The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Madison Community Orchestra needs amateur players; rehearsals begin Jan. 19

January 9, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Readers of The Well-Tempered Ear know my admiration for amateur music-making. I’ve written about it in several postings.

One of those postings drew the attention of Mindy Taranto.

Taranto asked me to write about the Madison Community Orchestra (below), which is looking for string players in all sections and a percussionist, and will start rehearsing on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 7:15 to 9:30 p.m. at the downtown Madison Area Technical College building.

Here’s a link to the group home page:

Taranto, who works for the American Federation of Teachers and deals with part-time faculty members at Madison Area Technical College, is a devoted member of the community orchestra.

For 16 years, she has played clarinet in the MCO, which rehearses once a week at the downtown MATC campus, then performs three concerts a year in MATC’s Mitby Theater (below) and at the state Capitol for a holiday concert.

“I’ve been playing the clarinet since I was a kid,” says Taranto, who played all through elementary, middle and high school and in California youth orchestras.”

“I love it,” says Taranto. “I don’t think I could be without music and making music. I love playing in chamber groups and in orchestras.”

Taranto is on the advisory committee of the Madison Community Orchestra, a 45-year-old ensemble which has been conducted and directed since 1994 by its sixth conductor, Blake Walter of Edgewood College. (In the group shot of Edgewood’s music faculty, below, Blake Walter is in the center of the front row.)

“It’s just a fabulous group of people,” Walter says. “Everybody wants to be there. It’s all about the process for me. It’s an educational group. We perform but our good work is done during rehearsals. We really play some interesting pieces that you often have to dig past the standards to find. It is a challenge to program and not do the same music again and again and again.”

The range of the members, he adds, runs from high school to someone who is 86.

“We have doctors and lawyers and an amazing cross-section of people,” Walter says.” We have a lot of people from Epic and the UW physics department. It’s great to get to know them. I just want to do a good job because the people are so great. I really do have a good time.  People are there because they love it and want to be there, so something must be right. I’ll give the credit to the orchestra.”

The orchestra membership is up to near 80 now, Taranto notes, after hitting a low of 45 or so several years ago.

“It varies year to year,” she says. “We always worry about how to get the word out and recruit. The web site has been really helpful and works.”

The group is always looking for more members, she explains, because there is quite a turnover from members who attend the UW or another school and then leave. And it can always use more brass players and winds.

The ensemble is also looking for a higher public profile and for more attendance, although Taranto says they usually draw a couple hundred listeners.

And what kind of music does the MCO play?

Some pops, for certain events.

But mostly, “We play quite a standard repertoire. We read through Beethoven symphonies but usually steer away from performing the really big orchestral works. We often do shorter less well-known works — Rossini overtures, some Wagner, Mozart opera overtures.

For the March 28 concert, for example, they have a guest soprano who will sing three arias, including the popular Puccini area “O mio babbino caro” and they will play the Overture to “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and the Bacchanal scene from Saint-Saens opera “Samson and Delilah.”

But the MCO also does a lot of great music, as you can see from the enticing repertoire list compiled by Taranto and included below.

What qualifications do you need to join?

“If people have stayed up on their instrument and have a serious interest in orchestral music, they should consider playing with us,” Taranto says. “I know there are some amateur string quartet players in town and they should give us a try. The orchestra is only as good as the people who come and make a commitment. It’s worth it and it’s rewarding.”

Taranto also adds that the group is “very grateful” to MATC for its generosity and for providing rehearsal space, some instruments and a performance space. That is one reason, she says, she and the group fighting to keep MATC from closing the Mitby Theater.

It’s great for adult who are passionate about classical music,” Taranto adds. “We have really interesting people in the group. It’s a good place to meet people with common interests.”

Madison Community Orchestra’s Partial Repertoire 1994-2009

  • Barber: Adagio for Strings
  • Beethoven: Symphonies 1, 3, 5; Fidelio Overture
  • Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture; Excerpts from Symphonie Fantastique; Rakoczy March
  • Brahms: Hungarian Dance # 5; Tragic Overture; Symphony No. 2
  • Britten: Matinees Musicales
  • Bizet: Arlesienne; Carmen Suites 1 and 2;
  • Borodin: Symphony No. 2
  • Chabrier: Marche Joyeuse
  • Cherubini: Overture to Anacreon
  • Copland: Our Town film score
  • Correlli: Concerto Grosso No.12
  • Delibes: Sylvia Ballet Suite; Coppelia Ballet Suite
  • De Falla: Ritual Fire Dance
  • Dvorak: Slavonic Dance Op. 46, Nos. 2 and 8; The Noon Witch; My Home Overture; Symphony Nos. 7, 8, 9
  • Elgar: Wand of Youth; Enigma Variations
  • Faure: Dolly Suite
  • Franck: Le Chasseur Maudit
  • Gade: Symphony No. 1
  • Glazounov: From the Middle Ages Suite
  • Glinka: Russlan and Ludmilla Overture; A Life for the Czar
  • Gounod: Petite Symphony for Winds
  • Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor; Symphonic Dances Op. 64; Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Suite from Sigurd Jorsalfar
  • Handel: Music for Royal Fireworks; Concerto Grosso IX
  • Haydn: Symphony No. 92
  • Herold: Overture to Zampa
  • Humperdinck: Prelude to Hansel and Gretel
  • Ippolitov-Ivanov: Caucasian Sketches Suites I and II
  • Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite; Ballet Gayane
  • Liadov: Eight Russian Folk Songs
  • Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody #2
  • Massenet: Orchestral Suite No. 3
  • Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 2, 5; Overture to the Oratorio St. Paul; Hebrides Overture; Overture to Athalia
  • Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
  • Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 2; Magic Flute Overture
  • Nicolai: Overture to Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Offenbach: Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld; Vert-Vert Overture
  • Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours
  • Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kije
  • Ravel: Antique Minuet
  • Rimsky-Korsakov: Suite from The Snow Maiden;
  • Rossini: William Tell Overture; Suite from La Boutique Fantastique; Italian Girl in Algiers Overture; Barber of Seville Overture
  • Saint Saens: Danse Macabre; Danse Bachanale; March Heroique
  • Schubert: Symphony No. 8; Rosamunde Overture
  • Schumann: Symphony No. 1
  • Sibelius: Karelia Suite; Finlandia
  • Smetana: The Bartered Bride; The Moldau
  • Souza: various marches
  • Strauss: Vienna Blood Waltzes and others
  • Stravinsky: Berceuse from Firebird Suite
  • Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake; Waltz from Onegin; Romeo and Juliet Overture; Symphony No. 2
  • Vaughan Williams: English Folk Songs Suite
  • Verdi: Nabucco Overture
  • Von Suppe: Overture to Pique Dame; Overture to Poet and Peasant; Light Cavalry Overture
  • Wagner: Rienzi Overture; Huldigungs March
  • Weber: Der Freischutz Overture; Clarinet Concerto #1

Are you a member of the Madison Community Orchestra?

Have you heard the MCO play?

What is your experience with it?

Do you recommend it to others?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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