Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Red Folder and Records

Every other blog entry I make seems to be about Gena Branscombe items that have been given to me or that I purchased from E-bay or Amazon websites. 

This past week two people sent me Branscombe items.  From the daughter of Agnes Conway, a Branscombe Choral member, I received 45 rpm records of the December 1953, Spring and December 1954 performances the Choral gave at the Broadway Tabernacle Church and Town Hall.  Thank you to Mary Conway for these recordings.  Agnes Conway passed away on December 31, 2017.  I am fairly sure she was the last Branscombe Choral member.  

From the grandson of  Branscombe Choral member, Marie Zieres, I received her choral folder.  Covered in red fabric, the folder matched the robes and hats the women wore for their concerts.  Neatly tucked inside the folder were the programs from the Choral’s December 1949 and May 1950 concerts.  The small treasure inside the folder was a receipt made out to Marie Zieres dated March 6, 1950 in the amount of $5.00 paying for her dues. 

In June 2008, my husband, Dan, and I traveled to Jamestown, NY to visit with Mrs. Zieres.  Her grandson, Mark, had been researching the Branscombe Choral, his grandmother’s beloved singing group.  After contacting me, it was decided that a visit with his grandmother would be helpful in understanding the members of this women’s chorus who were dedicated to their conductor.  Taking with me the Branscombe Choral scrapbooks, Mrs. Zieres looked at them reminiscing about her days singing with the Choral and recognizing fellow members.  She had brought her letters from Miss Branscombe, concert programs, records and the red folder to show me. 

Her descriptive stories about Miss Branscombe always being the leader who dressed beautifully for rehearsals and performances, spoke eloquently, was a true professional teacher, musician and conductor with patience and encouragement asking that her ladies sing to the best of their ability were a delight.  Notice the folders held by the Choral members in the photo below!

To Mary Conway and Mark Curtis who gave me these treasured possessions of their family’s Branscombe Choral members, I thank you.  The red folder, programs, receipt and records add to the story of conductor, Gena Branscombe, and the impact her music making had on the world at large.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pilgrims of Destiny - Performance at Clark University

In May 2015, I wrote a blog entry about Gena Branscombe’s dramatic oratorio, Pilgrims of Destiny.  There was a detailed description of what was happening in Miss Branscombe’s and her family’s life at the time.  Also, I had found an original 1929 piano/vocal score online and purchased it.  Please go back and read the posting.

This blog is about Pilgrims of Destiny and wonderful news to share with you. 

Pilgrims of Destiny will be performed Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Clark University in Worcester, MA.  Dan Ryan, Director of Choral Activities at Clark University, will conduct this work which has not been performed since 1940.  

When I began work on my Gena Branscombe Project, it was always my dream to see that Pilgrims of Destiny be performed once again.

Last year I received an e-mail from conductor Dan Ryan telling me had found the score and was interested in performing the work.  Several weeks later we spoke by phone.  He was quite excited by the historical story of the Mayflower's arrival in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  In addition, he loved the music.  He wanted to know about Gena Branscombe, her life, music and much more.

In August 2017, along with my friend, Heather Seaton, the two of us spent two and a half days at the Library of Congress taking photos of the original orchestral score and parts.  That is the only complete conductor's score there is.....preserved in that wonderful library.

Over the past year, Dan Ryan and I e-mailed back and forth about Pilgrims.  He is an energetic, positive energy and determined musician.  Approaching the powers that be at Clark University, he proposed the school perform Pilgrims of Destiny.  They agreed!  We were off and running to see that a performance would happen. 

Over the past two days, Dan and I began creating a new score in the music program Finale.  Tedious, note-for-note entry with the end product being a complete conductor's score and a piano/vocal score.  We spent time at the Lincoln Center New York Public Library for the Performing Arts looking through Gena's collection held in the Special Collections department. 

In particular, we studied Gena's own pencil written conductor's score, the one she then handed off to a professional copyist to create the score that is in the Library of Congress.  To see her markings, where she placed a voice part due to a lack of space on the staff paper, how she changed from Clarinets in A to Clarinets in B flat and more was a delight.

Dan asked questions about Gena, we discussed details of the concert, a possible display of Gena items I have in my collection and much more.  Dan and I became Gena buddies!

To say the least, Gena's family is thrilled and will be in attendance.  The Library of Congress and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts are happy that this work long held in their collections will be performed.

Within the next week or so, Pilgrims of Destiny will have its own blog.  Dan and I will make entries explaining our work.  A beautiful and historic piece of music finds its way from its premiere in 1929 to a performance in 2019.  A woman composer of renown in her day, to near obscurity and now her Pilgrims of Destiny will return to the concert hall.

By the way, if you hear loud screams and expletives, it is me entering the voice parts into Finale.  I am learning and I am slow and I will conquer this computer program.....somehow.
To Dan Ryan, thank you for your passion and understanding of Gena's music.  You were chosen!