In Memoriam

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Elizabeth Parcells
1951 - 2005

Elizabeth died on December 29th 2005 in Michigan.  If you have a story to share about Elizabeth, as a colleague or a fan, please email 


Daniel Aggas
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 7:45 AM
Subject: Elizabeth...........

Elizabeth will always be Betsy to me.  she said it was ok to call her that.  Betsy touched my heart and soul in many ways.  First, she was like  my own private diva.  I was first a fan from afar.  I met her while attending Grosse Pointe Memorial church and also got to know her wonderful mother, Fran and her distinguished father, Charles.  I remember being WOWED the first time I heard Betsy sing in church.  I believe she sang O Holy Night and Rejoice Greatly.  I was hooked! Then later, Betsy did a concert at Orchestra Hall in Detroit.  She needed a page turner for her pianist. She knew I did a lot of page turning for the organist at our church, William Deturk, and asked him how she could reach me.  I happened to be in the building right then because I work there as a Building and Grounds manager.  I SAID YES! It was my chance to see and hear Betsy sing " up close and personal".  I also had the privilege to be involved with Michigan Opera Theatre and be in some productions with Elizabeth.  Magic Flute was my favorite as was Tales of Hoffmann.  I remember being at a rehearsal, after Betsy had amazed the cast with one of the Queen of the Night arias, and walking over to her and start to talk.  I talked  with her for several minutes.  When our conversation ended, one of the  guys came up to me and said, " Did you get her autograph?".  I said "Oh heck no, I have known her for years.  We were just talking about LIFE!"  He responded by only saying, "You KNOW her?" I said, "Yes, She is my Number 1, private diva.  I was very lucky to have known Betsy.  Her trials through her illness have been an inspiration to many.  She was a big part of my friend Jim's life as he suffered too from cancer.  She was there when he died.  She told me it was something she needed to be a part of.  We were all glad she was there and part of his life near the end.  I know Elizabeth is singing on, with the angels.  She will always live in my heart.  I will NEVER forget her and our conversations.  I will also never forget her glorious sound!

Thanks Betsy .....................for letting me be a little part of your life!         

Dan Aggas

Margret Johannsen
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 2:31 PM
Subject: Elizabeth

Dear Charly Parcells,
Let me express my heartfelt sympathy at the loss of your (sister).  I have never met her personally.  But last year I made her acquaintance through her website and her wonderful interpretations of songs composed by my mother Felicitas Kukuck, several of which are based on lyrics which I wrote.  And indeed they are unrivalled.  Knowing how my mother wanted her songs to be sung, I am sure that she would have been absolutely thrilled by these performances.  She did own a CD which Brigitta Nyffenegger, a student of Elizabeth, once gave to my mother.  But she probably never had the chance to listen to the recordings of  her compositions.  But if she had, she would have said: Yes, this is what I had in mind when I wrote the music.  And I too, as the writer of the love song lyrics, I am charmed.  As I wrote in an e-mail to Elizabeth October last year, the many facets of her voice, womanly with a breath of girlishness, almost virginal in "Grab mir Geliebter," teasing virtuoso in "Er hat entdeckt," so intimate and full of warmth in "Als ich mein Herz an dich verlor," and her congenial formation of the tempi in "Treibhaus," this is simply fantastic!

Josef von Eichendorff wrote:
Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen, die da träumen fort und fort.  Und die Welt hebt an zu singen, triffst du nur das Zauberwort.

Elizabeth will live on in her music.

Margret Johannsen

From: Visnja Tijardovic
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 3:19 PM
Subject: memories

Elizabeth was my mentor and friend.  She always knew how to find something positive in every situation.  She knew that happiness comes from within.  Her performances were amazing and her voice floating and clear.  Elizabeth's knowledge about life and music was endless.

She will be missed dearly.

I will always love you Elizabeth!

Visnja Tijardovic

From: John Carroll
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 3:44 PM
Subject: RE: Elizabeth Parcells

Dear Charlie -- Thank you so much for contacting me and letting me know that Elizabeth has died.  She was an amazing singer, profusely admired by so many people -- including some of the most well-listened, discriminating ears (both fans and musicians) in the world.  She was a singular and phenomenal artist who is missed greatly.

She and I began chatting via email several years ago, and then again more recently last year after she became ill and decided to create her Web site.  It was such a brave and generous decision she made to put all her music out there for the world and to articulate her legacy.  In our discussions of the site, both the lofty goals and the minor details, it seemed to really give her purpose and joy and was a way for her to reach out to the world again using her music, even while she was essentially confined to her bed.  I sensed she was surprised at the outpouring that resulted -- perhaps she hadn't realized there was such tremendous affection for her beguiling art and that uniquely pure voice.  Not to mention pent-up frustration from fans with so few recordings of Elizabeth available commercially.  The mother lode of live material she dearchived and published on the Web is remarkable and her commitment to doing so a testament to her generosity and will.

One of the greatest things about the internet is its ability to connect people with shared interests from places all over the world who would likely never have met otherwise.  I never met Elizabeth in person, we never even spoke, but I am so thankful that I was allowed glimpses of Elizabeth and her fascinating life.  In her writings to me I saw her smart, no-nonsense personality, generosity of spirit, and dedication to higher ideals of art, music, and humanity.

I send condolences to you and Elizabeth's family and friends for what I know is a tremendous loss.  I hope you can find some peace and satisfaction knowing not just of all the joy she brought to so many people in the world through her artistry when she was alive, but that the magic of her song will continue to affect people for decades to come.

If I can help in any way, let me know.

John Carroll

Pauline Martin
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 4:05 PM
Subject: RE: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

I am so sorry to learn this sad news!  Elizabeth was a remarkable artist and human being.

I’ve attached a photo that was taken at my home as we rehearsed our 2002 concert for the Pro Mozart Society of Greater Detroit.  DSO Principals Donald Baker (oboe), Theodore Oien (clarinet), Karl Pituch (French horn) and Robert Williams (bassoon) performed an orchestral reduction, arranged by Elizabeth, of an aria with piano solo.

Heartfelt sympathy!

From: Daniel
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 5:54 PM


I never met Elizabeth.  Like many; I heard  of Elizabeth by the fabulous reviews of music critics on her fabulous technique and art.

When the Web site was up, I contacted her.  She replied to me, to my surprise.  She was funny, gracious and caring.

I want to thank you and her for all the wonderful music and joy, you have given me through her music.

Daniel Verrastro

From: Dina Soresi Winter
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 6:05 PM

Dear Charlie,

It is hard to put into adequate words a proper appreciation of Elizabeth.

She was a vibrant and courageous spirit and had the uncanny ability to find the right words to express what she wanted to convey with humor, precision and extraordinary insight.

I was privileged to have witnessed some of her master classes and was struck by the manner in which she could help these young students achieve a better understanding of what they could do to improve.  Always truthful, but always able to coat her words with positive and productive suggestions which never demolished, but helped the student focus on higher sights in their art, and gave them in a few strokes the hints that would lead them to make it better.  She had an amazing ability never to hurt and yet to be thoroughly honest.

As an artist, she was ever-striving, finding better and truer ways to serve her art.  She was born with a voice of beauty, but initially of "limited range" (in her own words), and worked diligently and intelligently, with the help of her chosen teacher, to extend it - never forcing (for "that was not the way"), and by dint of her efforts managed to increase her ability to sing what at first was only an A to Eb's and F's above high C. What I want to say, is that Elizabeth achieved her amazing ability to sing as she did....she did not merely rest on the ability given to her by God. And because of this she knew how to encourage and help others acquire greater flexibility, range and eventually, artistry.  She walked the path and was therefore able to help others find it.

Finally, in hearing her in performance, and now on the website, one hears a consummate artist singing songs and arias which will forever be a beacon of light to young striving singers and to professional performing artists, as well.   As we listen to this site (which we can only be deeply grateful to have access to), our hearts and minds can be lifted by the beauty of Elizabeth's performance, the artistic truth of her interpretations, and the impeccable attention to serving the composers' intentions with her beautifully honed instrument.  This is a true memorial to Elizabeth - one to which we can return, ever thanking and blessing her for what she was able to achieve on earth - and what she can consistently give in inspiration and guidance to students and professionals who wish to avail themselves of it….lessons for those who are studying, and sheer joy to those who only wish to hear and be uplifted.  

Dina Soresi Winter

From: Pam Hebding
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 7:29 PM
Subject: Grateful to have been touched by Elizabeth

To the family and friends of Elizabeth Parcells:

I am only one of hundreds that looked forward to every word written by your dear Elizabeth.  As you know, she was a frequent contributor to the ACOR Colon Cancer listserve.  She charmed, inspired, and comforted all of us.  She delighted us by sharing her music.  We all feel as if we knew her personally.

My sister has advanced colon cancer.  She is about the same age as Elizabeth.  We were having one of the difficult life and death conversations last week- on December 28th.  She told me that she did not know how to face the coming time in her illness and she did not know what to expect about her quality of life.  Elizabeth's words and advice came to my ears, and I began to tell her what I knew of Elizabeth's life- before and throughout her illness.  It was a story about living in the face of death, of fighting with every tool at her disposal, and of accepting hospice so she could be comforted in her final days while spending her time with her family.  Elizabeth's story is inspirational and provided certain comfort and guidance to my sister.

I thank Elizabeth for her love, courage and honesty with strangers, and wonder if she understood the fine legacy that she would leave to those facing her same battle.   If you have not had a chance to read her writings, I hope you will go through the ACOR archives so you will realize the extent of her gifts to us all.

My deepest condolences to you all,
Pamela Hebding

From: Suzanne
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 8:13 PM
Subject: Heartfelt Sympathy

Dear Charlie, Ric, and family......I am deeply saddened to hear about Elizabeth but so happy to know that her final wish was granted and that she was surrounded by all of you.  I want to extend heartfelt condolences from all of us at Colon Cancer Alliance.  Elizabeth profoundly touched our lives. 

I last spoke with Elizabeth on December 16th.  She said that it was much easier for her to talk on the phone, at that point, than it was for her to type.  Her voice was amazingly strong though she felt that it was "froggy".  She knew that time was short and was embracing death as beautifully as she lived life.  We talked about her hospice experience that day and she shared with me how much peace it had given her and how much comfort she was receiving from all of you. She said that theatrics was a big part of her life - and that this was shared with little Claire when they made funny faces together in the mirror; laughing and making light of the swelling caused by steroids.  She talked about how fortunate she was to have Ric by her side and her family hovering nearby. With that she said that each experience, each memory was preparing her for the grandest performance of her life.  She was planning her funeral accordingly.  We talked about caskets and the simple, yet beautiful, one that she had chosen.  She felt that it would bring a magnificent spirituality to her death. 

On many other occasions we talked about living simply – something that I never expected from such a graceful, accomplished soprano.  Your sister defied the norm.  I had assumed, that other than colon cancer and flannel pajamas, we had little in common.  I couldn't believe that she grew up on a farm.  She reminisced that she had relished being a normal child and talked about climbing trees, riding her horse, and swimming.  She felt the farm went a long way to curing her.  She said it was to everyone's happy surprise that she grew into a healthy young lady.  She was ready then to follow her star and live her life. 

What an amazing life that was….how fortunate we have been to share in her graceful journey.  She inspired and touched my life like no one else.  I count my self extremely blessed to have known her and will never forget the grace and dignity that she brought to this horrid disease.  As I read of her death I was thinking "And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest" and of what a beautiful voice has joined that flight.  May you be surrounded by peace and comfort in the coming days.  With love and tender thoughts, Suzanne 

From: Walter Godwin
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 8:43 PM
Subject: Elizabeth

 I am really distressed to learn of Elizabeth's death.  She was such an inspiration to so many, many people.  She was so upbeat and vibrant in spite of what she faced.  There will never be another Elizabeth.  I have had her on my prayer list for months. 

Walter Godwin in Louisiana

From: Kate Murphy
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 9:14 PM
Cc: Colon Cancer Discussion List
Subject: Great sadness

Although I know Elizabeth would not have wished it, I am deeply saddened by her death.  She has been a wonderful gift to the ACOR Colon Discussion List, especially in the last few months after she decided to enter hospice care.

She provided such encouragement and strength to other list members -- always optimistic, always seeing the bright and beautiful side of things.

I know that she suffered from extraordinary pain that couldn't be treated with ordinarily pain medicine because of her allergies.  Still she found ways to cope and kept writing to the List.  Her emails were eagerly read by list members and gave us all much hope.

Her music was a special gift to me this spring when I came down with shingles -- and severe pain.  Some nights I played her CD just to get to sleep.

And, her gift of buddy bracelets and colorectal cancer prevention awareness at her Carnegie Hall concert in February was truly marvelous.  What a special person she was!

We will miss her so much.

Kate Murphy

From: Erika
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: the light of Elizabeth Parcells

Dear ListMates:

I'm quite certain that everyone on this list is just as shocked, devastated, upset, and saddened at the (yes) shocking news of Elizabeth's very bright light being extinguished - by this damned disease.

I don't think her leave-taking was's just that it seems incomprehensible to me that she won't have a wonderfully enlightening response to every upcoming dilemma that is posed on our list.  How can this be?

I'm so sad --isn't everyone?  I didn't know Elizabeth; but Elizabeth snuck into the core of my being and I loved her.  Her never-ending cheer and support for others was just too wonderful and uplifting.  I always read her posts....and always felt better.

What do we do now without Elizabeth?  We try --just try -- to be as deeply supportive of others as she always was for everyone.  She would want that.

Today, I went into the archives to re-read some of her posts.   She was UNFAILING in her optimism and support.  I don't know how she did it.  Her last post to us was a Christmas wish to all of us....

When I grow up, I want to be just like Elizabeth.

Thanks, Elizabeth, for being the very best YOU that you were.  You gave so freely of your love to all of us.

We'll all, I know, miss you terribly.

Love to all,
Erika in Denver

From: Rol Sharette
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 9:24 PM
Subject: We love you, Betsy

Ah, to have lived as an Elizabeth Parcells must be to rejoice at the sounds and interpretations that spring from one's mind, spirit and voice, all the while sensing the deep impression of emotion and spirituality to be seen in the eyes and expressions of one's audience. Bev and I spent many glorious times listening to that wonderful voice and watching the rapt attention it produced among any who were on hand -- including ourselves.

Our entire family was struck by her presence and focus when we first met as, at close to 20, she was just developing the incredible soprano voice and musical discipline that would make her, over the next thirty years, an inspiration to those of us who aspired to such an accomplishment as she lived with each day of her life.  My aging mother, a soprano herself, absolutely loved to hear Betsy sing, and was overcome with joy the day she and father Charlie stopped by unannounced at her senior residence to see her and sing for her.  Why did they do this? Because they knew Marion and knew how much it would pleasure a 90 year old to enjoy a few minutes in such musical splendor.

