While I had few interactions with Monty during my years at Penn, he always seemed to embody the spirit of Penn.
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“Bruce Eglinton Montgomery, one of America’s leading authorities on Gilbert & Sullivan, died suddenly at his summer home on the coast of Maine on June 21st, 2008. The Chestnut Hill resident had celebrated his 81st birthday the previous day.
Mr. Montgomery, or “Monty” as he was known to many, hailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he directed musical organizations, many of which were dedicated to Gilbert & Sullivan. He was a long-time member of the Orpheus Club, where he was also named an honorary member for his appearances as guest conductor. He was a true renaissance man: painter, poet, composer, lyricist, author, choral arranger and conductor. He also served on the boards of the Theodore H. Presser Foundation and the Edwin B. Garrigues Foundation. A colorful and vibrant man until the very end, he was beloved by the countless performers and audience members whose lives he touched over a long and distinguished career.
Montgomery served as director of the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club for 44 years (1956-2000), writing, directing, choreographing and conducting their shows on many tours around the world. He published a memoir in 2005 entitled Brothers, Sing On!: My Half-Century Around The World With The Penn Glee Club published by University of Pennsylvania Press, relating many of his favorite stories from his tenure as director of the Glee Club, as well as reminiscences about his Gilbert and Sullivan activities. Montgomery served for many years as director and/or music director of Penn’s Mask & Wig Club, the University Band, the Penn Players, and many other musical and theatrical groups at Penn before his retirement in 2000. In 1971 he helped to create the Penn Singers, a student light opera and musical theatre company, and continued to serve as their director until his death.
Montgomery was the Artistic Director of the Gilbert & Sullivan Players of Philadelphia – a group founded by his father, tenor James Montgomery – for over three decades after his father died in 1955. Under his guidance, the group produced over 65 productions. He directed and performed leading comedic roles in each of the 14 Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He then served as stage director for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Chester County, PA from 1987 until 2007. Montgomery’s works have been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and many other performing groups. The music he wrote for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Thespis in the 1950s, for which most of Sullivan’s original score was lost, was produced on several occasions, including the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England in 2000.
After his 1963 Irish folk opera, Spindrift, was performed by the Penn Players, he wrote the music and lyrics for a hit 1964 off-Broadway show, The Amorous Flea, receiving rave reviews in the New York papers as “the greatest melodist since Jerome Kern and the greatest lyricist since Larry Hart.” The show is still performed in regional theater around the globe.
In 2005 Montgomery received an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater, Bethany College, in Lindsborg, Kansas. He was also named “Man of the Year” by the Friars Club of Philadelphia in 2006.
After this long and distinguished career Monty was honored by The University of Pennsylvania, where the studio theater at The Annenberg Center was renamed the “Bruce Montgomery Theatre.” The newly renovated theater was unveiled at a gala celebration on May 10, 2008, marked by live performances of his original compositions. It was the crowning achievement in the life of an amazing and gifted man and was his last public appearance.
Montgomery was looking forward to directing a “Gilbert & Sullivan Entertainment” this autumn in honor of Charles Spencer, the Ninth Lord Spencer, brother to Princess Diana, at a benefit for Studio Incamminati.
Montgomery is survived by an older brother, James Montgomery, two younger sisters, Constance Cook and Elizabeth Thomas, ten nieces and nephews, ten great nieces and nephews, a great-great nephew and a great-great niece.
Burial will be private and a memorial Celebration of Life is planned for early Autumn in Philadelphia. A date will be announced on Monty’s website: http://www.montyart.com/.
In lieu of flowers Monty’s family requests that contributions be made to:
The Glee Club Endowment Fund #402396, c/o Platt Student Performing Arts House, 160 Stouffer Commons, 3702 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. (For further information, phone 215-898-2312). Known as the “150 x 150 Campaign,” this fund was established to honor the Penn Glee Club’s 150 years of continuous operation. Gifts can also be made online here or by going to http://www.makinghistory.upenn.edu/, clicking give now on the right, click I am ready to make my credit card gift, then find the Glee Club Endowed Fund under Cultural Resources & Student Life.”
More on Monty’s website
Watch DT exclusive videos below from the 2007 Alumni Weekend where the Glee Club honored Monty on his 80th birthday!
(l to r): Ryan Levin (CAS, '98) & Nye Warburton (C'97)And here's another example of alumni who knew each other...