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Musical is 67 years in the making

August 29, 1999

Kay WhetstoneBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - In 1932, when Kay Whetstone was 16 years old and still in high school, she wrote her first song.

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She called the love song, in the genre of popular songs of the early Depression years, "Moonlight, June Night" and stuck it away in a drawer.

Over the next 67 years it would be joined by a couple of dozen more, most written at night while her children slept and her husband, The Rev. George E. Whetstone, was out on pastoral duties.

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The music and lyrics came to her as she sat in the dark at her piano. Sometimes the words would come, on other nights the music. Sometimes both came to her together, she said.

"I played piano and wrote songs for therapy," she said. As the wife of a minister, she moved her family seven times following her husband's call to distant churches - to Hagerstown, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Pa., and elsewhere.

It was always in the back of her mind over the years that perhaps one day her songs could end up in a musical.

Now, at age 83, Whetstone will see that happen.

On Sept. 12, students from the Cumberland Valley School of Music in Chambersburg will perform "Remember" at the Waynesboro Country Club.

It's a play about the innocence and awakening of a young couple, Kathleen and John, set to music with Whetstone's songs. Soprano Jessica Gardner, a junior at Shippensburg University, and Edward Manfre, a Chambersburg Area Senior High School senior and baritone, play the only two characters in the one-hour production. Whetstone's songs will be performed on piano by Brian Helman, an instructor at CVSM.

"It's about a couple of teenagers who knew each other as children," Whetstone said. "One day when they are older, the boy looks at the girl, sees a young woman and falls in love with her."

Whetstone credits her son, David, and daughter, Carol, with helping her to get her songs from the bureau drawer to the stage. It started after her husband died in 1996 and the family was going through personal items in her home.

Carol Whetstone, who teaches private English lessons in Hamburg, Germany, has written the story line for a musical in Germany. Her brother, David, composes music for symphonies in Minneapolis. Both were going through their mother's songs on the floor of the living room of her home.

"My daughter said, 'Mom, you have enough songs here to do a musical,'" Whetstone said. "She asked me a lot of questions about my life in those days."

The family later hired Herb Geller, a jazz saxophonist living in Germany, to arrange the music.

"He spent three days with us in the living room," Whetstone said. "We didn't even have time to go out to eat."

The family began looking for someone to produce their play and found Andrew Sussman, director of CVSM.

Sussman said the play wasn't quite finished when he first saw it. He said Geller, well-known in jazz circles, helped put together an excellent work.

Sussman said he agreed to produce the play because it was good and because it is part of the school's mission to encourage local creative musical endeavors.

The play is one of five in the school's 1999-2000 Millennium Festival of Musicales. They are put on in small intimate settings such as the country club or hosted in private homes. Receptions are held before and after the performances, Sussman said.

Tickets are available by calling CVSM at 1-717-261-1220.

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