Our kids adored Betsy also, both as an admired singer (a craft Ric, Dave and Denise had all practiced) and as a friend and a model to which they might aspire.  Like everyone, they were entranced when they listened to her sing, in person and on recordings and personal tapes we were able to collect.  What a treasure her website has proven.  Bev wrote to her in November to tell her this and to express her regard for Betsy's concern for others in her quest to warn them of the cruel nature of the malady to which she was destined to lose her battle.

Like her mother, Fran, Betsy is one of those folks we will forever keep in our hearts, thinking about her at the odd moment when a musical phrase or a remembered comment is brought to mind.  My computer, as it does so often, is playing her soothing voice as I write this.  I feel we have lost an irreplaceable treasure.  Yet we can still enjoy her presence in this unique way.

What a remarkable world we live in -- and what remarkable people make it worthwhile.  We love you, Betsy, and treasure your music and memories.

Our family sends our love to Charlie, Anne, Katie, Charles, Jr and David now and for as long as Elizabeth's voice can be heard and remembered -- a very long time indeed.

Rol Sharette

From: Frederick Fuller
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 12:17 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

I, too, am greatly saddened by the news of Elizabeth Parcells' passing.  As a trumpeter with the Milwaukee Symphony for 32 years, I found great inspiration in her performances and in helping me with my battle with colorectal cancer through her participation on the ACOR Colon Discussion List.  She had great wisdom and artistry and will be greatly missed by all she touched.

Fred Fuller

From: Patrick Clampitt
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 12:45 AM
Subject: I'm so very sad

I attended every concert I could when Elizabeth sang.  I love her website and I will never forget her kindness as she helped me up and down stairs.  I was weak from M.S. but we didn't understand what she was facing at the time.  She was always a giving person who thought more about others even when she was in bad health.  I will miss her.  Pamela Clampitt

From: Yvonne Steiger
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 4:46 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

 Dear Charlie,

I am deeply sad, tres, tres triste.  What a loss.  I read your mail this morning.  Yesterday I had to think so much at her: Our time running up and down the scales of 'Die Fledermaus' presentation, because they were playing this music at the french radiostation.  And there she was in front of my inner eye, saying hello to me.  Coinsidence? I don't think so.

She's forever here with me, deep in my heard.

I take you in my arms and cry with you, when you allow it.  I know she is well now.

Lets remember her in her humor and force till we see her again, one day.

Je vous embrasse avec tout mes  affections,



From: Karen Walton
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 6:41 AM
Subject: My Deepest Sympathy

It is with a heavy heart I write this about the most beautiful courageous lady whom I never had the pleasure to meet personally, yet with her gifted writing and voice and the ability to touch everyone's' heart on this board with her love and humor.  I never heard complain about herself even to the end.  My deepest sympathy to all of Elizabeth's family and close friends, another angel in heaven, Rest peacefully Elizabeth, you were my inspiration and courage as I battled the beast too.

Luv always Karen Walton

From: John MacInnis
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 8:19 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells - Req. In Pace

To the family of  Elizabeth Parcells:

I did not know her at all, but I saw the Obituary in the paper today, 1/2/06.  I just wanted to thank you for sharing her voice with  those of us who like good music.  I ran thru her website today.  If you have a recording of "O Holy Night" which you can share on the website, that is one of my favorites.

I am so sorry for her early death.  I will make a donation to charity in her memory.

John R MacInnis

From: Larry Kirwan
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 8:58 AM
Subject: For Betsy

Hi Charlie:

One of the most unique and stirring moments of performing onstage with Black 47 stage occurred one night while singing James Connolly.  As often happens in that song, I get lost in the events and in trying to recreate the personality of a great man; there is a long instrumental section in the middle where Black 47 evokes a fife, drum and brass band from the turn of the 20th Century.  At one point I began to be aware of overtones that eventually melded into what I took to be the fragments of a beautiful voice.  By this time I was speaking Connolly's words but now the voice began growing in power and cohesion.  I had no idea what was happening but stuck to my guns - after all, the show must go on.  And then all at once the power and the joy of the voice surged forward and lifted the song into a place it had never been before.  I couldn't turn around and lose focus, but as the song reached a climax I knew it could only be one person aiding us - Betsy Parcells in full flight.

She sang with us a number of times after that, most notably on Our Lady of the Bronx where she added the Bach version of Ave Maria to a long instrumental coda.  I recently listened to the live recording from Wetlands on the On Fire CD.  What can I say?  She added her trademark spirituality, joy, exuberance, drama and sense of fun and we'll always have that track to remember her by.

One last piece of advice she gave that has stood me in good stead regarding vocal exercises:  "don't leave your best performance in the dressing room, save it for onstage."  I think those words best sum up Betsy Parcells for me.  She had enormous talent but in the long run she was a trouper.  Whatever else happened the show must go on, after all there's magic to be created.  That was Betsy's life and what a life it was.  Even though she's departed this plane, many of us will continue to hear her overtones.

Larry Kirwan

From: Ralph Richey
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 9:03 AM
Subject: memories of Betsy

Even though Betsy had written to me that she was terminally ill, I had still hoped that some miracle would allow her to stay with us a little longer. 

Every person has hopes and dreams and no one gets to realize them completely.  When an exceptional person departs this world, those who are left behind should be thankful for the brief joy they were given and not be sad for the unrealized promise.  Betsy was exceptional, and through her art she brought joy and inspiration to many people.  She has left us a lot of beautiful recordings that will allow a part of her talent to live on.  Those who knew her will miss her terribly.

My condolences to her family and friends,

Ralph Richey

From: Susan Larson
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 9:39 AM
Subject: I'll always hear Betsy

I'm so sorry for your loss.  What a woman Elizabeth was.  She was a colleague of mine and a fellow lyric soprano, and I would be misspeaking if I didn't admit that in my younger days I was jealous of Betsy's soaring high notes and spinning cantilena, her musicality and soulfulness.

I can still hear her in my mind's ear, singing "Ruhe Sanft," and the airs from "Maria Stuarda." If, God forbid, her voice stops ringing in my mind, I have a clip Betsy sent me, of her performance of Mozart's "Allelluia," in my favorites folder on my computer, she sings it faster and cleaner and with more luminous joy than anybody.  Thank you, all ye Gods and Muses, for loaning us Betsy Parcells.


From: Dennis J. Tini
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 10:44 AM
Subject: My appreciation and condolences....

Dear Mr. Parcells and Family,

My sincere condolences to you and your Family regarding the passing of dear Betsy.

Her wonderful spirit, incredible kindness and exemplary talent are a continuing beacon of light for us all.

I still marvel at the performance we shared of the Mozart Grand Mass in c minor, K.427 many years ago.....(I think Elizabeth's first concert of this signature masterpiece in her repertoire).

Betsy's artistry, depth of communication and marvelous expressivity are intrinsically woven in  my memory.

My appreciation and sincere sympathy.  - Dennis   January 1, 2006

From: Joseph Pehrson
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 10:59 AM
Subject: Note about Betsy Parcells

Hi Charlie,

As a composer, I had worked with Elizabeth in my early formative years in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and later on a Vocalise in New York, which she later premiered in Michigan in the 1980's.

I remember early years with Elizabeth trying out my beginning efforts in writing for organ and voice, as well as accompanying her at piano for Parcells family gatherings at their Summer retreat.  These are nice memories.

Betsy was steeped in the classics, but always seemed interested and receptive to new work.  Her voice was especially suited to chamber settings where concert music and, especially, new music, is effectively presented.  There was a certain bell-like clarity to the Parcells sound that seemed distinctive, inimitable.

Later, I learned that she worked with many of the same musicians that I had, including the theremin virtuoso Lydia Kavina, who premiered and performed a piece of mine for solo theremin in the U.S. and Russia.  Betsy appears on one of Kavina's CDs, as I recall.

She also was fairly closely associated with a friend whom I met later in New York, Leonard Lehrman, and she had presented premieres of his work in Germany in the earlier years.  So there have been many cross-currents.

My condolences to the entire Parcells family on this terrible loss.  Fortunately we have the memories and the wonderful website as a tribute!

Joseph (Joe) Pehrson

From: Fernando Salcedo
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 11:12 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells

Dear John,

I am writing today with great sadness! I never had the pleasure to meet Ms. Parcells, but did communicate with her frequently via email.  What an amazing human being she was and a superb artist with the voice of an angel. In so many ways, she was more than a singer I admired; she was a mentor.  She encouraged me to study voice and find a teacher in my local area and I did.  Ms. Parcells was right; singing is a joy and those of us who have the talent should share the joy it with others!  I will miss her so...

My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.  I will never forget her and she will always remain one of my favorite and most admired performers. 

With deepest sympathy,

Fernando Salcedo

From: Klaus Weber
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 11:18 AM
To: charlie parcells
Subject: Memories

We are really sad to learn about Elizabeth's death and extend our heartfelt condolences to all of you.  She will be always alive in our memory when we recall the good days we enjoyed with her a couple of years ago.  When she showed up and performed with Lydia Kavina and the theremin the ether music in our living room or we gathered in an historical town in the Rhine valley to listen  to her voice and guitar event.

Ingrid & Klaus Weber
Hamburg/ Germany

From: Rosemary Burns
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 11:44 AM
Subject: Elizabeths passing

Hi, Charlie,

I am so glad you emailed me but it is with heavy heart that I read of Elizabeth's passing.  She has been greatly on my mind and I desperately wanted to see her.  I have had family that have been ill and I have had to tend to that.  I am so distressed that I did not get to say good bye to her.  I will have to talk with her via her spirit and prayer.

I will get over to the funeral home on Tuesday .

You have my greatest sympathy at losing such a wonderful person in your life.  I have too and will always remember her wonderful personality and classic style.

Rose Burns RN

From: Nancy Roach
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 12:07 PM
Subject: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

Elizabeth and I conversed over email because of our common geography and love of music.  I grew up in Grosse Pointe and sang in my church choir, and listening to her music brought me great peace and joy.  We met on the ACOR colon list, where her posts gave tremendous solace to many on the list.  While we never met in person, she has touched me deeply.  Her passing has left a big hole in the world.

Much love, many tears,


From: Rachel Watkins
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 1:05 PM
Subject: the voice of an angel

Dear Charlie,

I worked as an assistant with John Haag at Pro Musicis and had the privilege last season of helping out for her recital at Carnegie Hall.  This was my first time to hear her voice.  I was taken aback by the immediate beauty of her golden, bell like voice.  She sang with confidence and strength and I could tell that she was a believer.  The voice of God was within her and I am so glad that she shared that gift with us. 

God bless you all and I wish you peace.


Rachel Watkins

From: Pette Moore
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 1:32 PM
Subject: From Pette Moore


I'm so sorry to hear about Elizabeth.  Being in the army, it is almost impossible to communicate with my friends and family back home in Michigan but you all are always in my heart.  I am in Iraq for the second time and I had hoped to see all your smiling faces when I returned, just like the first time.  This time, will not be nearly as warm without Liz's smiling face around.

Sometimes when people are gone from this earth, it is very difficult to find the words to remember them by.  That is not the case in this instance.  Elizabeth gave me my first real, up close and personal opera experience.  He beauty extended far beyond her voice.  She had a wonderful way with words that always kept me inspired.  Her teachings, both professional and on the personal level, proved always to be totally correct.

Some things you all don't know about me... I have done much with music since I left the U.S. Opera is a very major part of my life, even with the army as my primary employment.  I have experienced performing in front of great audiences all over Europe and the Caribbean.  I have felt the things that she felt, the things she told me I would feel once I reached that certain point in my singing career.  I have nine months left in Iraq and when I leave here I am going back to Germany to further study music and continue where I left off in My singing career.  I am sure it will take me very far in Life.  It already has and I owe it to two people who were near and dear to me.  Two people who looked past all the opposing odds against me and gave me all the things I needed to make it in this life.  One of those wonderful people was Alden Schell, the other, Elizabeth Parcells.  I loved them both...I still Love them.  Although the two of them are gone from me now, they will live with me forever.  I will always hold the knowledge they gave me.  It has molded me into who I am today and that is something I will never forget.

I love you Liz.
Pette L. Moore U.S. Army Signal Corps

From: Nick Limansky
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 1:46 PM
Subject: Elizabeth's Passing

Dear Charlie,

I was so saddened to hear of Elizabeth's passing.  Although I did not know her personally, (we had only emailed back and forth this past year concerning her website and music) I enjoyed corresponding with her about her thoughts about music and the art of coloratura.  She was a most gracious, generous and charming person and I consider myself blessed to have been able to know her on any level at all.  I have known of her singing since the late 1970s when I heard her Metropolitan Opera audition and have always felt that she was one of America's finest singers.  Humble, yet assured, she always sang with intelligence, great musicality and poise.  Her website was not only a wonderful learning tool for other singers but, for people like me, was a delight for its examples of her singing.  In one of my emails to her I mentioned that I planned to discuss her singing and art on a page in my website - a promise I intend to fulfill this coming year.

Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Nick Limansky

From: Peter Hölzel
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 2:02 PM
Subject: In remembrance of Liesel

*Dear Charlie, dear Parcells family

We feared it for long.  And when Liesel not answered my last mail, we feared even more, being aware, that this brave women, our wonderful friend Elizabeth would loose the battle.  But this does not diminish our grief, now she has lost.

Since we knew her, many years ago, she was part of our life as a wonderful person and a unique artist.  We are so sad, that we never again will embrace her after concert to congratulate.  What an admirable last performance: Her homepage, this legacy accomplished with fading power and singular braveness.

It is a great solace, the family stands together.  We hope You can console one another and above all Your father.

**She has a memorial in our hearts.  We will not forget her.

Ulla and Peter Hölzel, Idstein, Germany

From: Leonard J. Lehrman
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 11:10 AM
To: EParcells
Subject: memories & photos of Elizabeth Parcells to share

Dear Charlie,

I don't think I have ever met you, but your sister has been in many ways one of the most important and most wonderful people in my life.  I use, and shall use, the present perfect tense, not the simple past, for she was not simple, and is, I feel, still present - and perfect in so many ways - even though now she has passed.  I can share with you only a small corner, of what would have to be an enormous canvas, to describe how much she shall be missed.  But I will try.

It was early in 1980, in Augsburg, that I met Elizabeth, working together on Francis Burt's crazy and delightful opera BARNSTABLE.  She made the quirky and difficult coloratura role of the maid sound like child's play.  Later that spring,  I coached (or rather she coached me) and accompanied her in 3 Mozart songs (Das Veilchen, Abendempfindung, and An Chloe), and performed them with her in a Kleine Goldene Saal concert, the memory of which I shall always cherish.  Performing them again over the next two months in three concerts devoted to Mozart's 250th birthday (Jan. 15 at Long Beach Library, Feb. 5 at North Merrick Library, Feb. 12 at Great Neck House), I shall of course be remembering and thinking of her.

