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Campus Mourns Professor Philip Brett

UC Riverside Says Fond Farewell to Noted Musicologist, Philip Brett

(October 21, 2002)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Oct. 16, 2002 -- Philip Brett, a respected member of the UC Riverside faculty for 10 years, died Wednesday (10/16) of cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 64.

Brett was one of the world’s leading authorities on music of the Elizabethan period, and particularly the work of the 16th century composer William Byrd. He was also a noted authority on the 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten. In his studies, research and writing, Brett was the first to deal forthrightly with Britten’s homosexuality and its reflection in Britten’s music, as well as the broader issue of homosexuality among noted classical composers in general.

In 1991, Brett was nominated for a Grammy Award for the Harmonia Mundi recording of Handel’s oratorio “Susanna,” with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus.

Brett, an accomplished keyboard player, studied under the famed musicologist, conductor and harpsichordist Thurston Dart at King College at Cambridge, England, where he received his Ph.D. in Music. Brett taught at Cambridge University, and then spent 25 years teaching music at UC Berkeley, where he eventually became chair of the music department. The San Jose Mercury News described him as “a prime musical asset” in the Bay Area at the time he left Berkeley. He made his personal life public when he came to UC Riverside to be with his partner, George Haggerty, a professor of English at UC Riverside.
Brett told a reporter that he wanted to be a role model. “I had no role models growing up in Britain,” he said. “I’d have welcomed an example like me.”

He was chair of the music department at UC Riverside until 2000, when he was appointed as associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, contributing invaluable expertise and leadership in the construction and opening of the new Arts building.

In addition to the Grammy nomination, he was honored with a Noah Greenberg Award for his production of Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” and Peri’s “Eurydice.” In 2000, he was named the Distinguished Humanist Achievement Lecturer by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society. He left UC Riverside to take a faculty position at UCLA in 2001, but he continued a strong relationship with the UC Riverside campus.

Patricia O’Brien, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said Brett will be missed tremendously within the college. “He brought rare insight, intelligence, grace, and warmth to everyone he encountered and all he touched,” she said.

Brett will be cremated and friends plan a small memorial service. A larger memorial concert at UC Riverside is still in the planning stages.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Philip Brett Award in Lesbian and Gay Musicology, which is sponsored by the LGBT Caucus of the American Musicological Society.
Checks can be mailed to the following address:
American Musicological Society, Inc.
201 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6313

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