Today we finished our last pops concert for the season, a tough program for the orchestra but loads of fun. I was grateful to Stuart for his professional leadership. It’s very hard to put these programs together so quickly and the performances are a credit to his work and that of the orchestra.
He also graciously made mention of my upcoming recital at The Forum on June 1st. Beginning in May, you will find billboards and posters up all over Harrisburg and in major traffic veins leading in and out of the city. Tickets are available through he Harrisburg Symphony office and the Foundation and I have decided to donate $6 per ticket purchased to the Harrisburg Symphony in consideration of their valuable help in managing ticket sales for the event. Surprisingly, we have already sold a considerable number of the premium tickets and student tickets, so I encourage those of you who wish to join us to purchase your tickets sooner rather than later. The premium tickets ($140) include a private reception on the third floor of The Firehouse Restaurant following the concert. Donnie Brown and his wonderful staff will pull out all the stops and have a wonderful spread arranged for our guests. $100 of the ticket price is also tax deductable. There will also be a cash bar at the reception. Many of my friends and fans have been asking to know a little bit more about the Foundation and in particular my mother. So I have decided to share our mission statement and a brief bio in this blog.
THE ELSE BORGES FOUNDATION FOR ARTISTIC INITIATIVES
The Else Borges Foundation for Artistic Initiatives is a Pennsylvania non-profit, 501(c)(3) , founded by violinist Odin Rathnam in loving memory of his late mother , and is dedicated to making large discretionary grants to cornerstones of the Harrisburg arts diaspora for specific projects that are deemed daring, ambitious and capable of bringing national and international recognition to the artistic quality of the arts in Central Pennsylvania. In addition, discretionary grants will be disbursed for quality musical education of under-privileged children from kindergarten through 12th grade based on intelligence, talent, and merit. The board of directors shall choose and ratify disbursements to a maximum of four entities in a given fiscal year. Of particular interest to the Foundation are projects such as ongoing, inner-city based music programs aimed at the highest level of artistic training, recordings for commercial release, media collaborations for national public radio and television performance, touring dates at major venues in large cities for Harrisburg based ensembles, and projects aimed at substantially raising the artistic level and recognition of organizations. The Foundation will limit its disbursements to specific projects, otherwise deemed beyond the reach of the considered organizations’ existing budgets, wherein no more than 10 percent of the total disbursement can be used towards operating expenses. The axioms that govern Its objectives are those that governed Else Borges’ philanthropic efforts during her lifetime and are, as such, central to the mission of the Foundation.
Else Borges, a brief biography (1937-2007)
Else Borges was born born in Aalborg, Denmark in 1937, the third of five children. Her father, Neils was a butcher and her mother, Ida was a loving homemaker. In 1958, while training in banking and accounting, Else left Denmark abruptly for the U.S. to become an au pair for a family living in New York. Shortly thereafter, she was appointed to the Royal Danish Consulate as a locally employed diplomat, rising to the rank of Secretary of Archives and Union steward for the locally employed Foreign Ministry workers. In 1963, she was married to James Rathnam, originally from India, who was a graduate student at Columbia University in International Affairs. In 1965, they had their first and only child, Odin Rathnam. During that time, Else’s philanthropic efforts were largely turned towards poor families in southern India, with an emphasis on education.
In 1982, Else Borges remarried Robert Post Borges and moved to southern Portugal, where she resided until three months before her death. During those years, her efforts were directed towards the education of her housekeeper’s children, sending one to England for studies. She was also involved in arranging concerts that benefited the local church and bringing foreign artists, including Royal Danish Concertmaster Lars Bjornkjaer, pianist Rohan DeSilva, violist Rachel Shapiro, violinist Odin Rathnam and many others to the Algarve Music Festival and the Lagos Cultural Center.
Her philosphy was challenging however. She believed in buying a fisherman a boat rather than paying his bills. She believed environment and opportunity were key in the development of individuals, but never without ambition, commitment, and perseverence. Two quotes summed up her attitude toward life, one by her favorite author and hero Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) who often said “Why not?” instead of “Why?”. The second was Prime Minister Nehru’s sage words “Success comes to those who dare and act, it seldom comes to the timid ones…”.
In 1999, Else was diagnosed with breast cancer and was successfully treated here in Harrisburg. During that period, which coincided with an orchestral search year, she facilitated multiple post concert receptions for musicians and staff members of the HSO, a quiet gift which was integral to the artistic and social morale of the orchestra. She was also instrumental in providing both moral and financial support for the founding of Concertante Chamber Ensemble, now known as Concertante. She and her family were always convinced that it was the music, the parties, and all the laughter that scared the cancer out of her body.
Typical to her adventurous nature, Else Borges sold her estate in Portugal and returned to the United States with her sister, Bodil, in September 2007 to take residence in Harrisburg. She wished to spend her golden years close to her son and his family, the orchestra and the community she had come to love so much. The next three months were spent feverishly furnishing and painting her new apartment overlooking the Susquehanna River, and enjoying the closeness of her loved ones. She was very excited about rekindling the friendships she had made in 1999 and the vision she hoped to bring to our community. Those who knew her in Harrisburg used similar adjectives for her presence including “regal”, “larger than life”, “generous to a fault”, “outspoken”, and “the life of the party”. On December 3rd, hours before she was scheduled to fly back to the Algarve, she suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died two days later, with her loved ones at her side. Bodil, who was Else’s closest sibling and who originally came to the U.S. to help raise Odin, was devastated at the passing of her sister. Almost unable to cope with the loss, Bodil died of heart failure only five weeks later.
Else never wished to be eulogized (she often requested a cocktail party upon her demise), her son Odin Rathnam resolved to create a foundation that honored the principles of her life, rather than the tragedy of her death.
June 20th performance at Barshinger Center ”The Four Seasons” and more, with Pro Musicis Ensemble and Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting
As many of you also know, I am recording Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Pro Musicis Ensemble with Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting. Stephen has been a generous concerto collaborator for the past few seasons, not to mention a dear friend, and I look forward to this next project together, a small repayment for all of the opportunities he has afforded me. I also got great news today that my dear old colleague and possibly the greatest harpsichordist I know, Gretchen Decker (formerly Elicker) is available for the rehearsals, concert, and recording that begin on June 18th, culminating in a concert on June 20th and recording on June 21st. All of these events will take place at the Barshinger Center in Lancaster, PA. Tickets are available through the link at the left of my home page, or you can go directly to www.acteva.com/go/pme