In the summer of 1980, Richard Strauss's family withheld the rights to Augsburg's planned production of SALOME with a controversial director, resulting in a hole in the schedule.  Betsy and I proposed that it be partially filled with a concert production of my one-act opera, KARLA.  The proposal was accepted; a German translation was written; and five other singers were recruited.  She and they spent company time rehearsing the work with me.

Unfortunately, the lead baritone took ill, and only a short excerpt from the work could be performed, but Betsy, baritone Richard Charles, a flutist, and I managed to fill in the rest of the program with short pieces of mine, including several written for Betsy, for the occasion.  These included "Answer to a Child's Question" (Samuel Coleridge), "Spiele" (Peter Maiwald), and "The Cautious Struggle" (Anon.), all receiving their world premieres.  She also sang Lyuba's Aria from my first full-length opera SIMA. 

This past July, at her request, I made and sent her an untracked CD made from the tape of that concert, containing all these pieces, and offered tosend her a CD with tracks as well.  She wrote me on 7/24/2005: "I got the CD just fine and it is in the lineup for processing.  I don't need separate tracks as I have a WAV editor that does the job of spitting tracks just fine.  I have started a Contemporary page where they will go."  Unfortunately I do not see that page on her website - in fact I'd been eagerly awaiting it, planning to write her as soon as it appeared - and only hope that that part of her legacy will not be lost....

In the spring of 1984 I managed to put together a production of SIMA in Berlin, in German.  The soprano cast as Lyuba, the Russian Jewish orphanage supervisor, proved inadequate to the task, and we flew Betsy in from Frankfurt to sing it.  She was marvelous, and elevated the morale of the entire cast.  (I am attaching photos of her from that production.)  That's when I started calling her "Betzkele." 

Two years later she was in Berlin again, singing WIENER BLUT at Theater des Westens.  Having been Studienleiter and Kapellmeister there from 1983 to 1985, I had a large apartment around the corner, with a guest room, which proved very convenient for her to stay in.  (She also insisted on getting out a mop and cleaning up the apartment: my [first] wife had served me with divorce papers the previous November, and it was a mess - as was I.  And she helped me organize a party at which most of the furniture got sold, prior to my returning to the States after 7 years.  She stayed in Europe a bit longer....) 

While Betsy was staying with me in Berlin, my collaborator, the writer Karen Ruoff Kramer, and I put the finishing touches on the first version of our E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman.  Betsy performed the title role in the first two performances - first for the Berlin chapter of U.S. Americans for Peace, and then at Stanford University in Berlin.  I later played the videotape of Betsy's performance for Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers, who loved the piece, and the role, but said "I can't sing like that."  The range wasn't just too high, but too wide - though Betsy of course made it all sound easy.  Only one singer has been able to take the role Betsy created and run with it - in 35 productions in 5 countries, from 1987 to 1994:  Helene Williams.  July 14, 2002 I married her.  (Music from the song "Where Do I Belong?", from E.G., was the processional at our wedding.)

Helene & I also had the pleasure of giving the NY premiere of a set of Lewis Carroll settings by Joseph Pehrson, which Betsy had premiered with the composer during their student days together in Michigan.  I see her website now has a photo of the two of them together, and take special pride in having helped effect a rapprochement and resumption of long-dormant communications between her and him. 

Helene & I performed in concert tours of Europe in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000, making contact (and once staying) with Betsy there on a few of those trips.  I adored her singing with guitar, and at her request this past year sent her a number of songs I had written, for her to perform with Felix Justen--too late, unfortunately....  I did have the pleasure of hearing their very last NY performance at the St. Joseph School last Feb. 24, and then having lunch  with them and their colleagues afterwards.  The sadness, beginning with her announcing in a July 9 email that she would not be singing again, has been almost to much to bear.  

I wrote her that I was hoping to be in Michigan for the National Opera Association convention this week, and wanted to see her.  Unfortunately, though the organization has included me in their program several times (E.G. in 1990, Blitzstein in 1995, 2001 & 2005), they did not choose to do so this time.  And even if I had gone, I guess I would have just missed her.

Missed her indeed.  How much we have missed her, miss her now, and will always miss her.   But I do hope her legacy shall continue to grow and flourish for years to come, as more people become aware of her website, and more materials are added to it.  It has been an honor to be even a small part of it.  Please let me hear from you whenever you are able to do so, and let me know what if anything I can do to help.  Whatever I can do I will.

Leonard J. Lehrman

From: Promusicis
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 12:28 PM
Subject: Sad news, Pro Musicis artist Elizabeth Parcells died on Dec 29th

Dear Pro Musicis Artists:

With deep sadness I have to write that Elizabeth Parcells, soprano, died recently.  She was selected for the award in 1977 and remained a vital member of the Pro Musicis family for nearly 30 years.  Pro Musicis presented her in 23 recitals (Boston, San Francisco, New York, Paris, Rome, Valesne), including her farwell performances in Weill Hall and Saint Joseph School in February 2005.

Father Merlet is unable to attend her funeral and asked me to represent the Foundation.  Her father was thankful that someone from Pro Musicis was coming and asked me to overnight with the family after the funeral in their home.  It will be my honor.  

John Haag

From: Janice Meyerson
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 3:39 PM
Subject: from Janice Meyerson

Dear Charlie,

Please accept my condolences about your family's loss of your beautiful sister.  I hope you are finding the strength to get through all this--Betsy's own strength was so remarkable; I hope that can be an inspiration to you in the coming days and weeks.  If you would like to share any of the following with your family or on her magnificent website, please do.   Am thinking of you all at this terrible time.

It was my good fortune to know Betsy for 32 years, since our school days at the New England Conservatory and Tanglewood, where we sang many concerts together--she the soprano,  I the mezzo.  Though we weren’t in touch continuously, our paths did crisscross around the world, and we were part of each other’s lives for several periods of time.  She had a rare combination of pure ethereal spirit, reflected in her general worldview and, of course, her angelic singing that she shared with the world; and on the other hand, a totally practical, down-to-earth side, full of folksy wisdom that we will all treasure.  She was so generous when I was in Frankfurt, where I stayed in her apartment and she showed me all the ropes about living in Germany, since she had been there for a few years already.  I still remember the tremendous success she had at the Frankfurt Opera as Olympia in "Tales of Hoffman" and many other roles.

Her grace throughout her life was evidenced also in the way she handled death.  I can’t imagine anyone braver than Betsy—and always with a sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye.  She couldn’t stop telling me how fortunate and grateful she was to have such a wonderful family--her father (and her mother, may she rest in peace), siblings and their families, and Rick--and how she wanted everyone to know that she had made peace with what was going to happen to her.  "I believe that hope is something that is tangible, that you can reach out and touch," she said to me about 2 weeks before she died.  Last year, she told me that her brother was helping her to create a website, where her performances would be available, and that it would be her legacy.  I think that Betsy's legacy goes way beyond her beautiful singing; it is also her spirit and strength and character that she leaves as an inspiration to us all.  May her memory be a blessing.

Another anecdote, this one lighthearted: Some terrible director started screaming at the cast in Frankfurt after a piano-tech rehearsal about how the rehearsal was the worst he had ever seen or experienced in his whole life.  His tirade went on for 10 minutes, while everyone cringed in terror.  At the end, there was a short silence, and suddenly a voice was heard from the back of the room: "Oh, come on, it wasn't THAT bad."  The voice, of course, belonging to our Miss Elizabeth.  Everyone roared with laughter, and that was that for the nasty director.

Charlie, please know that my thoughts are with you and your family at this time.

Janice Meyerson

From: Maria Janis
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 6:24 PM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells

To the family of Elizabeth Parcells,

It's with sadness that I learned of the death of our wonderful Pro Musicis artist and friend, Elizabeth.

As a board member of Pro Musicis for many years, my wife Maria and I send you our prayers and sympathy.

Her gift of music will remain with all of us and her public.    Her wonderful spirit will not be forgotten.

With my warmest wishes,

Byron Janis

From: Charles Hayden

Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 7:40 PM
Subject: Re: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

I am proud to have met Elizabeth twice and to have attended her concert in New York.  She impressed me greatly, and I am better for having known her.  My sincere condolences to the Parcells Family.  They have great reason to be proud.

Sincerly, Charles Hayden

From: Chancellor Wyman
Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 11:37 PM
Subject: MOT Opera Camp

I had the pleasure of working with Elizabeth in two instances and I remember not only her exceptional musicianship, but her willingness to give of herself to the students that she was coaching at the time.  It was unselfish music-making, the best kind, and the younger singers whom she inspired were the better for it.

 My heart goes out to your family and you will be in my prayers.

From: Tony&Norma
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 6:17 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

Dear Charlie
I am so very sorry to hear that Elizabeth has gone.  I only knew her through email; we wrote to each other while my partner Tony was fighting rectal cancer and Elizabeth continued to write to me in the months after his death.

She was so kind to me; although she was suffering she had concern for my grief.  I shall miss her and my thoughts go out to you in your loss.

I have attached the last email I had from her to show how she was always caring.

Hi Norma,
Just to say it, and not to impose my beliefs on anyone, but I do believe this life here is one chapter in the story.  We spend a lifetime becoming the individuals we are, growing and developing.  It is hard to think all that ends with earthly death.  The "lights out" theory would only be comforting if we were trying to escape. 
We only experience what we can see and touch, but we humans are visionaries too.  We can imagine and attach images to what we dream of, putting our ideas of continued existence into pictures we can understand, like a trip around the world.  Sounds plausible to me somehow.  Our loved one is on a journey, away for awhile.  We will see him again.  Bon Voyage for now.  It is that we miss their presence with us that hurts.  Pain of separation.
But is it really true?  Does our existence extend beyond this phase as our tradition teaches?  Well, there it's up to your faith and conviction to decided what you believe, but I have a feeling we are going to find out when the time comes anyway.  I'm just curious to know if my faith has been justified or not.  Isn't it an exciting adventure, a sense of anticipation and deep curiosity to ponder it!
I've lost friends and family along the way that I so sorely miss, living on their memories, wondering why death is such a cruel necessity to life.  It just doesn't seem fair.  But those are the rules of engagement here.  And grief is unavoidable.  What gets me through the night I guess is accepting the rightness of the world, even when it pains me.
I don't know if any of this helps you, I'm just thinking, you know, and getting through, like you.  I feel how hard losing Tony is for you and want to connect good energy to you for your comforting.  You are a strong person and I think you are on a very good path to life.  Wish I could do or say more to help during the tough part.
Love, Elizabeth

From: Celia Bengry
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 9:43 AM
Subject: Elizabeth's passing

Dear Charlie,

We were enjoying the holidays up north when we got the call about Betsy.  We of course knew of her struggle but it was a shock, nonetheless.  Betsy was an inspiration to me as she was to countless others.  Her voice was a living thing.  There was such spin and light.  Thank goodness that sound lives on in her numerous recordings.  Having the chance to sing alongside her on occasion was such a delight and I am so grateful I was able to tell her that those experiences made me a better singer.  When I became a new member of Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church Betsy and her father became Associate Members.  I have sung for many years at the church and, when "introduced" to the Session, I was honored by their appreciative applause.  I remember saying that I NEVER dreamed my voice would be acknowledged when Elizabeth Parcells was in the same room!  I regret I never took the time to study with her.  There was always "next semester"....I appreciate all the information on the website and will take my time to "study" there.  It's true that the world is just a bit darker without her glorious voice lighting it but we can all be grateful for her legacy that lives on in her recordings, her friends and her family.  What an amazing addition to the heavenly choir! God bless your family and God bless her soul.

Rose Randall-Bengry

David Daniels
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 9:51 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

I conducted for Elizabeth a number of times: operas in Boston and concerts with the Warren Symphony.  She was a consummate musician.

David Daniels

From: Mariana P Wagoner
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 10:01 AM
Subject: Re: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells


From: Philip Morehead
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 10:16 AM
Subject: Very sad

I knew Betsy during her Boston years, when I was a student at New England Conservatory and when I worked at Tanglewood.  I did several concerts with her, most notably the premiere of a song cycle by Robert Selig at Tanglewood and a concert in the style of Jenny Lind that we did in Boston and in Worcester (her recording was based on this concert).  She had a remarkable voice and was a phenomenal musician.  I lost touch after Boston.  I am greatly saddened to hear of her struggles and premature death and convey my deepest sympathies to her family.

Philip Morehead
Head of Music Staff, Lyric Opera of Chicago

From: Thurston Smith
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 7:39 PM
Subject: condolences

Dear Mr. Parcells,

I first heard Betsy sing while she was a student at New England Conservatory, where I was then the registrar.   Mark Pearson, her teacher at the time, asked me to come to hear this amazing student sing.  I sat with Mark in the theater as Gunther Schuller conducted the fine student orchestra.  As she sang “O Luce di Quest’ anima,” I knew that I was hearing a very rare voice, and a very rare talent.

That summer, at Tanglewood, my life-long partner, John Clement Adams, wrote a set of songs for Betsy.  As a young composer, he made the music almost impossibly difficult for the voice.  One song ends with the phrase, “I am a child again,” sung pianissimo on a high d-flat.  Betsy showed up every morning with a thermos of tea in one hand and the score in another, eager to rehearse with John.  The performance was stunning, a great success.  Later on, we heard Betsy whenever she sang in Boston.  Her Zerbinetta there was remarkable, as were her cartwheels while singing!

John and I are deeply saddened to hear of Betsy’ passing, and we send to you, and to all her family and friends, our sincere condolences.  The thrilling shimmer of the “Parcells sound” will live on in her many recordings, and in the minds of all who heard her.

Thurston Smith

Santa Rosa, California

From: Ken&Jeanie
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 9:24 PM
Subject: Betsy Parcells

To All of Betsy's family,

I was so sad to see she had passed away, She was always beautiful inside and out. I can remember her singing on the porch at Seven Gables (Stella music box) when we were there to see Mrs. Lucas with my grandmother, Helen McKim.   We never minded how long Grandma took if we knew Betsy would be at the big house.  We learned more about arias and singing those two summers, and she made it look so easy we were sure we could be stars, also.  Then she went away, but wrote grandma often and we saw a whole new world through her eyes.  She will truly be missed by anyone whose life she graced, no matter how briefly as she truly was one of those special people who always was positive about life experiences.  The poem Mrs. Lucas wrote about her so long ago still is true "Blessings we lost-and found again.  All these within our hearts we prove  Listening to beauty in the voice we love."

