Sunday, March 28, 2021

 A new website has been created with current information and pictures.  Thanks to my web designer, Jeff Williams, for all of his creative and hard work plus his patience through delays.

What a wonderful journey,

www.kathleenshimeta.com





#BringingBackBranscombe



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Gena Branscombe Project - Scholarships

For over 20 years, it has been an honor to work on the music and life of composer Gena Branscombe.  The Gena Branscombe Project is announcing their second annual scholarships for an emerging student conductor, composer and arts administrator.  See details below!




The Gena Branscombe Project is proud to announce that applications for the 2021 scholarships will open March 8, 2021, International Women's Day! A scholarship will be awarded to an emerging student composer, conductor, and arts administrator. In addition, this year we will offer a Composer Commission Prize.

Details can be found on our website:


Please pass on this information to your colleagues, friends and students.

#BringingBackBranscombe
 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Lucielle Browning, Mezzo-Soprano

 

“To Miss Lucielle Browning – With all good wishes – of Gena Branscombe”  inscribed on a piece of Gena Branscombe’s sheet music.  Who was Lucielle Browning?  An internet search offered information about Miss Browning.   Lucielle was born Lucielle Raynor Brown on February 19, 1913, in Jacksonville, NC and died on August 8, 2011 in Florida.   


 A number of my blog posts have been about discovering Miss Branscombe’s compositions either on E-bay or Amazon.  On occasion the works found are ones that I own yet I will buy them because they are autographed or inscribed to someone.  On other occasions a piece not in my collection appears for sale and obviously I purchase it.  This blog posting will be about these very reasons for a recent purchase of Gena’s music. 


With friend and poet, Arthur Stringer, the two New York based Canadians collaborated on a patriotic hymn written for the Royal Canadian Navy.  “Our Canada, From Sea to Sea” (When Maples Leaves Turn Red) was published as a solo song and four part choral arrangement in 1939 by Toronto based Gordon V. Thompson, Limited. 

 Yes, a copy of the song was for sale on E-bay which I purchased.  As the seller was about to send me the song, he found another of Gena’s pieces among his collection, “Hail Ye Tyme of Holiedayes.”  I own several copies of that song yet this one was inscribed and autographed.  I purchased it.




When the music arrived I began my research and what came next was an education as I had never heard of Lucielle Browning.  According to her obituary, she received a full scholarship to Juilliard School of Music in 1932 and went on to perform with Sigmund Romberg on the Swift Hour as well as working with Andre Kostelanetz, Paul Whiteman and Wilfred Pelletier.  Her opera debut was in Falstaff with Fritz Reiner conducting the production for the Philadelphia Opera Company. Offered a contract in her final year at Juilliard, Lucielle joined The Metropolitan Opera.  She became a principal mezzo-soprano with the company from 1936-1951 singing over 500 performances of which 75 were Suzuki in Madama Butterfly.  Life after her  years with the Metropolitan Opera included concerts and performing on television. 



How did Miss Browning happen to have Gena Branscombe’s songs with the inscription to her?  Did she perform the two songs on her concerts?  I don’t have the answers to the questions.  Miss Branscombe was a constant self-promoter of her music.  Instructing her publishers to send copies of songs to singers, the publisher encouraged  performances of her songs.  At home Gena kept a small inventory of some of her published songs.  When meeting singers, their accompanists or their managers she would autograph and inscribe them, again in hopes of having a performance of her work. 

Two songs added to my Branscombe sheet music collection and an introduction to mezzo-soprano Lucielle Browning.  One day I do hope to learn even more about Lucielle, her life and career. 


#BringingBackBranscombe

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

GIFT

 

This time of year brings on a flurry of shopping for gifts to be given to children, parents, friends and colleagues.  The expectation of finding the correct item is great and the expectation of what we hope we will receive is even greater.  What a rut we have created for an act that should be from a loving heart.

 

Researching the definition of a “gift” I found numerous meanings.  The most common would be giving or donating of a thing to someone or an organization voluntarily without payment in return. 

 

Next comes the mention of a natural talent which I, of course, think of the gift of music.   In my years of working as a performer, it was my inherent musical gift that I then gave to an audience who would receive my personal message.  That also is a gift. 

 

I have said that discovering the music and life of Gena Branscombe was and continues to be one of the most unexpected, surprising gifts to my musical career.  From recording her songs, to the one-woman show, to putting her forth into the 21st century with a performance of her dramatic oratorio, Pilgrims of Destiny, and the formation of The Gena Branscombe Project not-for-profit is a gift to the world. 

