Earlier today the funeral of former Branscombe Choral member, Agnes Conway, was held in East Rockaway, New York. She died at the age of 95 on December 31st. I send her daughter, Mary, and extended family my sincerest sympathy for their loss.
When Martin Hennessy and I performed, Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe, at Hofstra University in 2008, Agnes attended the performance.
An ad for our concert appeared in her local newspaper. She ordered tickets for herself and her daughter. Days before seeing the ad, she had been sorting through her possessions trying to decide what to keep and what to throw out. When she came across her Branscombe Choral memorabilia, she chose not to throw any of it away. After making the arrangements to attend our concert and much to our surprise, she gathered her Branscombe Choral pictures, programs, letters and more, cross-stitched book covers, put the items in binders and gave me her treasured possessions.
As I have said frequently in my blog postings about Branscombe Choral items and Gena Branscombe personal letters that come my way, I am astounded by how long the women of the Choral held on to these items. Gena Branscombe was not only charismatic, a fine conductor, a well-rounded teacher of music but also a kind, caring human being who cherished the people with whom she came in contact. In return for Gena’s dedication to the Branscombe Choral, the women singers were loyal members who performed to the highest ability they could muster for their conductor.
In the Fall of 1953 Agnes joined the Branscombe Choral on the suggestion of a friend. She performed the Christmas concert of 1953 at the Broadway Tabernacle Church, the spring 1954 Town Hall concert and the final Branscombe Choral concert of Christmas 1954 again at the church. For fifty four years Agnes preserved her programs, personal letters, pictures and articles about Miss Branscombe.
Since 2008, Agnes and I were friends on Facebook. We occasionally communicated by e-mail. As part of an ongoing project about Miss Branscombe, I asked Agnes to please answer a list of questions about Miss Branscombe, her rehearsal and conducting style, and her own personal experiences singing with the Choral. She graciously and with great detail took the time to type answers to each and every question.
Agnes may be the last Branscombe Choral member to have died. If there are other members alive, they have not found me nor I them. A passing of an era as 63 years has gone by since the Choral’s final concert.
The universal language of music is a mystery, something that words fail to define yet our mind frees our souls to absorb its impact on us. In Agnes’s case, music’s subtle language touched her as a member of a women’s Choral performing with a revered conductor. How lucky she was.