PROVIDENCE — Bramwell Tovey, who led the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School as principal conductor and artistic director and brought many classic works to life on the local stage for several years, died Tuesday at his home Barrington after a three-year battle with a rare form of cancer, the orchestra announced on Wednesday.
Tovey, born in East London, was 69.
Tovey, the orchestra said, first conducted with the Rhode Island Philharmonic in October 2016. Two years later, Tovey took over from longtime conductor Larry Rachleff and became principal conductor and appointed artistic director.
In addition to helping new musicians make their debut with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Tovey, the orchestra said, has strengthened collaboration between the orchestra and the school. He featured the Youth Orchestra side-by-side with the main orchestra for a special concert and invited students from the music school’s Victoria’s Dream Project to perform at last year’s gala, said the ‘orchestra.
Orchestra chief executive David Beauchesne said in a statement Wednesday that Tovey’s death is a “profound loss” both to the organization and the community, as well as to musicians and audiences around the world. .
“We are all heartbroken,” Beauchesne said. “Bramwell Tovey was a dear friend and colleague, and a person of uncommon ability, warmth, humour, sincerity and kindness. Youngest student and guest artist the most revered have received the same level of care and attention.
The orchestra said Tovey was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma in May 2019 and underwent surgery in June 2021 which left him “briefly” cancer-free. Unfortunately, the cancer returned in January and Tovey was “ultimately unable to recover,” the orchestra said.
The orchestra said Tania Miller had agreed before Tovey’s death to step in as interim principal conductor and will conduct three concerts during the orchestra’s 2022-23 season. Next season will be dedicated to Tovey’s memory, the orchestra said.
Additionally, a memorial fund in Tovey’s name will be established to support the music school. Details on the contribution to the new fund will come at a later date, the orchestra said.
James Bessette is PBN’s Special Projects Editor and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You can reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.
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