Wednesday, July 26, 2023

#BringingBackBranscombe - 2023


Today marks 46 years since Gena Branscombe left this world leaving behind two daughters, two grandsons, nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues, beloved members of her Branscombe Choral and a collection of music that resides at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 

Luckily before Gena died Laurine Elkins Marlow met her, interviewed her over 18 months and wrote her dissertation about her life and music.  Even with the gift of the dissertation, Miss Branscombe slipped into a “woman composer forgotten” category.  In the ensuing 46 years there were occasional performances of her songs and choral works then came a burst of interest in the past 25 years.

In 1998 Kathleen happened upon the name of Gena Branscombe and her 150 art songs.  The rest is history as told in my many blog postings.  What a 25 year journey it has been #BringingBackBranscombe to the 20th and now 21st century.  The homage we pay to her life and her music is deserved for a woman who was a composer, conductor, leader of women, and arts administrator.  Her exemplary life and music must be recognized today.

Here is a timeline for #BringingBackBranscombe

1980 – Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow’s dissertation – “Gena Branscombe: American Composer and Conductor: A Study of Her Life and Works

1998 – Kathleen discovers Gena Branscombe’s music at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  She meets Gena’s eldest daughter, Gena Tenney Phenix and Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow.

2000 – Kathleen performs several of Miss Branscombe’s songs on recitals in New York City, Minnesota and Florida

2003 – Kathleen’s CD, “Ah! Love, I Shall Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe” is released on the Albany Records label.

2004 – Premiere in New York City of “Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe” – one woman show.  Additional performances at the Festival of Women in the Arts -  Elmira, NY, Women in the Arts Conference - St. Louis, MO, Washington, DC, Long Island, NY, Hofstra University, Stoughton Music Society – Quincy, MA, Texas A&M University – College Station, TX, Middle Georgia State University – Macon, GA, Festival of Women Composers – Hartford, CT  and more.

2005- 2020 – Articles about Gena Branscombe published in various music journals. 


CDs released with music of Gena Branscombe:

1996 – “Le Souvenir” – Art Songs

1999 – “By a Canadian Lady” – Piano Music 1841-1997

2005 – “Wishing You and I Were Young Maggie” – Art Songs

2008 -  “Remembered Voices” – Violin Sonata in A Minor

2017 – “Nasty Women” – Piano pieces

2018 - “American Romantics III” – Orchestral work


Lecture Recitals given in Asbury Park, NJ, Library of Congress - Washington, DC, Indiana University, Indiana, PA, Guildford, VT, St. Louis, MO, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, and more.

2018 - Copying Gena Branscombe’s “Pilgrims of Destiny” original conductor’s at the Library of Congress.  Entering the score note by note into FINALE to create a usable conductor’s score for performance..

2019- Dan Ryan conducts the first performance of “Pilgrims of Destiny” in the 21st century at Clark University in Worcester, MA.  First performance of the work in 79 years.

2019 – Dan Ryan and Kathleen inaugurate The Gena Branscombe Project and a Board is formed with Dan, Kathleen, Sydney Pepper and Regan Russell. Website and Facebook pages created.  YouTube channel started.  Fund raising begins to make possible the awarding of scholarships.

2020 – 2023 – The Gena Branscombe Project awards scholarships to up and coming student composers, conductors and arts administrators.  An art song commission is awarded.

2022 – Gena Branscombe Scholarship winner Damali Willingham arranges Gena’s orchestral work, “Festival Prelude” for wind ensemble and conducts the work at the Berklee College of Music. 

2022 – The Gena Branscombe Project sponsors its first concert – “Bringing Back Branscombe” at Colleges of the Fenway in Boston.  Art song premiered composed by our art song commission winner.

2022 – Dr. Regan Russell defends her doctoral dissertation, “Love in a Life: The Art Songs of Gena Branscombe” at Boston University.

2022-2023 – Speeches presented – “Bringing Back Branscombe to the National League of American Pen Women.”

2023 – The Ladies Speak podcast features composer Gena Branscombe with Kathleen Shimeta as narrator. 

2023 – The Gena Branscombe Project sponsors the concert, “Bringing Back Branscombe to the Upper West Side” in New York City at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Gena’s French Horn pieces, Violin Sonata, songs, piano works and choral works are performed.

2023 – Scholarship winners are performing at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Glimmerglass Opera, 54 Below in New York City, conducting the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and more.

2023 – Gena accepted into the Canadian Music Centre.

2023 – Gena’s Violin Sonata in A Minor is performed in Latvia. 

The future holds more good news….TBA!


You may be gone from this earth, Miss Branscombe, but The Gena Branscombe Project is indeed #BringingBackBranscombe!  We know you are smiling down on all that is happening in your name…..”MARVELOUS!”






Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Gena Branscombe Project's 2023 Scholarship Winners


Today The Gena Branscombe Project announced its 2023 Scholarship Winners.  Congratulations to Conductor Hannah Nacheman, Composer Brittney Benton and Arts Administrator Roslinde Rivera!


These three women exemplify Miss Branscombe’s belief in the importance of education to further one’s career and life.  They are dedicated to professionalism, integrity, being leaders and promoting inclusivity for composers, conductors and arts administrators with whom they will have contact. 

 It is an honor to keep Gena Branscombe’s legacy alive awarding these yearly scholarships.  Applications for the 2024 scholarships will be accepted  in March 2024.  Keep watching for the official announcement.

 Go to to read more about The Project and this year’s scholarship winners. 



Monday, July 17, 2023

Sonata in One Movement for Violin and Pianoforte - Violin Sonata in A Minor


For Gena Branscombe the years 1919-1920 were ones of deep sorrow, depression and a time for her compositional creativity to be a healing agent following the deep loss of her 3 year old daughter Betty.  As I have written in the past, her largest work ever, Pilgrims of Destiny, was composed during these years. 

Though Miss Branscombe’s 150 art songs lead the number of compositions she wrote, there were also piano and choral works, chamber music and instrumental pieces including her Sonata in One Movement for Violin and Pianoforte.  This is a tour-de-force piece that was denied publication because it was deemed too difficult by publishers.  The one movement sonata opens restless seeming to seek out its development then settles into three contrasting thematic groups.  It is florid and extroverted based in the late German romantic style. 

Making its way to the concert stage, the sonata’s first performers used the original manuscript loaned to them by Miss Branscombe with directions to immediately return it to her post performance. 

The first known performance of the Sonata in A Minor for Violin and Pianoforte was in 1920 at a concert of works presented by the Women’s Arts Association of Canada in Toronto.

Following the Toronto concert, violinist Elena de Sayn, played the sonata on a concert in Washington, DC.  In a letter exchange with Elena de Sayn, Branscombe wrote, “I’ll gladly go over [the sonata] with you (fighting passionately for my own ideas as to tempi!!!) … but you’re safe with your own pianist.” (Letter held in the Library of Congress, De Sayn collection - Box 1, folder 16).

Miss Branscombe was a detailed composer who painstakingly marked every dynamic and variation of dynamic, tempo changes and more in every measure of a piece.  The sheer number of these markings drives a performer crazy as they learn and practice her works, thus her remarks to Elena that she would “fight passionately for my own ideas as to tempi!”

By 1934 Gena Tenney, Gena Branscombe’s oldest daughter, was a composition and conducting student at the Royal College of Music in London.  No doubt daughter Gena encouraged the performance of her mother’s violin sonata on a “Concert of Works by American Women,” on December 8, 1934.  The soloists were the acclaimed violinist Olga Rudge and pianist Jessie Hall. Other composer friends of Gena Branscombe’s included on that program were Marion Bauer and Ethel Glenn Hier. 

Time passes, music and composer are forgotten until in 2008 Ralitsa Tcholakova and Dr. Elaine Keillor release a CD, “Remembered Voices” on which they performed Gena Branscombe’s violin sonata.  

November 2022, the sonata is again performed at The Gena Branscombe Project inaugural concert performed by Aija Reke and Dr. Regan Russell.   

On May 6, 2023 at the “Bringing Back Branscombe to the Upper West Side” concert Deborah Nixon, violin and Nelson Ojeda Valdes, piano, performed the sonata….just blocks from where Gena composed the piece in 1920. 

Thanks to Deborah Nixon, the sonata has made its way to London once again and is being considered for study and performance…..only 89 years later. 

And, today, May 17, 2023, Aija Reke is performing Gena’s sonata in her home country of Latvia. 

Back to 1925, Gena wanted to change the title from Violin Sonata in A minor to “The Crusader.” When you listen to the sonata you will understand why!

We continue our work of #BringingBackBranscombe.  With the help of recent performers who have performed a tour-de-force violin sonata by an American woman composer….a composer whose music was forgotten but is now in the 21st century, these violinists and pianists are telling her story, telling of her beautiful music. 


photo of Deborah Nixon and Nelson Ojeda Valdes courtesy of Gary Schoichet

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Canadian Music Centre honors Gena Branscombe


Recently the Canadian Music Centre honored Miss Branscombe by naming her an Associate Composer.

Miss Branscombe lived most of her life in the United States, but, she was first and always a Canadian.  She was born in Picton, Ontario in 1881 where she began her musical training. During her adult life  she returned to her beloved home frequently performing concerts and visiting with friends and family.  

The Bay of Quinte was her place of inspiration for water calmed her and allowed her musical creativity to bring forth her beautiful music.

Canada was in her heart.  Gena composed works that honored the country of her birth; its history, culture, nature's beauty and military. 

Congratulations, Miss Branscombe…..a well-deserved honor.