BRIAN E. JONES, LONG-TIME DIRECTOR OF MUSIC AT TRINITY CHURCH BOSTON
Renowned organist and choir director Brian E. Jones of Concord, whose tenure as Music Director of Trinity Church in the City of Boston spanned two decades, passed away peacefully on November 17, 2023 at Hospice House, in Lincoln. He was 80.
A native of Duxbury, Massachusetts, with New England family roots extending back to the seventeenth century, Brian’s larger-than-life personality and outsized musical gifts were apparent from an early age. He began piano studies at the age of eight and discovered the majesty of the pipe organ soon thereafter. During his first visit to Trinity Church Boston, as an eager ten-year-old, he was said to have exclaimed ‘I want to be the organist here someday!’ Some three decades later, his innocently audacious dream became a reality. Brian assumed his first regular position as an organist at age fourteen, carrying on somewhat of a family tradition: his grandfather was an organist and his great uncle played at the Federated Church in Turner, Maine for sixty-six years.
After earning an undergraduate degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he was greatly influenced by Professor Haskell Thomson, Brian immediately landed a teaching position at Noble and Greenough School, a post he would hold for the next twenty years. Concurrently, he completed the Master of Music program at Boston University. While at Nobles he enthusiastically conducted numerous choral groups and expanded the music program to include the production of a wide variety of musicals. He was much-beloved as a music teacher and developed lifelong friendships with many of his students, some of whom were just a few years his junior. While fulfilling his teaching duties, he was also Director of Music at Wellesley Congregational Church.
Soon after commencing his teaching career, Brian was appointed Music Director of the Dedham Choral Society, a position he held for twenty-seven years. During his tenure, the group exploded in size, from 25 to 150 members. They also expanded their horizons, performing in both Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall.
In 1984, Brian fulfilled his childhood dream when he was appointed Director of Music at Trinity Church Boston. Over the next two decades he developed one of the finest church choirs in the United States, a group that produced five well-received recordings, including the wildly successful Candlelight Carols Christmas CD. The pure tone and warm sound of the singers received numerous accolades. In 1993, Brian expanded the choral program with the addition of the Parish Choir, created to accompany the new 9:00 service. He also helmed two expansive and extremely popular choir tours, regaling churchgoers throughout England and Central Europe. Safe to say, under Brian’s spirited and capable direction, the music program at Trinity experienced a true Golden Age.
In addition to his success as a choral conductor, Brian also enjoyed a robust solo organ career, performing innumerable concerts and dedicatory recitals in churches and cathedrals throughout the United States and England. In addition to his technical prowess, Brian was admired for his wide-ranging and appealing programs; his insightful and amusing comments; and his colorful use of each instrument. ‘I’ve never heard the organ sound like that!’ was a commonly-heard refrain following one of his concerts.
Upon assuming the mantle Emeritus Director of Music and Organist at Trinity Church Boston in 2004, Brian spread his musical wings, accepting nearly a dozen interim music director positions, among them the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Old South Church in Boston; Harvard Memorial Church; Christ Church Cambridge; Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia; Saint Anne’s-in-the-Fields, Lincoln, Massachusetts; and Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester, Massachusetts.
In 2007, a number of Trinity Choir diaspora coalesced to form The Copley Singers, under Brian’s baton. This semi-professional and passionate group of musicians began performing together several times each year, most notably during the holiday season. In addition to appearances throughout New England, they were part of Bermuda’s 400th anniversary celebration in 2009, and in September 2011 represented Massachusetts at the 9/11 tenth anniversary commemorative concerts at Trinity Church Wall Street, in New York City. In April of 2013 they performed at the Boston Prayer Service held in Holy Cross Cathedral following the Marathon bombings, which was attended by President and Mrs. Obama. I Wonder as I Wander, their traditional-yet-tangy Christmas recording, received glowing reviews.
Brian’s passions were legion. Chief among them was a fascination with antique cars. Some twenty-five years ago, ‘Lydia,’ a comely cobalt-blue 1933 Chrysler coupe with sexy silver highlights and an enticing rumble seat, rolled into his life. It was love at first sight. He motored Lydia over hill and dale, exploring most of New England, during which she ‘oogahed’ with reckless abandon, startling many an unsuspecting passerby. Lydia’s oversized headlights have shed silent tears of late.
A small sampling of Brian’s other passions included sailing (with more than his share of mishaps), people, gardening, swimming, yoga, Bermudahhhhh (which he visited approximately thirty times), people, trains, bow ties, songbirds, picking blueberries, people, poetry, good food (House of Siam, anyone?), a good book, proper grammar, and naughty jokes. He was an inveterate Anglophile and truly loved sharing his myriad enthusiasms with others.
Brian embraced life with relish and gusto. He was the ultimate people person and had a joie de vivre that was infectious. He used his magnetic personality in conjunction with the power of music to support and uplift; to touch and deeply connect countless folks over the years, building communities and forging lifelong friendships along the way. He roared like a lion and performed on the King of Instruments. He was fond of declaring that ‘Just one more thing!’ would make a fitting epitaph.
Brian was predeceased by his parents Ernest and Eileen, his brother Tom, and his wife Ann. He leaves his husband, Michael Rocha, with whom he shared the past thirty-five years, as well as two children, Eliza Beaulac and her husband Joe, and Nat Jones and his wife Kiera; four grandchildren, Nick and his wife Sydney, Caroline and her fiancé Gramm, Declan, and Finley; and the latest addition to the family, great-grandson Weston, born in early September. Brian loved his family dearly.
A rip-roaring celebration of Brian’s joyous life is being planned for next spring.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Parkinson’s Foundation, https://www.parkinson.org/.