What brought about this blog entry entitled “GIFT?”  Through The Gena Branscombe Project we are offering to singers, pianists and instrumentalists the music of Miss Branscombe.  Performers choose which of her compositions they would like to learn and video record her music to be put on our YouTube channel.  In this process I have offered to coach performers on style, the poets, and where the repertoire fits in her life.  What a joy it has been to share my knowledge with these talented, inquisitive and appreciative musicians. 

 


Via ZOOM, I recently had several sessions with soprano Jessica Zamek who worked on two of Miss Branscombe’s songs.  With passion she invested herself into the songs and will be recording them.  We had in-depth discussions of style, interpretation and more.  Every hour spent together was an education for me and I hope Jessica.  What a musical gift to one another that includes becoming friends.

 

Two weeks ago a surprise gift arrived at my door and I do mean surprise.  In the small padded envelope was the bag pictured below.  Jessica designed the bag and one of her gifted friends created it.  Here was a bag with Gena Branscombe’s picture and her name below each image.  This was the most astonishing, thoughtful and much appreciated gift from a friend and musician. 


Gift giving involves many layers of understanding.  It is not only the physical gift that is important; it is the “gift” of appreciation by people that mingles the two together for the investment in a relationship.  Jessica and I gifted one another our musical talents then created a friendship.  Thank you so much for your beautiful singing and the Gena bag, Jessica.   


#BringingBackBranscombe

 

Saturday, November 28, 2020


With many thanks to Carolyn Sebron for interviewing me for her web series, C'est Sebron.  The twenty two year journey of creating The Gena Branscombe Project from finding Miss Branscombe's music, recording her songs, my one-woman show, the performance of Pilgrims of Destiny, all the people involved and now our scholarship fund are explained.  It's quite the journey and one for which I have great pride.  Thank you, Carolyn.  





 






#BringingBackBranscombe

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Where Are All The Black Female Composers

 

Where are all the black female composers?  A great question we should all consider.   Have we studied the black female composers in music history?  Have they been included in women composer reference books or were they presented at women composer and women in music conferences?  The answer to those questions is no. 

 

A recently published book, “Where Are All the Black Female Composers?: The Ultimate Fun Facts Guide,” written by Nathan Holder with captivating illustrations by Charity Russell, answers the questions.  Mr. Holder is a London based musician and author.  Ms. Russell, originally from Zambia, now resides in Bristol, England.  

 

Written for ages 8-14, the book covers over 150 years of music composed by Black Female Composers.  Four young guides take the reader on a journey introducing each of the composers.  They ask questions, share facts about the composers’ music and lives as well as offering titles of their compositions.  Before you begin reading, scan the QR code in the back of book.  Spotify will play the compositions of these women. 



The reader experiences Florence Price, Errollyn Wallen, Margaret Bonds, Leila Adu, Julia Perry, Shirley Graham Du Bois and more.  These women span the world coming from the United States, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Nigeria, Cuba and Jamaica. 





Black Female Composers long forgotten, ignored or lost  are brought to life in this 21st century book.  Celebrating Black History Month and Women’s History Month will be made easier because we have Nathan Holder’s book that honors the achievements of black female composers. 

 

Where Are All the Black Female Composers? is a gift to the world and to music education for children and adults. 



 


#BringingBackBranscombe

 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Pandemic 1919 - COVID 19


Dating back to 1929 the six degrees of separation theory was first proposed by a Hungarian writer, Frigyes Karinthy.  By 1967 a sociologist tested the theory and proved that an unknown person is connected to someone you know through six other people.  The theory proves how small the world is.

Then, there are experiences where the separation is even smaller, maybe one degree of separation.  Recently it came to me that through one degree of separation I had known of a child who died in the 1918-1919 flu epidemic, the Spanish flu.  Yes, this was a century ago.

Reading Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow’s dissertation on Gena Branscombe, the composer recounted the influenza outbreak and how it tragically affected her family.  Their three year old daughter Betty died of the flu. Reading the description of the family’s illness with Gena caring for her husband and three daughters was heart-wrenching.

Later I had the privilege of meeting Gena Tenney Phenix, Gena Branscombe’s oldest daughter.  There on her living room wall was an oil painting of a little girl.  I inquired as to who she was.  The answer was her sister Betty.  Mrs. Phenix, who was eight years old at the time of her sister’s death, was able to describe in detail how sick her family was except for her mother.  She explained how Betty declined and nothing could prevent her death.  Eighty years after Betty’s death, the experience of losing her sister had left an indelible mark on her heart. 



Whether through six degrees of separation or one degree of separation, our country is ravaged by COVID-19 and all of us will know someone who has had the virus or died from it.  For me the one degree of separation from a century ago and knowing 17 people who have had COVID-19 with three of them dead, makes me realize our individual responsibility for caring for one another and respecting each other’s lives rather than selfishly thinking of our own comforts and rights.