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Branscombe, Gena (1881–1977)

Branscombe, Gena (1881–1977)

Canadian-born American composer, conductor, teacher, and pianist, who was especially well known for her choral compositions. Pronunciation: Branskum. Born Gena Branscombe in Picton near Kingston, Ontario, on November 4, 1881; died in New York City on July 26, 1977; daughter of Henry W. and Sara (Allison) Branscombe; graduated Chicago Musical College; studied with Rudolph Ganz, Felix Borowski, and Engelbert Humperdinck; married John Ferguson Tenney, in 1910; children: Gena, Vivian Allison, Betty, and Beatrice.

Gena Branscombe began composing at age five and was still actively composing at 92. Her main area of expertise was choral composition. She studied with Felix Borowski, Alexander von Fielitz, Arthur Friedheim, Hans von Schiller, and Rudolph Ganz at the Chicago Musical College before becoming director of Whitman College's piano department. Branscombe also studied with Engelbert Humperdinck (composer of the opera Hansel und Gretel) in Berlin during 1909–10. Moving to New York in 1910, she lived and worked in the U.S. for three-quarters of a century but kept her Canadian roots. Her Quebec Suite was premiered in 1930 by the Chicago Women's Symphony Orchestra. Pilgrims of Destiny won the League of American Pen Women's annual prize in 1928 for the finest work produced by a woman. Coventry's Choir (1944), a large choral work with piano accompaniment, typified Branscombe's evocative and richly textured late Romantic style. It was performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Often she used her own texts for her vocal works. In 1933, she founded the Branscombe Chorale of New York, which performed for over 20 years. She was president of the Society of American Women Composers and director of the National Association of American Composers and Conductors.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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