From: Kyle Haswell
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 1:08 AM
Subject: Thank you for this inspiration

Dear Family and Friends of Elizabeth:

After just now seeing her obituary in the 1/2/06 newspaper, I was struck by its length and her beautiful face.  I never read papers but my husband had brought one home Then I read: "...she died of cancer on 12/29/06 at home, the day after her 54th birthday..." Well, I just had my 54th birthday on 12/28/05 also (as well as my 20th wedding anniversary) and so the connection I have with Elizabeth is that we were born on the same day.  I have always sang first soprano when I was able to and asthma wasn't a deterrent.  She lived a dream I only dreamed.  I am learning from reading these heartfelt stories about your loved one that she was a beautiful person as well as masterful singer.  I am proud to share the same birth date with her and look forward to listening to her music.  Highest and best blessings.

Ms. Kyle Lynn Haswell
Rochester Hills, Michigan

"Some people look at the muddy bottom of the swamp, others look at the lotus flower on the watery surface, it is a choice." -Dalai Lama

From: Lydia Kavina
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 3:33 AM
Subject: Re: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

Dear friends,

I am so sorry to hear the sad news.  I loved Elizabeth
very much.


From: Ruth E Harcovitz
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 8:13 AM

Dear Family of Elizabeth Parcells,

Please accept my condolences upon the death of lovely the Elizabeth.  Betsy and I both studied with the same voice teacher at new England Conservatory, although I was a few years ahead of her.  I remember how excited we all were for her when she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.  She was always a sweet and lovely colleague.  I still remember how beautifully she sang the role of Norina in "Don Pasquale" at NEC.  I also remember her lovely Jenny Lind recital in Jordan Hall.  She was an extraordinary singer, not only with her limpid tone, but with her individual musicality.  She was a kind and generous colleague, and when I was in Germany on my own opera audition tour, I stayed with her in Frankfurt.  Cathy Bowers was there at the same time, so we had a fun reunion.  While I was there, she got me a ticket to hear her Olympia in "Tales of Hoffman".  Her singing was, again, extraordinary.  I heard her sing Zerbinetta in Boston with the Boston Lyric Opera.  Again, outstanding. 

You, her family, have had an angel in your midst, as have we, her musical colleagues.  She is most certainly singing with the angel choir.

I hope you will establish a vocal scholarship in her memory at New England Conservatory, to which her friends may contribute.

I embrace you all with  my heart and prayers.

Ruth Harcovitz

From: Charles Horner Jr
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 6:13 PM
Subject: Obit/website

 Hello all -- Thank you for this website and the preservation of the delightful music that Elizabeth gave to the world.  I had the privilege to sing in the chorus on two different occasions when she sang "Mozart's C-Minor" mass and listen spellbound to her performances of the "Exsultate, Jubilate" and "Alleluja".  Our world is a better place because of her talent and the fond memories will live with me for the rest of my days.  She was truly a Diva!

Charlie Horner

From: Marie Lamb
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 9:55 PM
Subject: Condolences and thanks

Dear Charlie,

I never knew your sister, although I knew about her as a fine singer.  I found out about her passing from someone on one of the opera lists I belong to.  I extend my sympathy at the passing of your sister, who I gather was a wonderful person as well as a wonderful soprano.  However, I also thank you and her for the great website.

Not only is the music absolutely lovely, but Elizabeth's insights are very wise and show what she learned from years of singing.  It shows what kind of lady she was that she wanted to share her voice and her wisdom with everyone, even though she knew she was not long for this world.  Benjamin Britten used to say that "a voice is a person," and surely Elizabeth's great voice reflected the fine person she was.  It's sad that she is gone, but we are all lucky that she was here, and we're also lucky that she continues to teach us and to give to the world through this site.  Thank you for keeping it available; it's a great tribute to her.

Marie Lamb

WCNY Classic FM, Syracuse and WAER Jazz 88, Syracuse

From: Adrienne Kirsten
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:39 AM
Cc: 'Martha Sharp'
Subject: sad news

Dear Charlie,

I was very sad to hear of Betsy's death.  I knew that she had been struggling for quite some time.   My mother (Martha Sharp) and Betsy were colleagues and fellows at Tangelwood together.  I guess that was the first time I met Betsy - at Tanglewood, I think in 1976.  I was 6 years old and had fun running around the beautiful parks and climbing trees while my mom and Betsy had rehearsal.  We met again in Germany where both singers were engaged a few years later.  When I decided as a young adult to become an opera singer myself I still had clear memories of Betsy from when I was a kid.  At that point I just remembered her as the nice lady who was friends with my mom, but soon Betsy's artistry would also make a lasting impression on me.  My mother had recordings of Betsy whom she was seriously impressed by,  which she shared with me.  I was so awed by her beauty of tone and obvious love affair with each note and phrase.  The seeming ease with which she sang became an ideal for me and I often listened to these recordings when I felt "stuck", to remember how great singing should sound and feel.

I also have Betsy's recording of Christmas songs with guitarist Felix Justen which we hear every Christmas season.  The first time I hear her voice again at the beginning of each Advent I'm inevitably moved to tears for the purity and beauty of what can only be described as the sound of a soul.

I've finished my studies and started my career a few years ago.  Still Betsy's singing continues to  inspire me.  It is rare to hear a singer with such integrity in the voice and intelligence in presentation.  She will be sorely missed.

Betsy and my mother took up contact with each other again about a year ago which is when I heard that she was so sick.  Around the time of her Carnegie Hall concert?  I took the opportunity to write to Betsy then and tell her about the far-reaching effects of her singing and what an influence she had had on me.  I never heard back from her but I hope she got my message.

My deepest condolences to you and your family and to those who were lucky enough to know Betsy better than I did.

In gratitude,

Adrienne Kirsten

From: James Patterson
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 9:34 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

I was fortunate enough to meet and perform with Elizabeth at a benefit performance a number of years ago and like everyone else was struck by her amazing combination of talents.  That connection led to many hours of “singer talk” and eventually to plans for us to perform together in Huron City for Red Letter Days which remains my fondest performance experience.  Elizabeth was so relaxed and happy on the Huron City stage and was obviously adored by the many folks who made the journey to attend our concert’ and she did a huge amount of work for all of the facets of that concert including digging up literally stacks of almost forgotten music for me to consider.  Her attention to detail and style were monumental and her determination to perpetuate this glorious music was quite infectious.

What I remember even better than the performance however was the way that Elizabeth embraced me and my entire family.  We spent almost a week as guests of her family in a small farmhouse on the grounds of the Huron City Museum near the main house, and spent hours walking the beach and knocking balls around the old golf course.  My little boy caught his first fish that week and the picture of him proudly holding it is one of my favorites.  My parents came to visit us there and my Father and Elizabeth’s dad really hit it off as they strolled around the golf course with Charlie proudly pointing out interesting features here and there.  I will always remember “Betsy” frolicking with family members at a large family gathering following the concert.  She was totally relaxed and at peace in that wonderful setting and I realize in retrospect that those experiences were a large part of what kept her so totally grounded as a person and artist.  She knew that singing was only a small part of what life had to offer her and she didn’t let it get in the way of really “living” her life

The last time I saw her she was very ill but as always we laughed and talked about our very similar views on singing and performing and when it was time for me to leave, even though she was very weak she insisted on getting up from her bed saying “just to show you that I can” to give me a very special hug goodbye.  It was typical of Elizabeth and was the nicest gift she could have given me.

I learned more from her about bravery and graciousness in the face of adversity than I can express and I will miss her!

With Love,

Jim Patterson

From:  Charlie Parcells
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 2:05 PM

The funeral service was yesterday.  Jim Patterson sang The Lost Chord.  There was a choir of singers from the Rackum Symphony Choir, Michigan Opera Theater Chorus, the church choir and others.  They sang Mozart's "Ave verum corpus", "How lovely is Thy Dwelling Place" by Brahms, and Randall Thompson's "Alleluia".  The Grunyons, the close harmony group our father sang in for 40+ years, sang an Amen at the end.  Sincere thanks to all the musicians who participated.  Then the presiding minister suggested that, since this was Elizabeth's last production, may be it was the right moment for applause, so the house erupted, bravos all around, one last time.

This morning 10 of us drove to Huron City, the family farm, to bury Elizabeth in the family cemetery.  There were a couple dozen local friends waiting for us on the road when we got there, much appreciated.  Now we're sitting in the North farmhouse with family and a few friends and will be on our way back to Detroit soon.

The support my family has gotten from everyone has been a huge help and we've been reading and appreciating all the mail. 

I've got some Betsy stories that I'll post here when we're back in Detroit.


Carole Charnow
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:35 PM
Subject: From the Boston music community

Dear Charlie,

We have just read the obituary of our dear Betsy in The Boston Globe and the news has hit the opera and vocal music community like a freight train.  We are all totally devastated.

Randolph Fuller (your father will know him as the President of our company) wanted you to know that there will be a special tribute to Betsy that will include a variety of her vocal performances after the Met Broadcast on Saturday on WHRB, the Harvard radio station.

We are also planning to dedicate our spring production of Lucrezia Borgia to her beloved memory.  We all remember her stunning performances for our company (formerly known as Boston Academy of Music).  She will never be forgotten.

Randolph and I are planning to make donations to the Interlochen Academy in her honor.

The thoughts and prayers of all of Betsy’s many Boston fans are with you.



Carole Charnow
General Director
Opera Boston

Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 5:49 PM
Subject: Elizabeth, a voice of an angel

Dear Charlie,

I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth through my son Pette Moore.  I want you to know that my heart is saddened to hear of her illness that ended her stay here with us.  However, you now have your own personal angel to watch over you.  God bless you and the family.   Love Gladys.

From: Hannah Vogler []
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 6:06 PM
Subject: Elizabeth

Dear Charlie and Family,

I burst into tears when I read of Elizabeth's death, and have been trying to find words to express my sympathy.

Although I never met her, I came to "know" Elizabeth through her bright and eloquent messages posted on the ACOR colon cancer discussion list.  She was an incredible asset to all of us in the colon cancer community, and it is incomprehensible to me that we must all live without her.  There are so many who will suffer because she is gone, unable to read her kind, articulate words and thoughts.  So often I read her messages and thought that her response was exactly what I wish I had written.  She will be so missed, and although I don't think she wouldn't want it, all of our lives will be less joyous because she is gone.

Please extend my deepest sympathies to your family.  I already miss Elizabeth, as I know you do as well.


Hannah K. Vogler
Co-Founder, Secretary/Treasurer
The Colon Club
(501)666-1990 office/home

From: Charlie Parcells
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 8:30 PM

I'm Elizabeth's big brother.

At our sister Ann's wedding reception Elizabeth performed an aria, in Italian I believe.  For the occasion she sang it as an aging Swedish soprano with a thick accent she couldn't hide because of too much to drink.  Betsy used the piano as a prop for slips and stumbles and every manner of stage faux pas before pulling herself together and finishing on a high note.  She had her own Cosmo McMoon at the piano.  It was side splitting, scary, funny and I asked if we could see more of the same in the future.  She said absolutely not, shh..., no talking about it because the opera business doesn't have much going in the sense of humor department.

In the early days of Elizabeth living in Europe there were several times when she came home to visit and we hadn't heard her perform for a long time so we'd badger her until she'd let us take her to a piano bar.  It was cheap thrills watching the bushwhacked house pianist struggling to rise to the occasion and always fun to hear Elizabeth belting one out.

There was a concert of her voice and guitar duo in Germany where about 8 people showed up, which was a shame according to Betsy, because it was one of their better performances.  To celebrate the good playing Elizabeth and Felix, the guitarist, took the entire audience out to dinner.

Our brother Fred is a long time member of a New York band called Black 47.  Elizabeth happened to be visiting home and the band was performing nearby.  She sat in for some backup vocals.  It was amazing to hear Elizabeth's sounds blending with a rock band and I asked why we never hear it.  She said the smoky rooms and hard travel schedule are too punishing for her kind of instrument and again, shh..., the opera people people might not approve.

On a visit to Europe I spent some time back stage.  One of her colleagues told me that being in a production with Elizabeth was like a music lesson.  I enjoyed going to Elizabeth's rehearsals when there was a chance because they usually were music lessons and it was something to see when she could raise the bar and improve everybody's game.  When she did hometown recitals she'd sometimes take time between sets to give the audience background about the composer, his intentions, and what we should expect to be hearing.  She wanted everybody to work at it.

I followed her to the dressing room before an Olympia performance at Michigan Opera Theater.  On the way in I asked the security guy behind the glass how many people were in the building working on the production.  I believe he replied something around 250 (this would include singers, orchestra, back stage, ushers, the works).  After we got to the dressing room Elizabeth teased me about being a numbers guy but took the opportunity to make a point--that when she's taking her bows it's on behalf of ALL those people, because if they aren't there doing their jobs her moments won't be so grand.

Elizabeth wanted everybody to come along for the ride.  I've enjoyed every minute.


From: Keith Kibler
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 8:41 PM

Betsy had a voice seraphic, and I know I will hear it again,

Keith Kibler

From: Paul Rosendahl
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2006 10:55 PM
Subject: No Subject

I only knew Elizabeth electronically.....from the Cancer Support Chat and talking on line.  We had some great discussions about opera.  Even with this rather impersonal contact, I quickly realized that she was a person with great abilities and great charm.  She was obviously very bright, and her singing was simply wonderful.  The world suffered a great loss at her leaving, but she will live on in the hearts and minds of many people.
Be well,

Paul Rosendahl

From: Bret Holloway
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 4:55 PM
Subject: Condolences

Family and Friends of Betsy Parcells,

My thoughts are with you during this sad time.  I knew Betsy through Cathy Bowers.  Betsy was (it goes without saying) a singular talent and courageous person.  I am attaching a photograph of Cathy & Betsy together.  It still makes me smile to see the musicianship and brainpower fused in that single hug.

I have to imagine that somewhere there is a very lucky choral director.

Bret Holloway

From: Elke
Sent: Saturday, January 07, 2006 8:36 AM
Subject: Last days...

Dear Parcells Family,

It happened to be due to certain circumstances that I spent the last couple of days of Elizabeth's life in your house.  Never in my life before I struggled with such deep emotions and it really took some time to put everything in the right shape of words which are still hard to find anyhow.

In your house I realised again how important it is to be surrounded by a strong family and a bunch of friends!  She was a part of that and I was deeply impressed to see how much she was fighting despite of all the pain she was suffering of.

Gathering all her energy she succeeded in having all her beloved family and friends around her for Christmas – I think it was a great day for everyone!  After that all her strengths seemed to be gone.  On her birthday her father took us to the Pancake House where we had her favourite crepes with cherries which she couldn't enjoy any more because of her weakness.

Next day we had to leave – one day before she passed away!

