Women in Music Gala: 'O, Britannia!'


Friends of Music at Guilford's house concert on Saturday, at 6 p.m., toasting Madeleine Dring, Dame Ethel Smyth, and Lucy Broadwood. Buffet, then concert. Donation $25 to $30 at 802-354-3600

WEST BRATTLEBORO — Friends of Music at Guilford, now in its 52nd concert season, is presenting its ninth annual Women in Music house concert gala on April 21. This season's celebration toasts three noted British composers with diverse and distinguished personal histories Madeleine Dring, Dame Ethel Smyth, and Lucy Broadwood.

The event, which is held this year in West Brattleboro, begins at 6 p.m. with a buffet of hors d'oeuvres, salads, and side dishes, continues with the concert at about 7 p.m., and concludes with a reception of dessert specialties donated by area inns, bakeries, restaurants, and private chefs.

Another signature element at these galas is a silent auction featuring a few restaurant and retail gift certificates, as well as a wide variety of two-for-one ticket bargains to regional arts performances, including film, live theater, concerts, dance productions, and more. All revenue from bidders benefits FOMAG in exchange for promotion of its donor-partners.

Performers include soprano Jenna Rae accompanied by Hugh Keelan on piano, with assisting members of the Guilford Chamber Players. The program offers chamber music by Dring and Smyth, as well as songs collected and arranged by Broadwood.

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Dring (1923-1977) studied music and theater at the Royal College from the age of 10. Many of her earliest works were for the stage, radio, and television. Most of her output was in shorter forms—solo piano, songs, chamber music, and pedagogical studies — but included a one-act opera (finally produced in 2017), a BBC dance drama (1951), and music for a ballet and several stage plays in London (1946 to 1971). A hundred of her later songs are now typeset and await publication.

Smyth (rhymes with Forsyth, 1858-1944), DBE, was a prominent member of the suffragette movement. Her military father opposed her choice of music as a career, but she persisted, studied with private tutors, and then attended Leipzig Conservatory, meeting many prominent composers of her day. She wrote songs, works for piano, chamber music, orchestral and concertante works, choral pieces, and operas — she was the only woman whose work was produced by the Metropolitan Opera from 1903 to 2017. After losing her hearing, by 1920, Smyth turned to the pen and wrote 10 highly successful, mostly autobiographical, books.

Broadwood (1858-1929) was a folksong collector and researcher, and one of the main influences of the English folk revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A collaborator on other publications, she was collector and arranger for "English Traditional Carols and Songs" (1908). She was heavily involved in the early music movement as well, editing works by Purcell and translating works by Bach. Lucy was an accomplished singer, the composer of a number of works in her early 20s showing "considerable musical imagination," a piano accompanist, and amateur poet.

Keelan has conducted orchestras throughout the world and is currently conductor of the Windham Orchestra, as well as soloist for its recent performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1. He enjoys collaborations from intimate chamber music to grander-scale opera, a specialty he shares with soprano spouse Rae. Stage or concert productions of Puccini's "Suor Angelica," "Tosca," and "La Boheme," among others, have been widely hailed. He and Jenna are laying the groundwork for a regional production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle.

Seating is limited for these annual house concerts. The suggested donation for attendees is $25 to $35 per person. For information and reservations, contact the FOMAG office at 802-354-3600, or office@fomag.org. For more information, visit fomag.org.


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