Twenty years have passed since I began my Gena Project, as I call it. Many of you have read and heard how I discovered her music, my journey through her life, co-authoring and performing a one-woman show, writing articles and giving talks about composer Gena Branscombe.
Through the twenty years there have been countless people who have helped me, encouraged me, contacted me and been cheerleaders for the work I was doing. As I look back, I have been blessed by each of these people, what they have generously given me and for their friendship.
Very few of my Gena people had met one another and in some ways, they were compartmentalized because of their location or expertise. Yet, each day I have been thankful for all of their contributions to my work.
When Dan Ryan, Director of Choral Activities, at Clark University in Worcester, MA, announced he would be performing Gena Branscombe’s oratorio Pilgrims of Destiny on April 27, 2019, I knew that was the day all my Gena people would come together. Following the concert at a reception, I would be able to thank each of them and they would be able to meet one another.
In attendance were Gena Branscombe’s grandsons, Roger Branscombe Phenix and his wife, Joanne, and Morgan Scott Phenix. Gena’s family has been most generous with their time, sharing stories, pictures, newspaper clippings and more. Their thanks for the work I have done warms my heart.
Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow and husband Bill. Laurine met Gena and wrote her dissertation about her music, career and life. Over the years Laurine shared with me her time spent with Gena as she listened to the composer tell her life story. What a friend and generous colleague she has been and will continue to be.
Allison Branscombe and husband Bob Remen. Allison is Gena’s great niece and my writing mentor. Allison makes sure to let me know I must continue writing and get that children’s book finished!
Martin Hennessy and partner, Tom. Martin is my friend and fabulous pianist. Truthfully, without Martin’s encouraging me to record Gena’s songs, the Pilgrims of Destiny concert would probably never have taken place.
Heather Seaton, a friend and champion of Gena’s music. The two of us photographed each and every page of the Pilgrims of Destiny score at the Library of Congress. A dear person!
Linda Johnson and her sister, Carol, who are the great granddaughters of Gena’s publisher, Arthur P. Schmidt. Linda found me on the internet and contacted me to recount her family’s story with Mr. Schmidt. Someday soon, Linda and I will meet at the Library of Congress to look over the Schmidt Company business papers.
George Boziwick and his wife, Stephanie. George, now retired, was head of the American Music Collection and Special Collections at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In the early days of my Gena Project, George listened as I explained all I wanted to do. He gave me solid advice and over the years we would see one another as I made another trip to the library to look through Gena’s collection. George’s encouragement was instrumental in my getting started on Gena’s life and music.
Dan Ryan, conductor of that evening’s concert. What a wise man, a good conductor and friend. It has been a pleasure working with someone determined to present a piece of music composed by a woman. He understood the historical importance of Pilgrims and will continue to put forth Gena’s music. You have made my twenty years’ dream of having this work performed….a dream come true. Thank you.
Charles Peterson – my voice teacher from far longer ago than 20 years. All those years ago he tapped me on the shoulder and invited me to study voice with him. Several years later, he opened his studio door encouraging me to find my place in the music world. I did!
Dan Holland – my husband of 33+ years and champion of the work I have done. Thank you for comprehending what a project this was going to be, what it was and where it will go in the future.
And, to all my other dear friends and neighbors who traveled to attend the concert, thank you.
A weekend filled with real people, real Gena Branscombe people. The conversation flowed, friendships were renewed, friendships were made and a dream came true. Thank you all. May Gena’s music live on in the 21st century.