It was a few years ago that I got in touch with Elizabeth's music through Felix -  the music teacher of two of my kids.  We also learnt about her illness and I was lucky to attend their concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York with my daughter Fee.  This was overwhelming, the music and the the way she addressed herself to the audience in order to draw the attention to the need of a colonoscopy screening – my decision was taken:

I hereby promise to fulfil one of her last wishes by making an appointment for a colonoscopy!

Be sure, dear Parcells Family, I will never forget the great experience I made regarding the way you maintained the warm atmosphere around Elizabeth while playing her music or putting her nice pictures on the wall.  I'll also remember Felix playing guitar all the time even she had fallen asleep...Even as a non – musician it stroke my heart very deeply!

My deepest condolences and sympathy – you are always in my mind!

With love

Limburg in Germany

From: Dean S Smith
Sent: Saturday, January 07, 2006 10:59 AM
Subject: Sharing our sorrow

Dear Charlie and family-

Carol and I just returned from our Christmas adventure with our daughter and her family in Virginia so accept our late condolence.  At this moment I really can't find the emotional thoughts appropriate to share with you over the passing of a beautiful and talented family member.  We will always cherish those few personable times we enjoyed with Elizabeth.

Sincerely, Dean And Carol

Sent: Saturday, January 07, 2006 2:19 PM
Subject: RE: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

Dear Fred,

I’m very saddened by this news; I had no idea.  I went to Elizabeth’s site and read through the many letters written to her memory.  Somewhere someone pointed out that her music, though she is gone, will LIVE.  This is a beautiful truth.

My thoughts are most definitely with you my friend.  I hope you’ll remember to flag me when a scholarship or something similar is established in her name.


From: Gailyn Sadurski
Sent: Sunday, January 08, 2006 4:59 PM

Dear Charlie -

I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss.  I only recently came upon Elizabeth's website and it has been a total inspiration and help to me.  Last week I was ready to send an email to Elizabeth thanking her for her incredibly clear and well communicated ideas about breath and singing and noticed the "In Memoriam" and was struck dumb.

That same day I had listened to a few of her recordings via the web.  What an incredible voice!

My mother passed away just three years ago, a student of Oberlin and Julliard.  I miss her terribly and I thought her voice the voice of an angel.  I hope she and Elizabeth are singing together now!

My thoughts and prayers,
Gailyn Sadurski
Born and raised in Pontiac, MI and now living in OH

From: Julie Herzog
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 11:12 AM
Subject: Memoriam

Hi Charlie.  My mother has stage IV colon cancer, diagnosed 10/04, and I have been a member of the ACOR colon cancer list-serv since about 1/05.  I wanted to write but desperately feel a loss for words.  I read every one of Elizabeth’s postings with much anticipation and satisfaction, regardless of the topic.  Her words were an inspiration to all of us – survivors and care givers.  For the last several months, I have thought time and time again after reading her posts how nice it would be to have a book with all of her postings in it to give to people battling colon cancer (or really any life-threatening situation).  Her postings are in the ACOR archives but I would love to see them all in hard print in one place.  I am sure I will turn to them again and again as my mother’s battle continues.  Your sister was quite an inspiration – she will continue to live in each one of our hearts.  My best wishes to you and your family for strength and comfort in these times of loss. 

With love,


From: Mary Ellen Geist
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 6:25 AM
Subject: Re: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

To the Parcells Family:

Sending love and prayers from all the Geists.

Rosemary, Woody, Alison, Mary Ellen and Libby

From: Elizabeth Printy
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 1:53 PM
Subject: the sad news about Betsy

Dear  Charlie,

I was extremely saddened to read of the death of your sister.  She and I were in the same class of ' 74 at the Conservatory.  We lived doors away from each other on the same floor and took many classes together.  As freshmen, Ginny Piquette, Debby Martin and I were always kept in a fun-loving spirit by Betsy.  Her humor could get us rolling with laughter, and she could tell a great tale, sing a song with her guitar or offer us basic wisdom about life.  When meeting her in the halls or on the street, she always had a happy, beautiful smile.  And what a beautiful voice!! I remember her singing Strauss' "Standchen" with exceptional ease and a light, chiffon texture.  After Betsy went to Europe, we never saw one another again.  But I'm thankful for the friendship we were able to share while at NEC.

I send you and your family my deepest condolences.  God bless you, and may you all be reunited in Heaven one day.


Elizabeth (Bilodeau) Printy

From: Bill Welch
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 2:36 PM

Hi Charlie,
Thank you for extending the news about Betsy to our family.
I'm glad she passed at home as she wished.  She was a wonderful person.  I carry many playful and fun memories of her from summers at the lake years ago.
Bill Welch

From: Ran Blake
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 2:50 PM
To: Fred Parcells
Subject: Condolences about Betsy

Dear Fred,
How sorry I am to hear about Betsy.  All My best regards.
Ran Blake

From: The Alcantaras
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 9:04 PM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells


I'm sorry that our family could not be there last week.  I'm glad that we got to see Elizabeth before Christmas when we came over with the St. Stephens Carolers.  One of my fondest memories of Betsy involved St. Stephens Carolers, just last year.  We sang Silent Night at the Burwell's party and Bill had her sing one of the verses while we filled in the background.  Chills up and down during that verse.

God bless you, Betsy, and all of your family.

The Alcantaras
Tony, Christine, Adam, Robert and Nathan

From: Dianne Ruth
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 9:45 PM
To: charlie
Subject: My Friend Betsy

To the Parcell's Family:
We have lost a truly wonderful lady, friend and performer.  "Betsy" was a Grosse Pointe friend and classmate at The Liggett School in the late 60's.  We lost touch when she went to Interlochen and then moved overseas, but in 2000 we found each other in The Thumb of Michigan (of all places) when she was getting Huron City Museums organized and I bought Breakers on the Bay Beach Resort and Lakefront Restaurant in Port Austin.  Elizabeth's legend will carry on and she will be missed by all!

Dianne Dossin Ruth
Liggett Class of 1970


Susan Ross
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 12:47 AM
Subject: Elizabeth blessed us all

Dear Charlie,
Elizabeth's great heart has been such an inspiration.  She met challenges with grace and compassion, transcending her suffering to share the gifts of her blissful voice, courage, insight and sense of humor!  For those of us who met her through letters on the ACOR list, and the magic of her music on the Web, she gave a shining example of how to truly live.  Thank you for providing this opportunity to express gratitude - most assuredly, Elizabeth lives on now in the beauty and caring she created.
Susan Ross

From: Cynthia
Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 6:37 AM
Subject: Re: sad news about Elizabeth Parcells

It has been been over a week now since I learned Elizabeth passed away.  Equally long I have been trying to share my memories of her with you, only to end up staring at an empty email I had started, being sad, distressed over her passing and scared for my dad who is fighting the same battle she has so bravely.  This being also how we met, on the ACOR list…And now, what can I say that has not been said already?  What words, superlatives, can I use that have not been used by others before me when describing Elizabeth? None.  I can only repeat: wise, warmest, funny, courageous, gracious, generous, most caring, honest, most eloquent.

With the privilege of meeting, getting to know a true angel, comes the pain of having to let go when heaven asks them back.  My heart goes out to all that will now have to miss Elizabeth: list mates, friends, family, sisters, brothers - Charlie, thank you for doing this, for keeping her close through this website; the music, the pictures, the stories -, Ric, especially her father and last but not least the sweetest child in the world - her little niece.

With love

From: leonardjlehrman
Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:52 PM
To: Pro Musicis

Dear John Haag,
Thank you so much for putting Betsy's obit in the Times last Sunday.  We dedicated to her memory the performance at Christ Church Babylon last Sunday of Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus." I was proud to have been a participant in some of her musical achievements, and only hope that more people get to hear more and more of them in years to come.
Thank you again.


Leonard J. Lehrman

A Bittersweet Community Service Concert

Fifty grade school students, mostly children of Chinese immigrants, sat in neat rows wondering what to expect.  In the front of the classroom hung an American flag and a poster that read, "Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul."

When the coloratura soprano began to sing art songs to the music of an acoustic guitar, the students began to fidget.

So foreign was the music to their ears, they didn't know how else to respond.  Then slowly but surely the artists won their hearts.  Soon they were listening with rapt attention, instinctively enjoying the beauty of music they had never heard before.  The chemistry between artists and audience was palpable.

Soprano Elizabeth Parcells from Detroit, winner of the 1977 Pro Musicis International Award, and her longtime collaborator, guitarist Felix Justen from Germany, had performed in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall the night before.

The following morning they were performing a Pro Musicis community service concert for inner-city children at Saint Joseph School in Manhattan's Chinatown.

By means of simple questions and stories, Ms. Parcells opened their minds to her music.   What she did not say is that she has been ill with advanced colon cancer and considered this performance to be her farewell concert."

Elizabeth Parcells died peacefully on December 29, 2005 with her family gathered around her.

John Haag, Executive Director

From: Erin McSheffrey
Sent: Friday, January 13, 2006 12:30 PM
Subject: My time with Elizabeth

Dear Charlie and Family,

I met Elizabeth at your home in November of 2004 and we talked at length about her alma mater, New England Conservatory. 

Most of the family was in town to celebrate Fred's 50th birthday, but it seemed that it was Betsy to whom everyone's attention was directed.  We had tea, we reminisced about her days at NEC, and spoke about Gunther Schuller.  Betsy seemed very happy talking about her years in Boston, and asked me many questions of the school - if a certain teacher was still there, if the alumni office had heard from a classmate...she seemed pleased that I had invited myself into your home to talk about her NEC education.  For that afternoon, the only time I knew her, she made me feel as if I were a part of your family.  From that brief encounter I understood why the family hovered so close to her.  People came in and out of the room, joining our conversation, her niece showed us some gymnastics moves, the phone rang off the hook for her - and through it all Betsy, tired and worn from medicine, became energized, and remained interested, engaged, and polite.

I have heard people talk about her voice - the voice of an angel - on many occasions.  I have heard recordings and can only imagine what hearing her sing in person must have been like...a voice of infinite clarity and perfection unlike any other.  For those of you who had this honor I am envious.  Still, I consider myself fortunate that I had the small moment we shared.

I hope you all find comfort knowing that Elizabeth is a beloved alumna and that  the NEC community remembers her fondly.  Our greatest sympathies.

Erin M. McSheffrey
New England Conservatory

From: Denice Karamardian
Sent: Friday, January 13, 2006 1:12 PM
Subject: Betsy and NEC

Oh, my!! I have just read about Betsy's death, after having been thinking of her out of the blue this past month. My heart just froze!

Betsy is a light that shines through my memories of NEC; mostly within the context of the early music department under the direction of Daniel Pinkham.  I believe that Betsy's example as a human and as a singer has stayed with me over the ensuing years as an inspiration.  She really lightened the experience for me; her infectious laughter and her light hearted - non-diva like - persona come to mind whenever my memories drift back to conservatory days.

As a teacher, I have consciously drawn from the memory of Betsy's liquid voice while guiding a student through a running passage of Mozart or Handel.  I have recalled some techniques she gave me for Baroque ornamentation (which I have used in jazz improvisation as well).

And because I also knew Fred during those years, I remember thinking - what an incredible family!! Not only in terms of talent, but as human beings! And often when I think of the state of Michigan, the Parcells family jumps into my mind and I have wondered what Betsy and Fred were up to (picturing Betsy in Europe).

All these many years since NEC, while I have lost touch, Betsy has represented for me the best of all best qualities.  I am not at all surprised to read of the impact she made on so many other lives.

To the Parcells family, I salute you and thank you for sharing Betsy with us all.  May she live on in all our hearts and souls and music!

Denice Peter Karamardian NEC '75

From: Jennie Morgan
Sent: Friday, January 13, 2006 8:31 PM

I was a roommate of Elizabeth's during our years at NEC - she was always such a positive influence on me, a cheerful presence in the apartment which we shared with 3 other women.  My favorite memory of her is the performance that we did together in Jordan Hall - we put on the opening act of Ariadne Auf Naxos - her Zerbinetta was such a delight, ( I was the Prima Donna)  - we had such a good time together doing that - I still have some pictures of the cast of that performance.  My other fond memory is of her participation as a finalist in the Met Opera competition singing Zerbinetta's aria  - I have never yet heard anyone sing that aria any better than she did.  Her kindness to me when I was lonely and her support of me as a colleague were priceless.  I haven't seen her or spoken to her in many years, but she never left my heart. 
My deepest sympathies.

From: Carol Chatfield
Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2006 11:52 AM
Subject: Remembrances of Betsy

Dear Charlie,

I was terribly shocked and saddened to read of the death of Betsy in the New England Conservatory Notes.  What a terrific loss to the music community!

Betsy was in the class one year ahead of me and I admired her greatly! Her vocal technique and artistry were beyond her years.  She was blessed with an incredible instrument, but she worked very hard to become the artist she was, ever growing and ever improving.  She had terrific stage presence and charm, on and off stage.

 I got to know Betsy better when we toured Europe the summer of 1972 with the New England Conservatory Tour Chorus.  Betsy and I were sometimes roommates.  (It was generous of her as a sophomore to agree to room with a freshman!) I have many fond memories of that trip! Betsy would take out her guitar and sing folk songs at the homes of our host families.  The families all loved that special gift!

Early on in my Conservatory days, I had been singing in the mezzo range.  My teacher, Susan Clickner, said I was NO mezzo! I declared I couldn’t sing high, and she replied , ”That’s because you don’t know how!”

She advised me to seek out and listen to other sopranos at school, who had good high notes.  Betsy came immediately to mind.  I timidly asked her if we could spend some time in a practice room together, working on, and talking about how it felt to sing high notes.  Many sopranos would have declined, but not Betsy!  (And Betsy was all ready a rising star at school and to think that she would take time to work with me!) She did spend time with me and generously offered any knowledge she could.  She helped me not be afraid to experiment with my voice to find the right placement, etc. 

I did find my top notes and transitioned to being a soprano.  I shall ever be grateful to Betsy for helping me find my top notes, which have served me well to this day.   Betsy also talked about John Moriarty’s wonderful diction course, which at the time was offered during the senior year.  At Betsy’s urging, I took the course a year early, which made preparing for my senior recital less daunting.  Betsy showed me a notebook that she kept with the words to every song she sang.  Above the song words she wrote in the phonetics in IPA and below, she wrote a word-for -word translation of each song.  It’s then that I realized how hard Betsy worked to get every nuance of what she was doing right.  It wasn’t all just God given!

In our time together, Betsy also talked a lot about her Interlochen days.  I had never heard of Interlochen, but catalogued it in the back of my mind.  Years later, as my son was considering going into music as a string bass player, at my suggestion, he attended Interlochen which was his springboard into studying to become a professional string bass player.  He too, had a good Interlochen experience, with excellent training.  He then was accepted into Eastman School of Music, graduated, and is now a professional bass player in the DC area.  Thank you, Betsy for sharing about Interlochen!   

