Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elizabeth Leif

"Patron of the Arts" is a term long familiar to the creative world at large. The history of music shows that the courts of England, Germany, Austria and Italy supported such composers as Mozart, Handel, Haydn and Monteverdi. These composers were commissioned to write and perform pieces for specific occasions where musicians were hired, choral anthems, operas, chamber music or symphonies were performed all to entertain the court and the common people and, most important, paid for by royalty!

Times have not changed in over 500 years. Today, we in the arts continue to rely on the generosity of people who understand that music, dance and art influence our daily lives. Music soothes our aural and spiritual souls. Art inhabits our visual and spiritual souls. Dance thrills us, leaving our physical and spiritual souls with heightened awareness of the beauty the human body can express.

The price of concert tickets does not cover the expenses for performances so we have billion dollar corporations who donate money to keep symphony orchestras, opera and ballet companies as well as concert venues alive to serve their audiences.

Individual performers often wonder if their creative projects will find a person or a venue who will help fund their expenses. We search far and wide, and then one day someone to whom you have sent your publicity packet actually takes the time to open it, read it, and considers presenting and promoting your creative work. Thus was the story with a beautiful and charming lady by the name of Elizabeth Leif.

In Elizabeth we found a woman whose worldly life and special curiosity led her to read through my publicity packet and decide that this one-woman show about Gena Branscombe must be presented in the Quincy, Massachusetts area. A phone call from Elizabeth to my agent expressing her interest was the beginning of a beautiful and continuing friendship for all of us.

A registered nurse with her initial training from Quincy Hospital, Elizabeth soon found herself living in England for one year's study of mid-wifery. As a specialist in maternal and child health care, she spent three and a half years working in Tanzania. She obtained her Masters degree in Public Health from Yale Medical School and worked for the United Nations in Central America again as a maternal and child health specialist. To round off her career, she worked as a consultant to the National Academy of Pediatrics for Maternal and Child Health helping to set up clinics in high risk areas. What a calling and one where I know she served her patients with the utmost love, respect and care.

What made a registered nurse take a second glance at an unusual publicity packet? Having been President of the Old Stoughton Musical Society and President of the Old Stoughton Historical Society, Elizabeth wrote the first journal of the music society entitled, "The Chorister." This retrospecitve recounts the history of Stoughton and its music society; the oldest continuing performing organization in the United States dating back to the 1700s. In addition Elizabeth researched the history of Stoughton, the birth place of American Freedom.

Our registered nurse and historian knew when she read our packet that this was an important and historical woman composer with close ties to Massachusetts. Elizabeth understood deep down the significance of Gena Branscombe and the mission of the Old Stoughton Musical Society.

Using her own personal funds and ingenuity, Elizabeth produced "Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe." With determination Elizabeth set forth booking a concert hall at Eastern Nazarene College, arranged for the piano, found us housing, provided the necesssary stage furniture and a lighting person. Lydia Wallace, Elizabeth's long time friend and a professional graphic artist, created colorful programs, tickets and flyers. With the help of friends, Elizabeth papered the towns, churches and schools with flyers inviting one and all to attend.

Martin, Elizabeth and I were interviewed on the radio by Canary Burton of WOMR in Provincetown, MA, not far from Quincy! We managed to get the word out about our upcoming performances!

Not a detail was missed and against some seemingly insurmountable odds, Elizabeth gave us the opportunity to perform two Gena shows for the people of Stoughton and Quincy!
What a fun time we had with these lovely and dear women. They gave of themselves emotionally and financially. How blessed we were and are. From this experience we have remained friends and on occasion I call to chat with them. A treasured memory on the path of exposing the world to the life and music of Gena Branscombe.

Thank you Elizabeth and Lydia!

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