Follow my journey of discovery. Meet Gena Branscombe, composer, conductor, mother of four, and leader of women. A woman composer 100 years ago whose musical works and life transcend time.
Friday, October 22, 2010
There is no need to tally up the years one has had a dedicated friend as the number is meaningless, the quality of friendship, a blessing in one’s life and, ….well, priceless, to quote an advertisement. Thus it is with my treasured friend Julie TeSlaa.
We met while Julie was in Junior High School and I was in college. It’s frightening to say that I was Julie’s voice teacher….what did I know about vocal technique in those years? Oh, dear me…..next to nothing. Still, Julie and I became fast friends.
She was introduced to opera when I took her to hear/see the Metropolitan Opera during their Spring tour in Minneapolis. She heard art song recitals by the great singers when they also came to Minneapolis. She was a sponge taking it all in.
As for Julie as a singer, with a 1000 watt smile, her sweet voice comes with the heart and soul of a performer. Standing a mere 4’10” she had the ability to draw you into her world of a song touching the audience’s soul.
So time marches on and so does our friendship. Julie, ever the true friend, has traveled to visit me in Cincinnati and New York. Without hesitation she used New York City’s public transportation and she loves every minute she has spent here. Hooked on New York is Julie!
She has two beautiful adult children though she never has or ever will look old enough to have had children! How can someone continue to look so youthful and now be a grandmother?
Previous postings on my blog are about Gena Branscombe and the supportive people surrounding me as I developed my project. So now it is time to talk about Julie, her husband, Orlin, and their help as well as dedication to my CD and one-woman show.
Stated in the booklet included with my CD is a paragraph thanking the people who helped me. Listed first are Julie and Orlin. These two cherished friends blew wind into the sails of my Gena Branscombe journey and without them I doubt Martin and I would have made the progress we did. It may sound dramatic yet it is true.
When I first shared with Julie my intentions of making a recording, her response was, “What can we do to help?” Speechless, yes, me speechless, I did not know how to respond. Shortly thereafter, Julie and Orlin sent financial help that covered the cost of recording and editing sessions. To say the least, I was thankful and finding the continuing words to say “Thank You” was difficult.
Their support is more than just money. It found deeper meaning in the many years of our friendship, the connection that music is what first brought us together and music continues to connect us so deep in our souls, plus their open-hearted, selfless gift of themselves. They have continued to be generous and supportive, always cheering me on every time there is a radio interview where my CD is given air time, or when we book yet another performance of “Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe.”
Just when I need a pick-me-up, there is Julie on the phone checking to see how the Gena project is going. Ever sympathetic and understanding, she reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for……sincerely good and cherished friends, performing music of a woman composer whose heartfelt compositions speak to me and thus I can give that to the audience and, I have made a difference in the music world at large.
Trite as the words, “thank you for all you have done for me” may sound, they will have to suffice for you know that you deeply touch my heart.
Kathleen Shimeta, actor and singer, has devoted time to discovering and recording works from the rich repertoire of American composer Gena Branscombe (1881-1977). “Ah, Love I Shall Find Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe,” available on Albany Records, is a collaboration of the singer with accompanist Martin Hennessy. Kathleen’s one-woman show, “Life, Love, Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe,” showcases fifteen of Miss Branscombe’s elegantly lyric songs with a vivid first-person dialogue.
Recent performances include the Library of Congress in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the MacDowell Colony, the University of Maryland, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA, the National Gallery of Art, Women in the Arts Conference, St. Louis, Hofstra University, Festival of Women in the Arts, Elmira, NY, Festival of Women Composers of Hartford in Hartford, CT and at Texas A&M University.
Ms. Shimeta was selected to participate in renowned photographer Steffen Thalemann’s exhibit, “Outside the Box” based on the life of Albert Einstein. The exhibit focuses on portraits of known and unknown personalities: people who have left their mark on society with innovative thinking.