I only saw Betsy a few times after our days at NEC, but did manage to catch a recital that she did in Jordan Hall some years later when I happened to be visiting Boston at the time.  Her voice, which I could have recognized blindfolded, had blossomed!  But there was still that identifiable purity, clarity and artistic expression that made Betsy’s performances stunning!

I have spent time on Betsy’s web site, since learning of her death, and have been so impressed with her courageous fight against a terrible illness.  And wasn’t it just like Betsy to try do good, with something so terrible?  Betsy touched many lives with her beautiful voice and then lovingly supported others who shared her illness!  My deepest sympathy to all of Betsy’s family! Betsy will be sorely missed, but may her good works and music live on!  

 Most sincerely,

Carol Cope Chatfield

From: Stephen Reed
Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2006 5:14 PM

Dear Charley,

One of the best long walks I ever took was through Arnold Arboretum with Betsy, back during our student days NEC.  I remember her sense of fun and good cheer, and the beautiful sweetness of her voice.  Bless you and your family in your loss.

Stephen Reed

From: Evelyn Schuette & Felix Justen
Transcript from January 4, 2006 memorial service at Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan

(Remember Betsy's tranquility and strength...)
May the choirs of angels come to greet you
May they speed you to Paradise
May the Lord enfold you in his mercy
May you find eternal life. Amen.

Wasn't that solo of Jim's just uplifting? It is one of Betsy's favorites — and she just adored Jim.  She told me several times she suffered from "Bass envy" and she was simply delighted with her idea to have only this one solo sung at her memorial service, and that would be by a bass! Tough luck sopranos!

I have been reading the letters sent in to the website every few hours, and encourage you to do so as well, they just keep coming in.  There are so many wonderful thoughts expressed by so many of you here today, and also from around the world.  Such a tribute to our Elizabeth!

I first met Betsy when I was living in Germany in 1981/2.  Our mutual mentors, the exuberant duo, Mac and Marion Johns, came to visit in Frankfurt and mentioned that I should meet this fantastic soprano from Grosse Pointe who was also living in Frankfurt but was currently home on holiday.  I then remembered her from when she so brilliantly sang the Mozart c minor Mass, and I was a little alto in the University choir who happened to be standing right near her.  He told me about a concert she was giving in Grosse Pointe.  As I was going home the following week, I was able to attend it and will never forget the Bellini opener.

She always said to me later, "never warm up in front of an audience, come out and just go for it!" After the concert, which was like nothing I had ever heard, I nervously introduced myself to this great artist in her gorgeous gown with major 1980's hairdo.  We agreed to meet the next week in Frankfurt at this little Italian place we both knew, across the street from my church job, Romanella's, at noon, well before the lunch rush so we would have time to chat before they closed at 3 for the afternoon break.  Well, she walked in wearing overalls and a comfy sweater with her hair down straight, and we starting talking at prompt noon, talked right through the afternoon closing (they didn't chase us out but kept bringing us Italian coffee as it was my regular place) and right into dinner!  I ended up being late for the church choir rehearsal across the street at 7:30.  I never did fall sleep that night for all the coffee buzz! And believe me, we ALL know who did most of the talking!

Our mutual friend, Janice Meyerson, has written: "She had a rare combination of pure ethereal spirit, reflected in her angelic singing that she shared with the world, and on the other hand, a totally practical, down to earth side, full of folksy wisdom that we will all treasure.  Her grace throughout her life was evidenced also in the way she handled death.  I can't imagine anyone braver that Betsy and always with a sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye."

About 6 weeks ago, I was over and Betsy was propped up in bed, and she had been asking Rick to tidy up the room a bit, you know how things can get a bit cluttered, and she was one who appreciated order in all things.  Rick was such a schweetie, did her bidding and put everything back in its place, and then left us alone to our girl talk.  Betsy then made the elegant sweep of the room like an opera diva taking a grand bow, and said... "and here I sit.... in my FENG SHUI!"

She always said how fortunate she was to have such wonderful parents, sisters and brothers, and their spouses, Ellen, Al and Bob.  She adored little Clairchen and loved ordering gifts for her, snuggling, and playing games.  Her beloved Rick is everything anyone could wish for in a partner, steadfast and true with a sense of humor that kept her on her toes!

We all know that Betsy sang in many great concert halls, festivals and opera houses.  Her website is a testimony to her career and incredible abilities.  I always loved hearing about all the stories and dramas of her singer's life in Europe and could listen for hours (which I did!).  Some were totally outrageous like when she had to sing upside down, or jump off a tall upright piano and ended up cutting herself badly.  Once, there was this terrible director in Frankfurt (there were more than one!) who was screaming at the opera cast after a piano tech rehearsal, he ranted and raved about how the rehearsal was the absolute worst he had ever experienced in his entire career.  He went on and on as the cast cowered.  When he had finally finished, there was a short silence, and then somebody in the back piped up "Oh, come on now, it wasn't THAT bad." That was the end of him! Leave it to Betsy! Charm and grace always!

But she also took time for smaller events: a high school graduation, church services and events, participation in concerts for friends, military hail and farewells, even Presbyterian pastor installations, teaching and coaching, and advising young potential singers - right into her last days, not to mention the marathons of Christmas and Easter Masses for years and years, 4 masses back to back!  Then a short break and another one at 5 pm! It was my great privilege to work with her for so many years.  I am forever spoiled and as I have told her repeatedly, it just isn't Christmas for me, without her "Carol of the Birds. " Coo-roo, Coo-roo Betsyleinchen!  I still have a Christmas card she made for me with angels in it from 1989 that says: Merry Christmas! Coo-roo Coo-roo! DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS? I DO!

Her father has asked me to read a letter to Elizabeth from her accompanist, Felix Justen.  Felix and I also know each other since our days at the Frankfurt Conservatory since 1981 or so.  A few years later he became Betsy's guitar accompanist, and they have shared a 20 year collaboration of concertizing and recording and simply being friends.  Felix is a part of the Parcells family, Mr. Parcells' "Sohn."  He has traveled back and forth over the years, spending time in both Huron City and Grosse Pointe.  He was here for a week just round Christmas, but had to fly back.  He has written a beautiful letter that expresses what so many of us are feeling about our own angel...

Felix Justen:  For a long time, you, whose death we grieve today, were the focal point of my life: my teacher, my example, my mentor, my friend.  You, like no other, embodied the virtues of dependability, precision, discipline, integrity, artistic honesty, and professionalism.  No vanity, pride, or arrogance influenced your work: all that mattered were substance and expression — in other words, art that passes through the artist as medium, rather than emanating from within the artist.  As cherished friends, we had the good fortune to have a true and deep understanding of each other, supported by trust and loyalty.

Our relationship was an artist's dream come true.  Together we drew from the endless resource of art, making music to stir the soul.  Your music moved many souls.  It is embedded in my heart, which is forever changed: therefore, you will always be with me, whether I am practicing or composing, teaching or playing.  You will always accompany me, consciously or unconsciously: I will feel a word from you, a gesture or a glance from your attentive understanding and loving heart.

And also a word to your family, from one who is inconsolable that he cannot be with them in this hour — particularly to you, Charles, fatherly friend....

Angels are never long as guests on this earth, and we can only feel wonder and awe at how they work in us and influence us.  We must be grateful for the destiny that has allowed us to be with them for this measured amount of time.  Elizabeth was such an angel.  Let us be thankful that she has now gone in peace to her home in heaven.

From: Fred Parcells & Ann Benoit
Transcript from January 4, 2006 memorial service at Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan

FRED- Are we talking about Elizabeth Parcells the world famous opera singer or Aunt Elizabeth, my daughters Aunt? I thought we were talking about my sister Betsy.  Then there was Bets; someone who had the bedroom next to mine who played guitar and sang folk tunes when I was growing up.  We could talk at length about any one of these people.  Today we are talking about all these people.  Betsy had several full lives all rolled into one.  Bets and I were the musicians in the family.  Being the noise makers we were relegated to the two back bedrooms.  I was into fish and my room became a show place for many exotic salt water creatures.  The bathroom we shared became the back room for my aquatic wonderland.  I was constantly washing fish equipment in the sink and bathtub which invariably left a ring of green slime, Bets never complained about the left over residuals of my underwater hobby.  Even then, a consummate professional.  About the time gets started getting good at performing her renditions of Buffy Saint Marie, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell, I was just learning the trombone.  She tells of my early routine.  Dah-Wah Dah-Wah.  Not exactly inspirational; But again she only encouraged me.  Bets was a natural teacher.  She showed me how to read and write music.  We would sit at the piano and make melodies to poems from a children's book.   Our first masterpiece went something like this: I eat my peas with honey.  I've done it all my life.  They do taste kind of funny.  But it keeps them on the knife.

Betsy was a miracle baby.  She had cancer when she was 1 1/2 years old.  It was the 50s and she had a 10% chance of survival.  She lived and sang with the voice of an angel for 50 years.  How do you explain that? God sent an angel and gave her a voice.  A voice with healing power.  Maybe it saved her life and gave her the fearless conviction and strength which carried her to the unworldly heights she achieved as a person and as a coloratura soprano.  For her it was one in the same.  When she was diagnosed with cancer 2 1/2 years ago, she started a web site so other cancer patients could listen to her music.  It made them feel better.  She posted words of encouragement on the ACOR Colon Cancer listserve.  Here are some quotes from her friends on that bulletin board:  "To the family and friends of Elizabeth Parcells, I am only one of hundreds that looked forward to every word written by your dear Elizabeth.  As you know, she was a frequent contributor to the ACOR Colon Cancer listserve.  She charmed, inspired, and comforted all of us.  She delighted us by sharing her music.  We all feel as if we knew her personally....She provided such encouragement and strength to other ACOR Colon Cancer list members -- always optimistic, always seeing the bright and beautiful side of things."

During the summer I got to spend a lot of time with Betsy, Instead of the usual foray to the farm, I sat with her in her room, each of us at a computer.  We worked on websites.  Betsy told me then, she had plan A and plan B.  Plan A was to get to Thanksgiving.  Plan B was to get through Christmas.  I asked her how she dealt with all of this.  She said in the back of her mind, she always knew.  She also said she knew where she was going.  Not surprisingly, she implemented both plan A and B.  Always the consummate planner.  She stayed conscious all day on Christmas.  She was determined to see Claire open all the gifts, many of which she had herself ordered on-line.  After Christmas I could see her starting to let go.  She would be awake for an hour a day.  Once in a while she opened her eyes to see where she was.  She's gone now, but only to us.  Right now she is rehearsing with Mozart for his 250th birthday celebration.

Brother DAVE says, as a child I always looked forward to the times I got to spend at our summer home in Huron City playing with Betsy.  Her love of life and nature was insatiable and infectious.  There was nothing she would not do whether it was body surfing Lake Huron waves during a north blow, helping me search for crawfish in Willow River, or exploring new places to ride our horses.  Betsy was always ready and willing to go.  But the most vivid memories I have are of when she would pull out her guitar during a bonfire on the beach and break out in folk songs like The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, Long Distance Lover, and finishing with the best rendition of Summertime I have ever heard.  Huron City will never be the same without her.

ANN:  Elizabeth, affectionately known as Betsy to her family, was and still is the greatest sister anyone could have, with the exception of Katy who is an equally wonderful sister.

At Betsy's concerts, I was often asked if I could sing, to which I answered, not like Elizabeth.  I was then asked if I was jealous, and the answer was always a resounding no.  I pointed out that Stars need an audience and I was her best fan, always clapping the loudest.  I traveled to Europe and around the United States to hear her sing and counted myself as the luckiest of sisters.  Betsy and I had some of the greatest adventures together.

I was in Europe when Betsy got a last minute call to do a concert with Leopold Hager, in France.  She was asked to replace a famous singer, Herman Prey who got sick at the last minute and could not sing.  The day after Betsy was asked to sing, she came down with a bad cold.  When we flew to France, her ears plugged up and she could barely hear.  The concert was at a famous festival and took place in an old, dusty barn.  Betsy is allergic to dust.

She was always the trouper.  At the rehearsal, Betsy could barely hear the orchestra.  She was singing by the wave of the conductor's baton and the music in her head.  The orchestra was so amazed at her performance that they lightly tapped their bows on the music stands.  She could not hear them.  When she turned around to see them tapping she graciously acknowledged their praise.

We retired to our room and slept until concert time.  She kept saying, "I can't do this." and I kept saying "Yes you can!" I finally asked, "Don't you think you can?" She responded; "Tell me I can do it!" And I replied, "Yes you can!".

Her singing brought the house to their feet shouting and clapping for an encore.  She sang again even better than the first time.  The papers, the next day, called her a Rare Bird and took credit for "discovering" her after being angry the day before the concert that an upstart American student was taking the place of their beloved Herman Pry. 

Through her life, Betsy was always a gracious, loving sister and friend.  She always took the time to be encouraging to everyone around her.  She is missed; however her spirit is still here and will always be with us all.  When you listen to her music, look in your heart, she will be there smiling as you listen.

From: Sara Jane Welch
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2006 1:26 AM
Subject: Our beloved Betsy

        You could say I've known Betsy (as "Betsy") all of my life, or, being slightly older than me; she knew me since I was a baby.  Our families have been friends for at least 2 generations that I know of.  I knew her mostly from summers on Lake Huron; my family and theirs going back and forth between our places on the lake.  My big sister and she were pretty tight pals.  For each of my siblings there were one or two peers in their family to have summer fun with.  Many of my memories of her are as being a part of an impressive family, who shared life as a closely knit whole; discussing important issues and memories; always punctuated by laughter.  I also remember basking in her attention when I got it, both then and more recently.

        A couple of years ago I stayed overnight at her father's and her house.  Even in sickness she was, of course, a gracious hostess.  She let me stay in the room right outside her and Rick's bedroom.  Early in the morning I asked her to read something I'd written that was imperative to me to write well.  I was about to rush off and read it out loud to people.  Her feedback was salient and precise, helping me to attain more elegance in the awkward parts.  She reminded me to project my voice, as I'm often a soft-spoken person.  She told me as well to keep writing.  I was touched by this as I felt her time was so precious.  That's just one of the fine memories I have of her grace and soulfulness.  Somehow her death has also inspired me to keep singing and playing guitar.  She was an inspiring teacher, artist, and a healing influence.  I believe she was a gift to this temporal world and left it a better place than when she got here.

