Gala celebrates Gershwin's muse, composer Kay Swift


WEST BRATTLEBORO — Friends of Music at Guilford's 10th annual celebration of Women in Music begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, and salutes Katherine Faulkner "Kay" Swift (1897-1993). She was a classically trained composer who became George Gershwin's trusted musical advisor and companion. After Gershwin (1898-1937) encouraged her to compose popular music, Swift became the first woman to write a hit Broadway musical, "Fine and Dandy" (1930), now the borrowed title for FOMAG's gala.

Some of both genres of music will be performed at this house-concert benefit for FOMAG's current 53rd season. The program opens with a piano transcription of the Overture to "Fine and Dandy," performed by Virginia Eskin, and later includes Swift's Theme and Variations for Piano and Cello, performed with cellist Rebecca Hartka. Eskin will also accompany several songs from Swift's musical theater and film scores featuring vocals by Jessica Gelter and Tony Grobe.

The "Fine & Dandy" gala begins with a pre-concert buffet supper. The post-concert dessert course includes donated delicacies from area inns, restaurants, and bakeries. The annually featured Silent Auction includes items and certificates from several merchants and restaurants but is noted especially for offering over two dozen pairs of tickets to regional concerts, plays, opera, cinema, and more at 2-for-1 opening bids. Donor's events are publicized, auction winners save money, and FOMAG earns needed support, a win-win for all.

FOMAG's performers for this event are known to tri-state audiences from their appearances in settings ranging from intimate house concerts to expansive performance halls, and in both indoor and outdoor theatrical productions:

Virginia Eskin, a resident of New Hampshire and Boston, is a piano soloist, chamber player, and lecturer, known for both standard classical repertoire and ragtime. Featured on over a dozen recordings, she has performed and taught throughout the U.S. and in Europe, has appeared on radio and television, and is a long-time champion of the works of American and European women composers.

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Rebecca Hartka, cello, holds a B.A. from Oberlin and earned her M.A. and DMA at Boston University. She has concertized for over a decade in the U.S., Italy, Cuba, Vietnam, and Thailand. Hartka's three CD releases have been featured on NPR.

Jessica Gelter, a former FOMAG trustee, has performed in its concerts of Spanish love songs and the music of Edith Piaf. Her performance of David Lang's song cycle "Death Speaks" was the centerpiece of its 2018 multimedia program "The Last Dance." Gelter heads Arts Alive! in Keene, N.H., and is a well-known regional actor and stage director.

Tony Grobe assisted Gelter in "Death Speaks" and was a soloist in FOMAG's 2013 Messiah Sing. He is better known for Vermont Theatre Company stage appearances, last summer as Prospero in "The Tempest." He has recently been featured in the role of Dr. Watson for the Baker Street Readers' series of Sherlock Holmes stories.

The "Find & Dandy" gala is set in an award-winning energy-efficient private home up the hill from Living Memorial Park in West Brattleboro.

Tickets are $20 to $35 per person, on a sliding scale, and seating is limited. Further information and reservations are available by calling Friends of Music at 802-254-3600 or emailing Visit for a season calendar.


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