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Inventory of the Edward G. Borgens, Sr., and Helen Z. Donofrio Collection of Religious Sheet Music
GTU 2014-01-01  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Other Finding Aids
  • Related Material
  • Separated Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Edward G. Borgens, Sr., and Helen Z. Donofrio collection of religious sheet music
    Dates: 1889-1973
    Collection number: GTU 2014-01-01
    Collector: Borgens, Sr., Edward G.
    Collector: Donofrio, Helen Z.
    Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet (6 boxes)
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union. Library.
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    Abstract: Religious sheet music from the collection of Edward G. Borgens, Sr. (1904-1984), organist and choral director, and Helen Z. Donofrio (1910-1996), coloratura soprano, church soloist and light opera singer. Borgens was also a successful music retailer in San Diego. His wife was an accomplished soloist and voice teacher in San Diego and Los Angeles.
    Physical location: 7/E/4
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English Latin German French


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Graduate Theological Union as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    Edward G. Borgens, Sr., and Helen Z. Donofrio collection of religious sheet music, GTU 2014-01-01. Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Acquisition Information

    Edward George Borgens, Jr., 2014 January.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Edward G. Borgens, Sr. (1904-1984) and his wife Helen Z. Donofrio (1910-1996) met in San Diego in 1936. He had arrived from the Midwest to play the Spreckels organ for the California Exposition. She sang on occasion in Balboa Park and traveled in the same musical circles. They met in 1936 and were married in July 1937. They were members of the Central Christian Church. He was the organist and choir director. She was a soloist and member of the choir.
    Borgens grew up in the Midwest. He received a BA in music from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He taught high school drama and music. He began moonlighting as a silent movie theater organist. Finding he could make more money playing in one night than teaching for an entire week, he became a regular movie theater organist, opening new theaters in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. He earned a MA in Music from MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis in 1935.
    During the 1930s, he hosted an early morning radio show in Lincoln playing popular songs on the organ. His base audience consisted of farmers who had just finished their early morning chores and were sitting down for breakfast. The show's theme song was, "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise."
    In 1936, Borgens was invited by the California Exposition committee in San Diego to be the organist for the second California Exposition. At first he declined, as his radio show was very successful. However, a later invitation came during a blizzard, which ultimately persuaded him to move to "the land of sunshine and orange blossoms." In March he began playing the Spreckels Organ at Balboa Park, seven days a week for six straight months for the exposition. His days consisted of rehearsing with performing groups in the morning and playing in the afternoon and evenings. After the exposition closed, he remained in San Diego and demonstrated and sold Hammond organs at Thearle's Music Company.
    Donofrio grew up in San Diego. As a child, she was encouraged by her teachers to take vocal lessons to further develop her singing voice. She performed recitals in the local community and for local civic groups. She followed her voice teacher to Washington, D.C., in the 1930s. There, she performed with military personnel in armed forces radio shows and events. She sang at the 1936 Democratic political convention. Concerned about the war in Europe, she returned to Southern California, where she met her future husband and continued professional voice studies with Chris Anderson.
    During World War II, Borgens worked at Consolidated Aircraft (later Corvair). There he put together a comprehensive music department, which supplied programs for the Office of War Information to be broadcast to service personnel.
    After the war, he resumed music retailing. He promoted the new electronic organs by Baldwin Piano Company as the San Diego sales representative for Gutcher Piano Company of Bakersfield. He became store manager of a retail music store in the downtown area. He expanded sales operations to include music stores in El Centro, California, and Phoenix, Arizona. In 1948, the owner, Fred Gutcher, sold each of the subsidiary music stores to their store managers.
    The Borgens Music Company served downtown San Diego for many years. Borgens became the number one salesman in the world for Baldwin Model 5 church organs (200 sold). He sold pianos and spinets to individuals and school districts and arranged for the instruments to be on hand for stage performances and practice in their rooms for such artists as Liberace and Jose Iturbi and his sister.
    After he sold his store in 1972, Borgens helped found and manage a three store restaurant chain in San Diego, the legendary Organ Power Pizza. Customers were entertained with classical, popular and Karaoke music played by professional organists. There was also a dance floor so customers could dance to the music. At the flagship store, he played a Moller organ acquired from the BBC. He also became organist and choir director at Miramar Naval Air Station. He died in 1984.
    Donofrio continued her career as a soloist. She helped develop the San Diego Youth Symphony, serving as secretary and producing radio commercials for them. She became a popular voice teacher. After moving to Los Angeles, she continued as a regular church soloist and volunteered to do sing-alongs for recovering veterans at the Veterans Administration Los Angeles. She died in 1996.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains religious sheet music from the 19th through the 20th century and books of musical scores. Some of the scores are dedicated to Helen Z. Donofrio; others are signed by the composer, identified by (auto). There are multiple copies, sometimes with slightly different versions, of a few of the songs. Most of the scores are published. A few of the scores are handwritten.


    The collection is arranged in the following series: Series 1. Religious Sheet Music; Series 2. Music and song books. The sheet music is identified by Music (composer), Words (lyricist), Title and Date.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Borgens, Edward George
    Donofrio, Helen Z.
    Central Christian Church--San Diego, Calif.
    Consolidated Aircraft
    Borgens Music Store
    Spreckels Organ--Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
    Organ Power Pizza


    Organ (Musical instrument)--United States.
    Organ music.
    Music -- Religious aspects.
    Church music.
    Sacred vocal music.
    Music in churches.
    Popular music -- United States.

    Other Finding Aids

    Inventory of the Norman C. Mealy Collection of 18th Century Methodist Hymnals, GTU 96-8-01.

    Related Material

    There are numerous hymnals in the GTU library.

    Separated Material

    Who’s Who in Religion, 2nd Edition. 1977. (Duplicate in library's collection.)