        As a child, some of my memories during the school year were of being dragged to her concerts in Boston.  I didn't have an ear for opera until, as an adult, I heard her sing.  In the meantime I'd had some singing lessons myself and what I heard come out of her little body completely blew my mind.  The sounds, overtones, chimes; all harmonious,  that she created made her voice larger than life itself.  She was on a hill facing Lake Huron and I knew she was singing to the horizon.  What a treasured memory that is! I feel so fortunate to have been there, in the presence of one who could harness greatness, to glean what I was able to from her.  My next bout with Karaoke will have to be in her honor, for certain.

        In present times, when I first learned of Betsy's death, the first memories that came flooding back to me were like various snapshots of her smile, then glimpses of her laughter.  It was comforting and made me feel as though she is OK.  I remembered some of her jokes and quips; her sense of humor, sometimes corny, sometimes raucous, and otherwise.  Then I began to "hear" her speaking voice, just sitting by the lake shooting the breeze.  It flowed peacefully and easily, cool like the gentle lapping of waves on the shoreline on a hot, humid day.

        I remember bonfires on the beach, swimming, sand castles and picnics.  Later in life, I remember her singing "Happy Birthday" in German, for no apparent reason.  She was a person who was able to express herself on many levels.  Which reminds me; I still have some pressing questions for Betsy; as in, did she like "pop" music, or was it like fingernails on a chalkboard to her? Did she like Sheryl Crow's voice and music or did she think Crow was aptly named? Crow's remake of "The First Cut is the Deepest" helped me to get out my tears and my words for Betsy, that had been stuck in my throat.   Probably that is due to the fact that it was in hearing Betsy sing that I was  first riveted to the sound of Opera.  I guess I'll never know what Betsy would think of that, but I am grateful for this website and her remarkable family, so that I can continue to learn about her and from her.

        Thank you Betsy for being here and please know that I'm clapping and standing as you take your bow.

Sara Jane Welch

From: Mary Hughes
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 12:31 AM
Subject: Betsy

Dear Parcells Family,

I first met Betsy and the rest of your family when I joined my cousins the Welches on one of their many excursions to Huron City from Harbor Beach.  Betsy and my cousin Katie were very close friends who enjoyed riding horses and swimming in the lake.  Many years later, Katie and Betsy still delighted in their time spent in and around the lake.  Katie's younger sisters Sue and Sara and occasionally myself sometimes joined them in the lake.

One time many Parcells siblings plus my cousins and I spent time at our cousin Ivan's private airstrip where some including, I believe, Betsy roller bladed.  Laughter and good conversation were of course part of it.

Two years ago when we came to Harbor Beach close to Thanksgiving, of course Betsy and other members of your family were included in our family Thanksgiving celebration because all of you are like family.  At the time, she knew that her time on this earth was limited, but managed to remain optimistic and full of fun.

I had enjoyed listening to Betsy's recordings but had never had the chance to hear her in concert.  Last year, thankfully I had the chance to hear her at Carnegie Hall with Felix.  What a thrill it was to finally see and hear her perform!  Several of Betsy's friends from all over were in the audience.  Although her program was wonderful, it was her encore of Summertime which was the highlight for me.  Never had I heard it sung so beautifully and with such control.  I doubt that I ever will hear it sung anything like that again!

After the concert, Betsy invited people up to her suite and took time to speak to everyone.  Later she e-mailed me how overwhelmed she was at the number of people who traveled to New York just for her concert.  It spoke well for how much she was loved by so many people.

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to each of you.  Please know that you remain in my prayers.


From: Ann Moore
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:44 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

To the family of Elizabeth Parcells --

I have been a member of the Calvary Church Prayer Group in Stonington, CT, since September of 2004, during most of which time (if not all), Elizabeth (and Charles) have been on the list of people for whom we pray.  Each was just a name to me, although Mary Hughes (who gave us the names) told of Elizabeth's wonderful voice and indomitable spirit. It is not long that I have been on-line, and connected to sound for less than one day.  What a blessing it was for me to be able to hear Elizabeth, posthumously, in concert. 

We do not know why some prayers are answered (to our liking) and some are not, but from what little I know of Elizabeth, the world was richly blessed not only by her life, but by the spirit with which she faced both life and dying.

May God comfort you as you mourn your recent loss.

Shalom aleichem (which is God's peace with you),

Ann G. Moore

From: Ferenc Liszt
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 9:06 PM
Subject: Sublime Mozart

Hello everyone!

I am 25 years old musician from Italy...

In a hot summer night of 1997, I couldn't sleep and was listening the classical radio program.

After a wonderful Rahmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto played by Vladimir Ashkenazy, the announcer said: "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Aria da Concerto Vorrei spiegarvi, o Dio!, K418".  The soprano was Emila Ravaglia.

I remember exactly my feelings listening that Music: it was a sense of royalty, power, lightness, brightness...

Time later, I heard Elizabeth's version, which has remained my favorite above all others.  I love to think, that Elizabeth's voice is the same timbre as Aloysia Weber's one, the soprano who Mozart loved and wrote this magic Aria for.

In those days, when we all are celebrating the 250th birthday of Mozart, I would like for everyone, to remember the Genius throughout Elizabeth's voice, singing this lovely, seraphic Aria...


Best regards,


From: K Olive
Sent: Sunday, January 29, 2006 11:36 AM
To: charlie
Subject: Betsy

Dear Parcells family,

My deepest sympathies are with you and your family as you mourn the loss of Betsy.  My Michigan heart, which interfaces with all of my life, is very sore.

Betsy and I have known each other our entire lives, since she was born 26 days after I was. Betsy and I probably grinned at each other from our baby blankets on the floor while our mothers visited.  My mother and her father had already known each other for years, in fact, they had dated each other a bit when they were of the dating age.  Betsy's mother, Fran, became one of my mother's best friends.  Our families' histories have long intertwined on the shores of Lake Huron.

When I was 9, my dad's job transferred him from Detroit to New York City.  We made the move, giving up our year-round friendships and extended family relations.  My child's brain coped by deciding that my parents had promised we'd move back in a year.  I then approached them to ask why we weren't packing up to go back.  They looked puzzled, then astounded, then sympathetic.  I was very gently told that we would only be able to go back each summer for the month of August.  Ow.  Still, I had summer to look forward to, and for several years, I felt more truly connected to all that was good only during the summers.  Later I discovered similar feelings of well-being when I was in church: another sanctuary and safe haven.  My grandmother, with whom we stayed each August in her cottage by the Lake Huron, had the gift of making us feel at home.  I was more at home in her gardens, trees and in the lake than anywhere else on earth.

My mother, meanwhile, was also gaining her sustenance for the coming year from her 1 month back "at home." This included numerous trips to Huron City to visit Charles, Fran, and their growing collection of youngsters.  Our families would trade kids back and forth for days at a time, so Betsy and I played all our made up games at our place and at hers.  Because we were age-mates, I knew her best.  She was always the friend I'd known the longest in my whole life, and I looked forward to seeing her each summer.

Eventually we grew up.  Once I left my parental home to start life on my own, trips to Michigan were not as regular for me.  I would go when I could, and stay as long as I could.  Betsy was also gone for many years, in Germany singing.  Even in that we shared a common thread: I had lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year, so we both became fluent in the same foreign language. This gave us more stories to share, and share we did, whenever I could manage the trip.

A few years ago, when I took my mom to Michigan for a much needed visit , Betsy and I took our usual long walk to catch up on each other's news.  Towards the end of that wonderful hour or so, she confided that she had discovered she had colon cancer.  I cannot describe the blow to my soul that this was.  We hugged and cried and hoped beyond hope that she would be victorious against it.  And in fact, I believe she was!

I miss her now and I always will, until we are together forever in a better place.  The peace of the Lord has enveloped my aching heart, and I pray for each of you, that you will also be comforted each day as you face the pain of losing Betsy in your earthly lives.  Please hug your father for me, and each other, as you grieve. 



From: Karen Kramer (Stanford University Program in Berlin)/.
Sent: Wed March 8, 2006 8:44 AM

I met Elizabeth only a handful of times, but they were unforgettable.  Especially two stand out:  The time she sang the first two concerts of Leonard Lehrman and my musical memory of Emma Goldlman, e.g. , at that time just finished and nonetheless still a work in progress.  She did it at the Stanford Berlin villa for my students and local friends, and also in a performance Cafe.  The second, unforgettable event, was when I convinced many of my friends to come hear her in the Berlin / Theater des Westens show, "Wiener Blut",  which she told us would incite a heated scandal, as indeed it did.   It was too daring, too stark, too ironic, too critical for the mostly aging theater crowd that had come wanting to have their hearts throb at old tunes.  Instead, Betsy's "Wiener Blut" was a caustic exposé of an era, celebrated through critical modernization of its themes.  Stark, strict set & costumes: I have in my memory's eye a pure white stage dotted with black grand pianos.   As the badly treated chamber maid, Betsy's limbs went absolutely stiff like a plastic doll and she popped her eyes out with mock shock when she was drug about the stage.  It was an ironic, empowering gesture.  The performance and production were marvelous, highly praised by the artist friends I invited (and to whom it had never occurred to set foot in the Theater des Westens, associating that musical theater only with trivial entertainment).  One of the most vocal opponents that evening, a woman whose schrieks of anger coming from the wings identified her to me (an acquaintance whose energy I liked but whose positions I did not share) was the lively and emphatic founding member of the Cold War-era teachers' initiative called,  "Berliner Lehrer rufen die Lehrer der Welt";  she was frothing with anger at this rude production.  Others, including my party, were giving a standing ovation: Suddenly Strauss's music had become for us valid, worth a hearing.   The audience was torn right down the middle and making no bones about it.   Having taught theater for many years, and having seen many Berlin productions, good and bad, I feel that Betsy's "Wiener Blut" was one of the truly innovative and important productions of the era.

We lost touch with Betsy after a few years, preusmably she was no longer in Germany.  I was very saddened to hear of her death.  What I will always remember is the resilient woman we became so fond of, and, of course:  the incredible purity and beauty of her voice.

May she rest in peace.

With Best Wishes,

Karen Ruoff Kramer

-----Original Message-----
From: Gerald Moore
Sunday, April 02, 2006 6:05 AM
Subject: Re: With deepest Sympathy

Dear Charlie,

As a voice teacher and vocal coach who has been lucky enough to work with some of the biggest names in the business, I will always have a special fondness for the singing and artistry of Elizabeth Parcells.

I first heard Elizabeth when I was in my late teens, and BBC Radio Three broadcast a concert from Salzburg with her singing two of the most difficult Mozart concert arias for coloratura, "Mia Speranza adorata" and my favourite, "Vorrei Spiegarvi, oh Dio". I was immediately impressed with the secure technique, beautiful tone and depth of musicality that I heard and went on to search out any recordings I could find of this singer, who had become an instant favourite. Of course, as a teenager who loved high notes, that is what drew me to Elizabeth's singing at first, but as I grew older and many coloraturas were gradually dropped from my list of favourites, she remained firmly there, as she had the ability not just to sing high notes and roulades, but to spin an elegiac legato line in lieder-a complete artist and not just a canary. It was said of Adelina Patti that she was never greater than when she was singing a simple song, and this is a compliment I feel applies very much to Elizabeth. My favourite example of this is her recording of "The Last Rose of Summer", which she sings exquisitely-each verse shaped differently, the phrasing a model of musicality, delicately shaded, and with those unique qualities of plangency and melancholy she possessed, which lend themselves so well to the song.

We corresponded about singing during the last year or so of her illness, and I found her to be such a warm and generous person. I shall miss her, but I am so glad that there is such a rich legacy of her recordings being made available to fans and students of singing. I play her recordings to many of my singers, especially the younger generation, and hope to contribute in helping her to achieve the wider recognition she most certainly deserves.

Gerald Martin Moore

joan svoboda
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2006 5:10 PM
Subject: sorry to hear of her death

I didn't know her well because I was a very shy student at both interlochen arts academy and new england conservatory, but she was one of the most crystalline voices I have ever heard, as a student, professional violinist, or audience member in the world's great opera houses. I remember her smiling when I saw her, and that when she smiled, her eyes sparkled. I'm very sorry for her loss and I wish you
comfort in the richness of your memories.

Joan Svoboda

From: Catherine Rooney
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 8:41 PM
Subject: In Memoriam Guestbook


My name is Catherine and I'm a 23 year old coloratura soprano from Toronto, Canada.  I was searching through YouTube for clips of the doll song from Les Contes D'Hoffman and stumbled across Elizabeth's clip.  I was immediately inspired to go to her website where I read the sad news that she had passed away.  My father has recently been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and as I sit at my computer listening to Elizabeth's recording of Tu Virginum Corona from Mozart's Exultate Jubilate I'm struck with an immediate connection with her and with her family.  I wish you all the best and Elizabeth's awe inspiring recordings will continue to inspire young singers like me and to also spread awareness about this preventable disease.

Thank you Elizabeth.

Catherine Rooney

From: Ms. Kyle Lynn Haswell
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 1:04 AM

Subject: Elizabeth Parcells

Dear Family of Elizabeth:

I wrote to you on 1/4/06 after reading Elizabeth's obituary and realizing we shared the same day of birth, that she had died the day after, and how it touched me.
I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful website. It has taken me this long to get high-speed internet and just tonight I was able to download many of her songs to listen to and how emotionally powerful, beautiful and serene those have been.

I am nearing my 55th birthday, the one that Elizabeth didn't get to have, and I am more appreciative of my life. This past year my aunt, a cousin my age, and my only sibling, my brother, Dana Haswell, died (he in a car accident coming home from my cousin's funeral in August) and the grief has seemed enormous at times. Listening to Elizabeth sing just now has touched my soul and I am profoundly grateful that I saw that obituary, kept her website in my favorites, looked at many photos of her, and finally can hear her lovely voice and feel comforted.

Thank you, and know that on my birthday on December 28th, as I turn 55, I will think of Elizabeth and wish for her family peace of mind and loving kindness. God bless you.


Ms. Kyle Lynn Haswell
Highest & Best Blessings Upon You

From: Doug Marsh
Sent: Sunday, December 31, 2006 5:14 PM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells website

What an awesome website and tribute to Elizabeth Parcells. My wife and I happened onto your website quite by happenstance while doing a web search on the life of Jenny Lind. It was remarkable too that we happened into Elizabeth's website on the one year anniversary of her leaving this life. After listening, reading, and being quite mesmerized by this remarkable woman, I felt prompted to write and tell you how much we enjoyed Elizabeth's website. The many remarks of friends, relatives and her own memoirs speak volumes to Elizabeth in what can only be described by one who didn't know her as a wonderful life of achievement.

