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Sheet music for Gena Branscombe
- 150 Art Songs
- Orchestral Suites
- Chamber Music
- Choral Works
"The life of Gena Branscombe is an inspiring record of a woman of great ability who carved ‘a viable musical career’ when American composers were just coming into their own in this country." (Laurine Elkins-Marlow, Gena Branscombe: American Composer and Conductor, A Study of Her Life and Works; Doctoral Dissertation - 1980). In today’s language, Branscombe was a woman who did and had it all, establishing a career in music before marriage and afterwards successfully balancing work with an active family life.
An important "bridge" for American women composers, Gena’s professional training and perseverance, European compositional influence, continuous support of American musical organizations and her many contemporary associations helped lay an enduring foundation for modern women in music.
Born in Picton, Ontario in 1881, Branscombe attended the Chicago Musical College as a piano major with an emphasis in composition. European study was essential for her career and in 1909 Gena departed for a year of intensive study of piano with Rudolf Ganz and composition with Englebert Humperdinck.
Early praise came from Pietro Mascagni, who predicted a brilliant future for the youthful composer. Publisher Arthur P. Schmidt signed Gena Branscombe to an exclusive seven-year contract, a rare achievement for a woman of that era.
Gena married John Ferguson Tenney on October 5, 1910 in Ontario and they immediately moved to New York City to pursue their individual careers. Gena’s professional life quickly flourished. Throughout her life she credited her husband for his support of her work and his constant help with home and their four daughters: Gena, born in 1911, Vivian Allison in 1913, Betty in 1916 and Beatrice in 1919.
During Gena’s years in New York City, her professional associations and involvements were numerous. A partial list includes Delta Omicron (a national music fraternity for women), the MacDowell Club of New York, the Association of Women Composers of New York, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Society of American Women Composers, the National Association for American Composers and Conductors, the National Federation of Music Clubs and the National League of American Pen Women. She became a member of ASCAP and served on the board of the National Opera Club of New York. Colleagues and friends included conductor Antonia Brico, composers Mrs. H.H.A. Beach, Harriet Ware, Mary Howe, Marion Bauer, Mary Turner Salter and Mabel Daniels.
In 1934 Gena founded her women’s chorus, Branscombe Choral. She served as its conductor/composer/organizer and fund-raiser for over 20 years, performing extensively in New York City with radio broadcasts. Branscombe traveled the United States, Canada and England, promoting contemporary American music, most particularly women’s music.
In 1960, at the request of the Library of Congress, Gena submitted the manuscript and orchestral parts for her oratorio, Pilgrims of Destiny. Other scores were exhibited at the New York City Public Library on 42nd Street in 1963, in an exhibition of works of noted contemporary American women composers. She died in New York City on July 26, 1977.
Ahead of her time, Gena Branscombe’s life was filled with family and music. Influenced early by the late German romantic style, she helped develop a 20th century American/Victorian musical voice, with a body of work encompassing 150 art songs, piano and chamber music, as well as choral works all in publication during her life. A renowned composer and conductor, after her death her richly melodic music seemed lost to history, despite its outstanding beauty.