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April 21 Women in Music Gala: “O, Britannia!”

West Brattleboro, Vt. — Friends of Music at Guilford, now in its 52nd concert season, is presenting its 9th annual Women in Music house concert gala on Saturday, 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 an award-winning energy-efficient home in West Brattleboro, begins at 6:00 p.m. with a festive buffet of hearty hors d’oeuvres, salads, and side dishes, continues with the concert at about 7:00, 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 choice restaurant and retail gift certificates, as well as a wide variety of 2-for-1 ticket bargains to regional arts performances, including movies and plays, puppetry and musical theater, concerts and opera. These performances are in Brattleboro, Putney, and Weston, Vt., as well as Lebanon and Keene, N.H., and Greenfield and Charlemont, Mass. 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.

Madeleine 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.

Dame Ethel 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 ten highly successful, mostly autobiographical, books.

Lucy 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.

Hugh 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 Jenna Rae. Stage or concert productions of Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Tosca, and La Bohème, 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. Visit online at www.fomag.org.