My wife and I are both singers. Though not having the life experiences of Ms. Parcells, either educationally or on the international scene, from our singing experiences and perspective we can best understand and be appreciative of the scope of Elizabeth's talent and achievements in the classical music world. When asked of my wife's singing ability I love to say that she is the one the angels turn to listen to....Surely, your Elizabeth has them listening as well. lol

One of our sons went through chemo/rad therapy for lymphoma at the age of 11 and has been disease free now for 19 years. The heartache, sorrows and tribulations of going through these things with someone you love is not lost in the telling here. Thank you for sharing Elizabeth by maintaining this remarkable site for others. I hope someone will someday make a movie of Betsy's life. I would love to see it. Her life story deserves a wider audience than the "net" community and I have already recommended it to several friends to visit. It has been a true joy getting to know you, Betsy......

Our love, Doug and Denise Marsh

From: Derek Mathis
Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 12:40 PM
Subject: My memories of Elizabeth (Betsy)

Dear members of the Parcells family: I am so sorry to hear of your loss! I knew "Betsy," as everyone called her back then, during the years she studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston. There is too much to share about my memories of her, but I will try to include some of my favorites.

Betsy's sense of humor: the anectode someone shared regarding her line "Oh come on, it wasn't that bad!" after the "rehearsal from hell" rings true, and gave me a good laugh. Betsy was a lot of fun to hang out with. During those years, every Halloween there was an "official" NEC halloween party. I remember one year, Betsy dressed up as the most hilarious Statue of Liberty, wearing white sheets and some kind of improvised head-dress, and, literally, carrying a torch. Several of us went to one of the popular deli restaurants in Boston afterwards, still in our costumes of course. I still chuckle when I picture her there in the restaurant with us; of course we were the center of attention, for better or worse.

Betsy's generosity: many people may not realize this, but Betsy was an excellent teacher. She gave me voice lessons for a time (I was a flute major) because I was considering switching to voice. She refused to charge me because she wanted the teaching experience. As I read her many interesting and insightful comments on her Website, it brings back any number of conversations I had with her during those years. I for one wish someone would write a book about Betsy, incorporating her ideas and her legacy, both personal and professional.

Lastly, I must share my impressions of Betsy's singing (of course). I will never forget hearing her for the first time; she was someone who had "something special. An acquaintance during those years described her singing as "heartbreakingly beautiful." I for one agree. A couple of other impressions. One Sunday afternoon, I turned on my radio at home (in Brookline, MA) only to discover that the broadcast of that year's Met Regional Auditions was on. Moments later, Betsy came on and sang "Je Suis Titania" from Mignon, and brought down the house. My roommate and I immediately decided to go downtown and hear the 2nd half of the program at Jordan Hall. During the second half, Betsy charmed the audience with an aria from Puccini's "La Rondine." On another occasion, when I learned Betsy was to sing in a concert version of Mozart's Der Schauspieldirector, with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood (with the wonderful Reri Grist, conducted by Seji Ozawa), several of us got in a car and drove out to Tanglewood to hear her. What a thrill! Of course Reri Grist was wonderful, but, in my opinion, Betsy stole the show with her delightful rendition of "Bester Jungling," which included dazzling coloratura as well as hilarious comic-opera "business."

There are so many other occasions I wish there was time to describe: her interpretation of the role of Mozart's "Zaide" and her incomparable rendition of "Ruhe Zanft." The world premier of Donald Martino's "Paradiso Choruses," in which Betsy sang the role of Beatrice -- unforgettable! Her performance in Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos," when, of course, the audience went nuts after "Zerbinetta's Aria."

Finally, I must add that, in addition to my sadness in hearing of Betsy's passing (unfortunately we had been out of touch since she moved to Germany and I to Washington, DC), I am amazed, when I listen to her recordings, how her singing and musicianship developed during intervening years. I was astonished at her emotional depth in "Maria Stuarda." Her legato line and sensitivity of phrasing are simply "as good as it gets." And I was stunned at the beauty of her interpretation of "Wir geniessen die himmlischen Freuden" from Mahler's 4th Symphony (for some reason I never expected to hear Betsy sing Mahler). It is quite simply the most beautiful version of that piece I have yet heard (OK, I'm biased). It is also one of the most beautiful recordings, of any piece, that I can think of.

Good-bye, Betsy -- I will miss you, and hope to see you in some future life!

Derek Mathis, Williamsburg, VA
(Betsy knew me by my former name, Dana Wood.)

Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 1:34 PM
Subject: my condolences

Dear Charles,

I only now found out about Elizabeth's death. I am so sorry and please accept my condolences for your loss. I met Elizabeth only briefly in Frankfurt at the Opera (can't remember what I was rehearsing), but I will never forget her. All through the years, I have thought of her and wondered where she might be singing . I met her so briefly but she stayed in my memory. We were both singing the same repertory and she was so friendly and good-natured. I hadn't realized that she was from Michigan (I went to the Univ of Mich and worked with Eugene Bossart as well-I even sang with the Grosse Pointe Symphony and the Detroit Opera). I am five years older than her so our paths never quite crossed. I sang lots of Queens at the Vienna State Opera and then went to Munich and Frankfurt. Now, I am a voice professor at Boston University (also, I hadn't known that she went to New England Conservatory). Our paths only crossed that one time, but she made an impression for a life-time.

I also came down with breast cancer in 2003 but fortunately am now much better and able to work. My heart goes out to you because I have some idea of what she must have endured (I lost my mother to breast cancer in 1978). I hope that the passing years have made you and your family's suffering somewhat less acute. Thank you so much for the beautiful web page and thank you, Elizabeth, for being such a wonderful artist and noble human being. You are a great inspiration and I only wish I could have known you better.

Sarah Arneson


From: Martin Copeland
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2007 9:55 PM

Have come to love Her Last Rose of Summer on U tube.
When ever I feel down I listen to it.
A beautiful interpretation, beautifully sung.
(I am also a singer and know a fabulous voice when I hear it).
Sorry for your and the worlds loss.


From: Rosebearer
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2007 12:22 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells website

Dear Charlie- I had known of Betsy's death last year, but had no idea that there was a website. What a glorious legacy  to leave especially  for NEC school mates like me who had lost touch with her and had only a glimpse of her music making as time went on. I was in a blue mood tonight and finding her site only by accident I listened to "There's no place like home" and immediately felt soothed and strengthened! I plan on returning many times and will tell as many other music lovers as I can to visit often!  Please don't ever take this off the internet! What a blessing for us all!  With gratitude and condolences to you and your family! 

D'Anna Fortunato

New England Conservatory,'73

From: Frank Moscatelli
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 8:57 AM
Subject: Elizabeth

Dear Mr. Parcells,

Where to start? So many things to say. …. I first stumbled on your sister’s amazing website whilst searching Mozart’s “Et in carnatus est” for a friend who recently performed it in church. And oh my was I quickly overwhelmed by what I saw, read, and of course, heard!

My wife and I have been life-long lovers of the human voice. Our one guilty pleasure is a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. I cannot tell you the number of times we emerge from performances dejected by the quality of the singing. What a tragedy your sister was never given the opportunity to debut at that house, and that so many fellow New Yorkers, and visitors too, have been deprived of experiencing this great American soprano. I suspect I will not be able to attend another performance there without thinking of this, and of your sister’s singularly beautiful voice.

What a magnificent gesture of generosity her web page is. Sharing all those performances for everyone to simply “…hear the music”. Elizabeth’s, if I may, “A forse é lui” from La Traviata has displaced my all time favorite rendition. Of course I won’t identify the other soprano, but you’d recognize her name! And I have listened to dozens of different recordings of the work.

Elizabeth’s reading of Mozart’s “Vorrei spiegarvi” has already been mentioned by someone on the webpage. I can only add adjectives like sublime and ethereal. The aria is considered to be Mozart’s most perfect by many commentators. Very difficult to sing, he knew that he was writing it for only the most perfect soprano voices. In his time there was only one, his beloved (and loved) sister-in-law Aloysia Weber. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have included Elizabeth Parcells in that group.

As is well known, it is often the simplest melodies that most vividly display the vocal quality even more effectively than pieces that dazzle. In this vein, I have listened to Elizabeth’s “Home Sweet Home” and “Last Rose of summer” so often now that I have memorized them!

In addition to the sheer volume of superb music, the web page is astonishingly effective in showing us the total person your sister was. Gifted artist? Of course one has only to click on any of the performance links. Consummate musician? Just look at the way she shapes the overall effect in the rehearsal of “Home Sweet Home” with her piano accompanist. Special human being? What bravery she displayed during her illness. What beneficence in helping her fellow sufferers of that horrible disease. What charm, dignity and above all, sense of humor and fun! During my work day – or even late into an evening - when I feel my spirits need lifting, I just click on the video of Elizabeth singing along, a capella, with your Dad’s close-harmony group amongst family and friends at home. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.

You had a singularly precious sister, Mr. Parcells. It would have been a privilege to hear her in performance and even more so to have known her personally. Compliments to you for your effort in keeping her alive to the throngs of us who never experienced her, condolences to your family, and finally to Elizabeth: Brava La Parcells!

Frank Moscatelli
Professor of Physics
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore PA 19081

From: Robert Konkers
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 8:44 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells

Dear Charlie

I am so sorry to hear that Miss Parcells died in 2005. I only found out by accident that she is no longer here as I did an internet search to see where and what she was singing. I have never met her nor have I heard her in concert or opera. However, I do have a CD of hers (a Jenny Lind Recital)which I cherish. I am quite a collector and have thousands and thousands of CDs of great singers. You can imagine that some CDs in my collection get completely forgotten, however the real great artists whose intepretations stand out from the many recordings I have of the same pieces, I call the real great ones. Although Miss Parcells was perhaps not a household name like Joan Sutherland, Beverley Sill, Maria Callas or Renee Fleming to name some of the greats, she always makes it to my CD player and I truly love her singing especially in the scena of Beatrice di Tenda.

With kindest regards

Robert Donkers

From: Philippe G. Ledermann
Sent: Saturday, July 19, 2008 12:17 PM
Subject: Hommage to a great woman

Greetings from Germany,

I discovered Elizabeth Parcells today on youtube and was immediately fascinated. Such a brilliant and precise performance for instance of the bell song (Lakmé)... I Think I never heard a more impressive performance, maybe except from Mado Robin. So I begann to look for more about her and found her homepage.

It´s tragic that she passed, but she left an immortal trace of beautiful music in this world. I don´t know much about her, but obviously, she was an exceptional woman, brilliant and simoultaneously kind, gentle and sensitive.

As I saw the first video, where she was singing with only a piano, I thought she was somebody like a music teacher and had absolutely no idea of her, but in my opinion, I immediately realized she belongs to the greatest like Maria Callas and I went extremly curious to see and hear more. Although I cannot even read music keys, I think that music is an essential need and one of the greatest achievement of mankind.

Now I´m just discovering who she was, I feel sad not to have known more about her for many years and also that I couldn´t express her my admiration, congratulate and send her encouragement.

I feel deeply moved by her tragic destiny and wish to express my condolence to her family. Thank you for distributing her performances on the web, in that way, she will still be alive for the rest of the world.

Philippe G. Ledermann

From: Karyn
Sent: Saturday, July 26, 2008 2:23 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells website

Hi Charlie, 

I am an opera student and came across your sister’s videos on you tube while researching a part. I was so impressed and then very saddened to learn that she had passed away. Thank you so much for keeping her music and videos on line to share. Elizabeth was obviously VERY talented. She makes it look so easy! And she seems to have had a great sense of humor (from the way she did the Adele role.) My voice teacher broke out in laughter when she heard the ending of the “Audition Aria.”

Even though she is no longer her with us, she has a new fan! Thanks again.

Karyn Lea Drennen
Inland Valley Opera Company
Temecula, California

From: Mark Williams
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 1:51 PM
Subject: A Shining Star

Four years and a bit the singing world lost a giant of a voice and from what I have gathered from sifting through the website like a book worm in the public library a giant of a person. I am a late bloomer of sorts, I just started taking operatic singing lessons after raising a family and I am presently in my 54th year. In my thirst for knowledge and wisdom, I happened across and found the pot of gold at the end of the vocal rainbow.

I wish I could thank her personally for her singing legacy and wonderful teaching videos and audio clips, but I’ll pass that on to you. Thank you.

I have been encouraged and excited by the teaching materials found here in so many different forms and are implementing these morsels of voice and life lessons in my own rehearsals and performances (as few as they are at this stage), but I look forward to the future polished with Elizabeth’s garnishing. I am moved to tears literally as I absorb her musical history and life and pray that God will bless me with even a small portion of her discipline and joy for an art form as pure and personal as standing on your own two feet, opening your mouth and letting the air pass over the vocal chords to produce sounds that somehow move and inspire the listener.

Mark Williams

Kitchener, Ontario

From: Jeffrey Drummond
Sent: Saturday, October 16, 2010 11:57 AM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells website

Dear Charlie,

When Betsy was in her last year at the N.E. Conservatory (1976??), I was dating her wonderful roommate, Cathy Bowers. Betsy was a delight as a friend. She was funny, fun, emotionally available, and of course already a great singer.

Betsy was very down to earth, and modest and humble to everyone. She once explained to a few other students how she had landed a radio appearance (Betsy was wonderful in the appearance) by slowly moving the station towards the idea and then towards a time and then to schedule it. Yet she never mentioned her own gorgeous voice as the most important factor! The very opposite of a mythical diva’s conduct in every way.

I’m very sorry for your loss, and send my love and best wishes to Betsy and to her family and friends.


Jeff Drummond


From: Brushwooder
Sent: Saturday, October 23, 2010 4:44 PM
Subject: Elizabeth Parcells website

Werter Herr CharlyMeinen Glückwunsch zu dieser schönen Homepage. Elizabeth Parcells ist leider viel zu früh verstorben, doch dank Ihrer Homepage macht sie den Menschen über ihren Tod hinaus große Freude. Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Johannes Kulmer



From: Gilberto Chaves
Sent: Sunday, December 26, 2010 2:35 PM
Subject: Sing expertise

Hello Charlie,

I'm a singer form Brazil and I've found the great artist Elizabeth Parcells on you tube 4 years ago, I've cried a lot with her singing, and cried a little bit more when I knew she is with the Lord.

In these 4 years my carrear growd up eand now I have some sing students... I'm asking for your permission to translate some texts form the web page to portuguese and give it to my students, of course without change any idea of sing and giving all the credits to you and Elizabeth. I'm working on the "A little treatise on singing" right now.

Well, I decided to ask for your permission because I feel that Elizabeth would like to let you know she is helping people and having her work alive in other parts of the world.

Thank you both for the website, I'll never be grateful enough... you both changed my life and my singing!

I hope your doing well and wishing you a great new year,


Gilberto Chaves




Home Singing Notes Symbol Memoriam
he performances presented here are not for broadcast, sale, reproduction or for any but personal listening use.  All rights to this music are property of the artists, of which they retain ownership. EP