Friday, February 28, 2014

Honoring Women during Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I have been posting pictures and biographical information about African American women on my Facebook page.  As trailblazers from the past to the present day, these women represent careers in nursing, space travel, music, acting, business, teaching, journalism, politics, missionary work, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve her country during the Civil War and more.  All were and are pioneers of their day and the present day.  Strength, belief and the will to survive in the face of adversity is the example they all set forth for us.  Discovering and researching these women has been a learning curve of sheer joy for me. 

It came to me that I wanted to tie all these African American women who worked for equality into my Gena Branscombe project and blog. 

Gena Tenney Phenix, Gena Branscombe’s eldest daughter, was a pianist and musician who studied at Barnard College followed by two years at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London.  Upon returning from her European studies, she became head of the Music Department at Barnard College. 

After her marriage to her husband, Phillip Phenix, she became a community activist bar-none.  Creating the food pantry at Riverside Church in New York City was one of the couple’s most generous gifts to the city’s homeless and needy population.  The food pantry still exists to this day.

Among Gena Phenix’s other great contributions to society was her dedication to equal rights for all.  In 1963, she spearheaded the organizing of ten buses for New Yorkers who attended the March on Washington in August.  From my 2002 interview with Gena and Phillip, I was told they sat in the tenth row of seats for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  To be among that large, peaceful assembly of people for one of the most momentous speeches of the 20th century must have been thrilling and to have been part of making American history on that day .... humbling.
As Black History Month 2014 comes to a close, I thank every African American woman I know, may come to know and those who I have featured this month on Facebook for all you have done to inspire me and countless others.  My thanks go to all people who have fought for equal rights and opportunities for everyone.  Your struggles, joys and work have been worth every minute, hour, day and year of your lives for you have set an example so strong that the correct words of praise fail me

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Radio Arts Indonesia

More good news!  Radio Arts Indonesia will be broadcasting numerous cuts from my CD, "Ah! Love, I Shall Find Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe."  Thanks to Charles Conrad for introducing Indonesia to Miss Branscombe's beautiful romantic music. 

My wonderful pianist, Martin Hennessy, will be featured for the solo piano pieces he recorded.  I did say and mean wonderful!  Martin's expressive and musical playing of these lovely piano works written for Gena's daughters will capture your heart!  Enjoy!

Please go to their website and click on their "Listings" button.  There you will find the days, times and titles of the pieces Mr. Conrad will air.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Some great NEWS!  Ellen Grolman of radio station WFCF will be playing several selections from my Gena Branscombe disc, Ah! Love, I Shall Find Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe on her weekly radio show, Music of our Mothers, Wednesday, February 12th, between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.  What an honor to have a radio station play your recording!

The two-hour show streams live on iheartradio; simply search for WFCF, Flagler College Radio in St. Augustine, FL.  It is wonderful to look forward to sharing this beautiful music with the WFCF listening audience.

Thanks, Ellen, for promoting women's music. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spirit of Motherhood

About a month ago one of my “Google Alerts” caught my eye….a piece of Gena Branscombe’s sheet music was for sale on Amazon.  To my surprise, an original publication of “Spirit of Motherhood” was available.  I quickly purchased it.  The music arrived a few days later in beautiful condition. 

In today’s world the words may seem sentimental or even out-of-date and the music may be a little over-the-top dramatic, yet at the time it was composed, poet Louise Driscoll (1875-1957) and Gena Branscombe were giving tribute to the most difficult job in the world – motherhood.

In 1923 the New York State Federation of Women’s Clubs held a pageant showcasing the progress women had made in the past 50 years.  “Spirit of Motherhood” was performed by the Women’s Club chorus.  Imagine the progress made for women from 1873-1923.

This was a celebration honoring women’s suffrage, the work their leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony had organized for many years that culminated in the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution.  "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Women could vote.  Mothers could vote for their future and the future of their children and families.

When we judge a piece of historic music by today's standards and what women composers are doing today, maybe we ought to stop, think, look at history and remember what women composers were accomplishing nearly 100 years ago for the rights of women.

A sentimental tribute to motherhood...very fitting even today as it is the spirit of love and acceptance without judgment.