A note from Graham Johnson on the passing of award-winning author and SongFest's great angel, Marcia Brown

With the death of Marcia Brown on April 29, 2015, a few months ahead of her 97th birthday, Songfest has lost one of its earliest, and one of its most loyal, patrons. Over the years I have made many Californian song-trips under the auspices of Rosemary Hyler, and many of these visits were made more special for me by the warm and encouraging presence in the front row of Marcia and her indefatigable companion, Janet Loranger - two exceptionally sensitive and creative women. Their devotion to each other was evident in everything they did - and this included helping an array of young people with countless discreet acts of thoughtfulness and philanthropy. In more recent years health issues prevented them from making the journey from Orange County, but they were always with us in spirit, and in terms of both material and moral support. I can say that at the various times over the years that the very survival of Songfest was threatened, it was always the enthusiasm and generosity of Marcia and Janet that persuaded Rosemary, however discouraged she was at the time, to carry on.  

Marcia Jane Brown, born on July 13, 1918, was a famous author of children's books, adorning and enriching each one of these with her own distinctive illustrations. She achieved international renown in this field, winning many awards. Growing up in faraway Africa, I was fortunate to know some of these stories as a child (Stone Soup, Felice, Dick Whittington and his Cat are only three of some 30 titles) thank to an American friend of my mother's who held them dear and passed them on to me. Marcia Brown was thus already a special and familiar name when I met her and Janet for the first time.  They were real song enthusiasts - totally enthralled by the emotive power of the singing voice, particularly when great music was wedded to fine poetry (Janet was a distinguished literary editor). They also had a wonderful and innate understanding of the importance of a strong working relationship between singer and pianist. The pleasure they derived from all aspects of the song repertoire was a joy to behold, and it will long remain in the memory of those who had the privilege to perform for them. Marcia was one of the most endlessly creative people I have ever known - she continued to work at her painting even when very ill, imbued with an ever-vibrant spirit of curiosity and deep humanity. We at Songfest send our heartfelt condolences to Janet who helped and enabled Marcia's genius to flourish and continue to be fruitful for so many years. One part of the partnership is still with us, and they are both honoured members of the Songfest family. It is thus fitting that this year's Songfest is dedicated

To the beloved memory of Marcia Brown, and in gratitude and homage to Janet Loranger.