life well spent.

He was a most wonderful musician, gentleman, and beloved friend of heart.

Jeffrey Hon

July 4, 2015

My life has been forever changed by my dear friend, Bruce. Over the past 25 plus years, we have collaborated on so many levels: from performing, to building organs, to moving instruments, to relocating and resurrecting the great Bells of Peace Carillon, to repairs on his historic home. He has been such an inspiration to me, not only teaching me how to be a good musician, but how to be a good person, as well. His passing has left an unimaginable void in my soul, but with each passing day as I am reminded of Bruce, I thank God for allowing me to be influenced by such a great man. For me, he became not only a dear friend, but a member of my family. I will miss him more than mere words can express.

On a more formal note, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the outpouring of love and support over the past several months of countless friends and colleagues of Bruce's. It has meant a great deal during this difficult time. Many thanks to you all!

May 23, 2015

The Westport Historical Society was one of the many historical organizations that Dr. Prince-Joseph advised about their antique keyboard instruments. We extend our condolences to his family and friends. We at the Harris-Kearney House at 40th and Baltimore will miss him very much.

Beverly Shaw

May 15, 2015

Bruce was a very good friend. We will miss him very much. Carlene and Jim Neihart

Floyd Gingrich

May 14, 2015

I noticed some penciled performance notes on a piece of music by Pietro Yon; Bruce told me that the composer had written those notes during a lesson.

Diane Capps

May 11, 2015

Dr. Prince-Joseph was such a sweet, gentle soul! I thoroughly enjoyed listeing to him play the organ. His passing is a great loss to our community.
Diane Capps KCMO

Reggie Watkins

May 6, 2015

I shall always hold dear to my heart the encouragement that Bruce Prince-Joseph bestowed on me in my life. His guidance on the organ will forever be with me.God bless Dr.B J's precious soul and I shall see him on the other side , amen.

Betty Bauer

May 6, 2015

Can't think of a sweeter more likeable fellow than Dr. Prince-Joseph! Even though his knowledge and accomplishments were vast and deep, he always had time for common courtesy and genuine interest in folks.