Tonight’s ‘Sparks’ event celebrates the words of Jean Stewart McLean


GUILFORD -- The life and works of Jean Stewart McLean will be celebrated on Saturday at Guilford Community Church. The date marks the publication of the author’s collected writing in book form, edited by her son, Don McLean, of Guilford. The 7:30 p.m. program combines a publication party with performances of her work, presented by Friends of Music at Guilford.

"Sparks" is the title of the new book, the evening’s program, and a musical setting of 11 of the author’s poems, set to music by Don McLean, to be premiered by mezzo-soprano Evelyn McLean.

The author worked in three principal genres -- poems, short stories and plays -- each of which will be represented on the program.

The evening opens with a very short play, "Den 5 Skit," apparently written for a cub scout den in 1949. This comic piece will feature young players, many from Guilford, including Elijah Taylor, Payton Lawrence, Kate Maisner, Garret Barry-Stoughton, Jeremy West, Marisa Prohaska and Jenna Barry-Stoughton. Joan Peters of Guilford assists Don McLean in the production.

Don McLean will follow with a short talk about his mother and her work, and read a few passages from her fiction.

The featured work of the evening will be the song set "Sparks," premiered by Evelyn McLean. This performance brings together songs Don McLean has set to his mother’s poems, the earliest of which was composed in 1962. Two of the songs were written in the 1970s, and the rest of the pieces during a decade ending in 2004.

The songs have been drawn together in a work for voice and five instruments. Mezzo-soprano Evelyn McLean has premiered most of Don McLean’s work, as both soloist and choral conductor, including his short operas "Patterns" (1980) and "Goodbye, Darling" (2009) on Friends of Music programs.

The instrumentalists are Kimi Hasegawa, flute, Karen Bressett, clarinet, Kathy Andrew, violin, Pedro Pereira, cello, and Becky Graber, piano.

The evening closes with a reception, during which copies of the book will be on sale at a special price for those attending this program.

Guilford Community Church is at 38 Church Drive, off Route 5, just south of the Guilford Country Store. Admission is by suggested donation of $10. For information, contact Friends of Music at 802-254-3600 or e-mail


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