Friends of Music at Guilford and Christ Church Guilford: A Special Collaboration

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Friends of Music at Guilford (FOMAG) has had a special relationship with Christ Church for half a century.  In 1973, the Christ Church Society invited FOMAG to present a Christmas season program, and the Guilford Chamber Singers performed Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Don McLean read Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and everyone joined in singing carols.

Every year, until interrupted by COVID in 2020 and 2021, FOMAG has presented a Christmas program at Christ Church, continuing the tradition of choral music, a story, and carols.  A number of these annual programs have followed a theme in the choice of music and the reading: A French Christmas, Christmas in the American South, a Celtic Christmas, and for the Guilford 250th celebration in 2011, A Guilford Christmas, featuring a story written for the occasion by the late Guilford author, Mimi Morton.

On a few occasions, FOMAG has presented a program combining music and drama, including the earliest-surviving music drama: the 12th century Play of Herod; the Second Shepherds Play from medieval England; and for the millennium, what the Holst Foundation has confirmed was the first-known American performance of The Coming of Christ, a 1927 Nativity play by John Masefield with music of Gustav Holst.

In addition to the Christmas programs, FOMAG has produced a number of events at other times of the year: A cello-piano recital with Sharon Robinson and Margo Garrett — a fundraiser for Christ Church — a 1982 Stravinsky centennial concert; the premiere of Guilford composer Don McLean’s Vermont Nocturnes (choral settings of poems by early Guilford author, Royall Tyler) and Elijah Jaqueth Goes to War, a Civil War program of letters from a Guilford soldier to his wife back home, accompanied by period popular songs, with the performers in costume and accompanied by the church’s 19th century reed organ.

Friends of Music has always said that Christ Church is their favorite, and most magical place for performances, given the exceptional acoustics of the sanctuary as well as the early 19th century architecture and character of the church.

Don McLean
Jenifer Ambler
April 2022