GUILFORD—Friends of Music at Guilford, now in its 52nd concert season, will present its ninth 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 p.m. with a festive buffet of hearty 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 selected restaurant and retail gift certificates, as well as a wide variety of 2-for-1 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.
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 (1858-1944) 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.
Her works include songs, pieces for piano, chamber music, orchestral and concertante works, choral works, and operas — she was the only woman whose work was produced by the Metropolitan Opera from 1903 to 2017. After losing her hearing, Smyth 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. She was an accomplished singer, the composer of a number of works in her early 20s showing “considerable musical imagination,” a piano accompanist, and an 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 in D minor.
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.