It was clear that Kansas City was well-represented in the audience Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. When Charles Bruffy’s name was called as the conductor and nominee in the category of choral performance, a whoop went up from an island of seats.
And moments later Bruffy bounded to the stage as a winner.
Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale, which he has led since 1988, won the award for its 2012 recording “Life & Breath — Choral Works by René Clausen.” The disc was released on the Chandos label and also includes soloists Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill and Pamela Williamson.
“Clearly the gang’s all here,” Bruffy said in a tear-choked turn on the stage. Bruffy gave a shout-out to Kansas City, its patrons and audiences and the “incredible new building built especially for us,” he joked.
“I’m grateful to all of the singers,” Bruffy said, “who are willing to give themselves over to my hand to create such beautiful art.”
Later, by phone, Bruffy reported that he was speechless, but “so proud to call Kansas City our home.” Bruffy also serves as director of the Kansas City Symphony chorus.
The “Life & Breath” disc includes the first recording of Clausen’s “Mass for Double Choir,” which he wrote for the chorale, and a setting of William Blake’s “The Tyger.”
The Grammy award also went to the engineers of the disc and to its producer, Blanton Alspaugh, who won the Grammy’s producer of the year prize. Also in Alspaugh’s portfolio for the award was another Bruffy project, “Gjeilo: Northern Lights,” which featured him in his role as artistic director of the Phoenix Chorale.
“It’s incredible,” Don Loncasty, the Kansas City Chorale’s executive director, said from Los Angeles. “We were up against such huge competition.”
While shmoozing at a nominee reception Saturday night, Loncasty said, Bruffy had pretty much resigned himself to being passed over. But by Sunday afternoon, Bruffy had another Grammy trophy in his hands.
For the first time the Grammys sent out a livestream webcast of its afternoon ceremonies, which featured awards in dozens of categories presumably deemed too unpop-worthy for prime time.
There was a short string of Kansas City-connected categories in the middle of the event. The KC contingent also cheered when Joyce DiDonato’s name was announced as a vocal solo nominee for her “Homecoming” recording with the Kansas City Symphony. Hopes were dashed when Renee Fleming’s name was called as winner instead.
But Eighth Blackbird, a Chicago-based contemporary concert ensemble, landed Grammys for its “Meanwhile” recording. Kansas Citians lay claim to the sextet for the quality time it spent in residence in 2012 on the UMKC campus as the Conservatory of Music’s Barr Laureate Ensemble. The group also performed in concerts in October with the Kansas City Symphony. Eighth Blackbird won best chamber music performance for “Meanwhile,” and the composer of that title piece, Stephen Hartke, a previous UMKC Barr Laureate, won the Grammy for best contemporary classical composition.
Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny, the trailblazing guitarist, hauled down his 20th jazz Grammy for his Unity Band disc. Metheny played a concert on the disc’s tour last fall at the Folly Theater.
And a backdoor nod to Kansas City came with the award for instrumental arrangement, which went to the late Gil Evans. While picking up the award, the producer of the Gil Evans project, Ryan Truesdell, credited his former teacher, the late Kansas City-born jazz trombonist and bandleader Bob Brookmeyer, for leading him down the path to discovering archived and never recorded works by Evans.