The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music gifts tips, Part 1: The best gift is time, companionship

December 19, 2009
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By Jacob Stockinger

Usually year-end gift lists for classical music focus on specific titles and performers or on specific events and concerts. And indeed, in the coming days I will be suggesting some CD titles and events of my own.

But the first item on my list of gifts is as simple as it is special: Time and companionship.

How many young children, especially young music students, do you know who need to or want to be exposed to more classical music, and can’t because they don’t have some adult, a parent or friend, to pick a concert, buy or obtain a ticket, and take them there.

The same goes for older people, especially in the Northern climate where I live and where cold and snow, the dark and ice, threaten older classical music fans with being house-bound or injured, so they end up missing some important concerts because they are alone or on their own.

So, here’s is a simple gift idea that will mean the world to many people:

First, find the kind of concert you know they love. Some people prefer singing, vocal or choral; some like solo instrument recital likes piano concerts; some prefer chamber music or string music; and some prefer orchestral music.

Of course, there are many fine groups that charge for admission, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra (above), the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Oakwood Chamber Players and many, many others. Many of them have affordable deals and deserve being looked into.

But in Madison, we are also lucky to have a major public School of Music. This year just about everything, except the UW Opera and the UW Choral Union, is free — even the Faculty Concert Series. Edgewood College also has a good schedule of live music.

At both places, you can find early music, piano music, string music, vocal music, choral music, orchestral music, chamber music.

One of the best bets, I have found, are the weekly “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” concerts (below right) at the UW Chazen Museum of Art. (They are broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday from October through May. But the live experience of being there, amid the fine art and in the great acoustics, is better by far.

Not only to you get to hear wonderful live music by musicians from all around Wisconsin (including the UW Pro Arte String Quartet, below left), you also get to drink tea or coffee and eat cookies while you meet the performers, plus you also get to see art works in touring shows and the permanent collection. It all makes for quite a complete, enjoyable and FREE (a donation is requested but not necessary) classical concert experience.

So go find an appropriate holiday greeting card and promise to take that special person to the concert that you describe. Maybe you’ll want to combine it with a late brunch or afternoon snack in one of the State Street cafes near the Chazen Museum.

You can also combine the gift with a CD — which doesn’t have to be THE best-ever performance but simply a good recording to get the recipient acquainted with the piece.

Another good bet for free events are the Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive form 12:15 to 1 p.m.. They’re short, often very good and offer free coffee as well as a place to each a lunch and socialize.

I’m sure there are many, many more. Just hop online and check out concert schedules of various groups and organizations.

Then make you pick and write out you own personalized “gift card.”

There is nothing like live music.

Here are some links to help you browse free events:

For the UW School of Music:

For “Sunday Afternoon Live From The Chazen”:

What’s your favorite kind of classical music gift to give?

To receive?

What kind of classical music gifts do you suggest giving?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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