Monday, May 23, 2022

What a Surprise!


“As I looked at the young Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, on their visit to New York, it seemed that she was filling her role with great dignity but also with some weariness. How very young this couple looked—and how we do make our visitors work!”  (Eleanor Roosevelt diary entry, October 26, 1957)


On October 21, 1957 and for a mere 15 hours, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in the United States for their first state visit.  During those hectic hours they were honored with a ticker-tape parade on Broadway, had lunch with dignitaries at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, followed by the Queen’s speech at the United Nations and a return to the Waldorf Astoria for dinner.  The dinner was co-sponsored by the English-Speaking Union of the United States and the Pilgrim Society of the United States.  At 2 AM the royals were at Idlewild Airport where they boarded a plane for a return to the United Kingdom.  Yes, this is the same Queen; Queen Elizabeth who continues her reign today and marks the 70 anniversary of her coronation. 


Much to my surprise and Gena Branscombe’s grandsons’ surprise, we recently learned that Gena had been invited to attend the dinner honoring the royals at the Waldorf Astoria on that October evening.  With many thanks to John Lyons of Picton, Ontario for his researching and discovering an article that Gena Branscombe penned for the Picton Gazette on November 8, 1957. 


In vivid detail Gena described the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom d├ęcor of blue satin draperies, a gold throne like chair, guests decked out in “marvelous gowns, superb jewels and evening furs, the men in uniforms or white ties and tails.”  Queen Elizabeth’s gown was pale pink, green and blue with embroidery and a fan-like train.  She wore diamond and sapphire jewelry and the “Russian-fringe tiara – made solidly of diamonds.”


Continuing on Miss Branscombe wrote of Canadian Members of Parliament in attendance, ambassadors and a toast given to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  One can tell that Gena was impressed with Her Royal Highness, the speech she gave mentioning the Commonwealth and especially Canada.  Prince Philip was mentioned for his dignity, warm kindness and his sense of humor.

Having read this article five times, I find Gena’s writing formal, eloquent and yet, underlying all of that was her excitement, honor and awe of being in the company of the royals, dignitaries and all others that filled the ballroom. 


Again, thank you to John Lyons for his research. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Festival Prelude/Festival March - Part II


Posted on The Gena Branscombe Project Facebook page on May 9, 2022 was the following:

Tuesday, May 3rd at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Gena Branscombe’s 1913 composition “Festival Prelude/March” was given its 21st century premiere.  The Gena Branscombe Project 2020 conductor scholarship winner, Damali Willingham, not only conducted the performance but also arranged this orchestral piece for wind ensemble. 

Willingham poured musical talents into the arrangement creating a score filled with lush textures, delicacy of melody and rhythmic drive.  Damali conducted the piece with authority knowing every note and phrase then drew it together with her ensemble to make heartfelt music.  The Gena Branscombe Project thanks Damali and professor, Dr. Dominick Ferrara, for your dedication to this beautiful piece of music. 

Now to get this piece published!


The concert was indeed wonderful.  The Gena Branscombe Project sponsored a post-concert reception as a thank you to Damali, Dr. Ferrara and the members of the wind ensemble.  We are making one more step forward promoting the performance of Gena Branscombe’s music. 


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Ladies Speak

Trying to define what promoting a woman composer or women composers is in one’s life can be perplexing.  Is it a job?  Is it detective work uncovering or digging up something from the past?  Is it a mission?  Is it a passion?  Is it fun or a hobby? Maybe it is a combination of all of these.  We have wrapped ourselves in a blanket of passion that fills our lives as a job whose title is being a mission driven detective while having a delightful time learning something new and something not taught in those college music history classes!  

We eagerly pursue new ways and avenues to promote women composers through blogs, presentations, published articles, performances, recordings, interviews, social media and podcasts.  We work to get out the message that women have existed as composers as long as men have – always!

I would consider my many years of work on the music and life of composer Gena Branscombe as an absolute passionate joy of a job! Over the years the number of people who have crossed my path encouraging my work is astounding.

 Recently I was contacted by Matt Spangler who has produced the new podcast “Ladies Speak.”   

Their first episode features the music and life of Margaret Ruthven Lang. This 40 minute podcast takes us through the life and music of this wonderful Boston born composer.  Music historians and performers recount the composer’s works analyzing, performing and comparing them to other composers of her era. This is a woman composer who presented her music to Antonin Dvorak while he visited her home.  While in Germany she went to the home of Franz Liszt.  We learn that at the age of 50 she stopped composing as she had said all that she had within her.  In 1972 Margaret Lang died at the age of 104.  There is much more in the podcast.  I highly recommend spending 40 minutes to learn about a brilliant composer whose name is Margaret Ruthven Lang.

And, yes, Matt Spangler and I will be discussing Gena Branscombe sometime in the near future.  In the meantime, listen to the first podcast of “Ladies Speak!”