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Lili Boulanger and Nadia Boulanger featured women in music.

GUILFORD >> Now in its 50th season, Friends of Music at Guilford (FOMAG) presents its 7th Women in Music Celebration, an annual house-concert gala, beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday. "This fundraiser for our concert season includes three important elements," explains administrator Joy Wallens-Penford. "A bounty of good food, some delightful music, and a special Silent Auction with a few gift certificates to restaurants and merchants as well as a wide range of 2-for-1 tickets to arts events around the region. We help to promote other organizations' events and garner vital support for the many free and affordable programs we present in the community."

This year's featured music was composed by a renowned pair of Parisian sisters born into a musical family. The 20th century's most influential teacher of musical composition was Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979). She was a child prodigy at the Paris Conservatoire, a friend and disciple of Fauré, and a colleague of Stravinsky, some of whose works she premiered. Though she spent most of her life in France, her American connections were strong. Her school at Fontainebleau became the post-World War I mecca for American students who emerged as prominent composers, including Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Ned Rorem. From 1938 through 1945 she taught at the Longy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Her works were performed by major American orchestras, and she was the first woman to conduct the Royal Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Philadelphia orchestras.

Younger sister Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) was also a prodigy at the Conservatoire and (in Nadia's eyes as well as others') even more gifted. Among her notable works are large-scale settings of psalms for chorus and orchestra, and a choral cantata based on the Faust legend. Lili was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in composition, at just 19, but she died at only 25 after lifelong struggles with ill health. This devastated Nadia, who then abandoned her promising career as a composer to devote her life to teaching.

The April 24 concert presents songs by both sisters, sung by Evelyn McLean; Lili's piece for flute and piano "D'un matin de printemps" ("Spring Morning"), performed by Connie Green; and Three Pieces for cello and piano by Nadia, performed by Pedro Pereira. The pianist for all of these works is Hugh Keelan.

Two of the selections are especially poignant. "D'un matin de printemps," along with a companion piece, was the last work Lili completed in her own hand. "J'ai frappé" ("I Knocked") was Nadia's final song, her sad farewell to a compositional career: "My heart knocked on the closed doors, but only the echo of my heart responded."

The program also features a special guest, composer Elise Grant, who will speak about her experience as a student of Nadia's. Elise's works have been heard on previous FOMAG concerts, including extensive excerpts from her opera "Santé et Prospérité." As an added attraction, after the performance, audience members will have an opportunity to view a video display of archival photographs and film clips of the sisters Boulanger.

The Women in Music gala is set this season in a unique, energy-efficient home just a short drive from Living Memorial Park in West Brattleboro. It was built using Passiv Haus principles and received Efficiency Vermont's 2013 award for Best Residential Design. The owners boast that heating it in winter is equivalent to the energy use of a hairdryer! There is a special approach for anyone requiring handicap-accessibility.

The evening's menu includes an appetite-satisfying buffet of hearty hors d'oeuvres, salads, and sides, with fruit and French cheeses. French wines and a variety of other beverages are offered at no additional charge. An array of delectable desserts to be served after the concert have been donated by area restaurants, bakeries, and chefs.

Seating is limited, and reservations are required. The suggested donation is $35 per person. Please contact the FOMAG office at 802-254-3600 or e-mail for further details and reservations.