Christopher M. Brown, 60

Christopher M. Brown (Suzanne Sheridan photo)

Christopher M. Brown (Suzanne Sheridan photo)

Christopher M. Brown, one of the founders of the Acoustic Wilton musical group, died Sept. 24 following a boating accident on Candlewood Lake. He was 60 years old and lived in New Fairfield.

Mr. Brown trained for a career as a classical and jazz musician and worked as both a musician and sound recording engineer. He maintained a recording studio in Bethel. He produced and engineered more than 50 live albums, and served as recording editor on Paul Winter’s Grammy Award-winning Prayer for the Wild Things, recorded live at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.

Mr. Brown also worked on Acoustic Wilton’s two CDs, The Relay Sessions, released in 2009, and Play It Forward, released in 2011. As a musician, playing trumpet, flugelhorn and bass, he also performed with the group at their concerts.

Upon learning of Mr. Brown’s death, the group posted the following on its Facebook page: “We are simply at a loss for words and music to describe how profoundly sad we are. Chris’ work has touched the lives of so many people in our community. His vision and passion from the very beginning of the Acoustic Wilton project helped mentor student and adult singer/songwriter/musicians — in the studio, on and off stage — and helped create the opportunity for Acoustic Wilton to raise close to $100,000 over the past six years for the Wilton Education Foundation, American Cancer Society, the Wilton Library Association, Kids Against Hunger, Circle of Care, The Wilton Playshop and other deserving organizations. His creative impact and simple humanity will be with us for the rest of our lives.”

Scott Weber, founder of Acoustic Wilton, said, “Chris was one of the original architects of Acoustic Wilton. I am privileged to have worked with him over the past seven years and am so grateful for the work that he did with the adult and student singer/songwriter/musicians in our community. He was a great friend and inspiration and has left a wonderful legacy.”

One of those students, Cole Smith, a violinist and now a freshman at Davidson College, was a member of Acoustic Wilton throughout his four years at Wilton High School.

Working with Mr. Brown, he said, “I gained an insight into a different element of music making. As musicians, we played on stage. Chris’ job was more crucial.” As sound manager, “he made sure our performances reached the audience in the best possible way … he allowed a strong discourse between the audience and the performers. I’ll never forget that skill. … We can all credit him with a connection with the audience that can only be achieved through excellent sound production.”

Mr. Smith said he and Mr. Brown shared a love of improvisation. “We forged quite a strong friendship,” he said. “I remember going to his house and playing along with a recorded version of Minor Swing that we were to perform. His jazz background and my bluegrass style convergeinto a groovy interpretation of the piece. I learned musical styles are not exclusive. Good music is not necessarily what is universally liked but what sounds good to us as musicians.

“I learned quite a bit musically, and that’s forever changed me.”

A video of Mr. Smith on violin and Mr. Brown on trumpet playing Minor Swing:

Many friends of Mr. Brown reflected first on his talent and then on his sense of humanity.

Singer Jeanette Osborne said, “He encouraged me to trust my gift, my singing voice and always motivated me at times when I felt lacking in belief.

“The thing that still resonates with me after Chris’s passing is the sweetness of his heart. I feel it through everything else. It feels like the Earth has lost a sweet soul.”

Rozanne Gates and Suzanne Sheridan of Westport collaborated often with him. Ms. Gates is a writer and does lighting for musical events at the Voices Café at the Unitarian Church in Westport, where Mr. Brown oversaw the sound.

“He touched so many lives and helped so many people with their projects,” she said. “He is irreplaceable … he was a master and artist at what he did.”

Ms. Gates said he was instrumental in establishing the Voices Café and “almost singlehandedly created the jazz series at Pizzeria Laurentano” in Bethel.

Ms. Sheridan is a singer and Mr. Brown mastered a live album recorded during a concert she did in tribute to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. “It was such a joy to work with him,” Ms. Sheridan said.

“He never stopped learning and never stopped growing. He was brilliant at what he did. … It’s like we’ve lost a wing of a library.”

Gordon Titcomb of Litchfield County has been a studio musician for more than 30 years, working with the likes of Paul Simon and Arlo Guthrie. Of Mr. Brown he said, “Chris had an amazing attribute as both an engineer and producer. His technical skills were flawless, as a musician his ears were flawless. He had the ability to draw out of you even more than you knew you had. He would encourage you. You’d see him smile, he was just so warm and easy to work with in the studio. He brought out the best in you.”

Mr. Titcomb likened the atmosphere of a sound studio to a taxi where “the meter is always running,” but despite that, Mr. Brown “had a really good way of making you so comfortable to pull out the right part of the piece, and being a musician he knew the right part when he heard it.

“He had both of those in spades. But the biggest thing is he was just the sweetest, nicest, smartest guy.”

Mr. Brown leaves two sons, Carter and Gordon; two sisters, Phoebe and Susan; and a brother, Peter.

Those who knew him are invited to a celebration of his life on Sunday, Oct. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Church in Westport.

—Jeannette Ross

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  • Rozanne Gates

    Thank you, Jeanette, for writing such a wonderful piece on our friend, Chris.

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