Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Finding the few surviving Branscombe Choral members as well as my acquiring the two Branscombe Choral scrapbooks has been a joy. Those dear books, one dated from 1934-1944 and the other 1944-1954, have been in my possession for over four years.

I have gone through the yellowed pages of programs, letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, reviews, meeting agendas, mailing lists, and pictures all lovingly scotch-taped onto the pages of the scrapbooks. Branscombe Choral member Emma Davidson was the creator, keeper and conservator. The Davidson family lovingly protected the books through three generations until they came to me.

These scrapbooks are filled with memories of a women's chorus created 76 years ago, then disbanded 56 years ago. A piece of history that impacted the musical life of New York City and the lives of the members who adored their conductor and leader. Touching the fragile pages one can nearly feel the vibrancy of life for those 20 years the chorus rehearsed and performed.

When I received the scrapbooks, I called Mrs. Gena Tenney Phenix, Gena Branscombe’s daughter, and her two sons to tell them I had been given the scrapbooks and thought they as a family should decide where the scrapbooks would finally reside. A few days later I was told that when I finished using the scrapbooks they should be added to the Gena Branscombe collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

On my website, http://www.kathleenshimeta.com, is a complete list of Branscombe Choral members from 1934-1954. Twenty years of members! As I worked on that list and all those names, many of whom sang with the Choral for 15, 18 or 20 years, I felt as if they became my friends.

Today is the day I took the scrapbooks to the Library, gave them to George Boziwick, Chief of the Music Division, and Jonathan Hiam, Curator of American Music Collections, where they will now reside with Gena’s collection of original manuscripts and published works.