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Musical talents take a presidential twist

Mom-daughter duo to perform in D.C. for Inauguration breakfast

Jan. 15, 2013

 When upward of 5,000 people gather for the Presidential Inauguration Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C., they will get a taste of the musical talents of a Brookfield mother and daughter.

Professional composer Gela Sawall Ashcroft is helping arrange one of the event's musical presentations, and will also sing and play the flute. Anatalia, a 16-year-old sophomore at Brookfield East High School, will play the violin.

The opportunity to perform came as a result of Gela's previous work with composer Jeremiah Ginsberg, who sought her help in arranging and directing the music.

"Jeremiah Ginsberg is a very accomplished composer, but he needed someone to help arrange the music for this event," Gela said. "He knew that I could do that, so I had heard that this might be a possibility a couple of weeks before Christmas."

When the possibility became certain in early January, Gela went to work on the composer's creation, which he considers an operetta and a blend of song medleys for an upcoming Broadway musical, "Esther, Sweet Esther." The musical is based on the Biblical story of Queen Esther.

Since the arrangement called for a violinist, Gela recruited Anatalia.

"I thought of her because she is very accomplished," Gela said. "She's a natural."

Gela's own musical ability has taken her through a career as a professional music composer, arranger and orchestrator for films, videos, commercial musicals, plays and songs. Projects include "NYPD Blue," "Bugs Bunny" on Broadway, Mahogany Pictures feature film "Savage" and Focus on Family Film's "Adventures in Odyssey" series.

In 2003, she recorded a 70-minute full-orchestra score with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for Rising Star Entertainment's Western feature, "The Long Ride Home." The film starred Randy Travis, Eric Roberts, Ernest Borgnine and Garry Marshall. She also won two Telly awards for her music for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod's "Martin Luther" movie trailer and for the organization's "Mr. Whistle" series.

Gela, a Brookfield East alum, moved from California back to Brookfield years ago with husband Steve Ashcroft, who has worked as an executive producer. It was an opportunity to raise a family in a more stable economy. The family's main business now is electrical contracting, though working on music is the prevailing passion.

That passion lives on in Anatalia, who credits the Elmbrook School District for providing lessons beginning in fourth grade.

"When we were first introduced to instruments in third grade at Dixon, I liked the way the violinist's fingers seemed to dance across the strings," Anatalia said. "I'm pretty much one with the violin now. I think I'm going to play the violin for the rest of my life."

Elmbrook Music Director Denice Haney said Anatalia is such a natural musician that she has needed few private lessons. The sophomore is a member of East's chamber orchestra.

"I was aware that Anatalia and her mother may be involved, and when it became a reality we were very excited for them," Haney said. "It's a nice way for the school to be represented as well."

Anatalia said she is excited about her gig in Washington, D.C., where she also is looking forward to being a tourist and finding out what it's like to play in front of thousands.

"The good thing is that I don't think I would ever be nervous again," she said.

The Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast kicks off the inauguration festivities.

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