The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: UW Choral Union won’t get to perform in Overture Hall this season — but maybe next season | September 13, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight is the first rehearsal of the University of Wisconsin Choral Union, an outstanding choral group of some 150 to 200 campus and community members.

The first rehearsal also brings relevant news.

Longtime Choral Union director Beverly Taylor (below) recently told The Ear that a tentative plan for the group to perform in Overture Hall at the Overture Center ran into a wall.

So the hoped for performance there won’t happen.

That’s because the Madison Symphony Orchestra beat them to one date, and UW rules prohibit doing the performance a weekend closer to spring finals.

The net effect is this: This fall semester the Choral Union will perform Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” with the UW Chamber Orchestra on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m. Then on Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., it will perform Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets will be $15 general admission, $8 for senior and students. However, they are not yet available.

Next fall, says Taylor, will probably see the group do a modern or contemporary work, though she didn’t say which one.

And then if the Overture Hall concert materializes, they will do either Verdi’s Requiem or Brahms’ “German” Requiem. Mozart’s Requiem may also be a possibility.

But there is a big IF: fundraising.

Taylor has asked adult community members of the chorus to contribute $20 — in the form of a first-time ever “participation fee” — towards the goal of meeting rent and soloist costs. I expect some members will give more, and that other donors, large and small, will be sought out or voluntarily come forward. Certainly the accomplished group deserves a chance to perform in a great venue (below) with its outstanding acoustics. (It is also a way of dealing with UW budget cuts prompoted by the state deficit.)

Apparently, Overture Center, for all its talk about being a community organization, is not willing to give a break on the substantial rent to the UW to make it affordable for a non-profit student group.

I mean, times are tough but even so – it would a wonderful service for this community group to have higher profile.

Well, what do you think?

Which work – the Brahms, Verdi or Mozart Requiem — would most attract you to the Overture Hall and fill it with other listeners? I think the Brahms but am anxious to hear from others.

Do you think the Overture Center should give big discounts to student groups?

Finally, as either a participant or listener, do you have an opinion of the Choral Union and its repertoire and performances?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. I would suggest the UW Chorale Union not perform in the Overture Hall. I have seen the group perform several times and have enjoyed the performances very much. I have also been to performances in Overture Hall. Mills Hall is a much more audience friendly venue. The nosebleed seats in Overture Hall are not worth the price (about $50 for the performances I’ve seen). The Overture Center may be a fine venue for wealthy patrons, but working class people were an afterthought at best.

    Comment by chuck poole — October 11, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    • Hi Chuck,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      I’m not sure about your overall point, though I can’t deny that hard economic times have been a difficult period of Overture.
      I completely agree agree about the nosebleed seats in the upper balcony, which are too steeply and dizzyingly raked for my ease.
      I think Overture donor Jerry Frautschi’s intent was more populist thank you seem to think. But not everything works out the way you intend it to be.
      I too have enjoyed the Choral Union performances in Mills Hall as well as in the Stock Pavilion and at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
      But it would be fun for them to sing in the fine acoustics and great design of Overture Hall at least once. And they should do so at a reduced rental rate.
      Let the big out-of-town Broadway shows make up the difference.
      I hope you keep reading and commenting.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 11, 2010 @ 8:14 am

  2. A friend of mine says, often, that the Overture Center is a gift of the rich to the rich. I don’t think he’s far off the mark.

    We saw “Wicked” in the upper balcony. When we ordered tickets with a Book Festival discount, we were not allowed to choose seats and wound up in seats where neither of us could see very well. Yes, the sound system is great and that at least is open to all.

    Comment by Terri Gregory — October 10, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    • Hi Terri,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Those upper balcony seats are poorly designed — even the Madison Symphony sells them at a discount. They are uncomfortably steep for a lot of people.
      I don’t think the intent behind Overture was to cater to the rich, but at times it does seem to be working out that way.
      I also don’t like all that glass, which is expensive to heat in the winter in this climate, and the lack of aisles (so-called European seating) in Overture Hall.
      Perhaps ticket prices will come down when the economy improves and more tickets are sold.
      Thanks again for replying.
      Or perhaps not.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 11, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  3. We would love to attend this Fall’s performance. Where “will” the performance be? Address please and where to purchase tickets. Are tickets assigned seating. We would love to encourage a number of people to come and support the arts in our state.
    Thank you for your informative blog.

    Comment by Kris — October 8, 2010 @ 5:16 am

    • Hi Kris,
      Thanks for reading and writing.
      The UW Choral Union and UW Chamber Orchestra will perform Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m. Both performances will be in Mills Hall, where they usually perform, in the Mosse Humanities Building next to the Chazen Museum of Art, 800 University Ave.
      Tickets are general admission, no reserved seating. Price is $15 general admission, $8 seniors and students.
      I don’t know if tickets are on sale yet but will check later. When they go on sale, it will be through the Vilas Hall box office at 608 262-1500 or through the Wisconsin Union Theater box office at 608 262-2201.
      I hope that information helps you. You can get more at the UW School of music website ( under the Events Calendar.
      I’m sure you will enjoy the performance if you go.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 8, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  4. Greetings, and thanks for all your fabulous posts!
    I must confess ignorance of any personal experience with the Choral Union, although as a freshman in 2005-06 my stepdaughter sang under Beverly Taylor in a different choir.

    I was reminded again yesterday in hearing portions of the Milw. Sym. broadcast that when it comes to the Brahms German Req., I melt in the second movement, but overall the work does not always touch me deeply (even though I adore most of Brahms’ music and have a thoroughly German name!).

    I think the Verdi is the big crowd pleaser, but you sure need top soloists and a big-time effort to pull it off. I always enjoy the Mozart, too, and it’s probably more accessible for the performers.

    I certainly do think the Overture needs to discount for student groups such as this — it would be a major p.r. coup for them to do something like this.

    Musically yours,

    Greg Hettmansberger

    Comment by Greg Hettmansberger — September 13, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    • Hi Greg,
      Thanks for the terrific and comprehensive reply.
      I too heard the Brahms (Milwaukee Symphony and Chorus under Edo de Waart) on Sunday and I am a sucker for it. I could hear it live every year. It really goes deep and gets under my skin — perhaps because it is more secular or “humanist,” to quote Brahms, than many other requiems or sacred choral works.
      I find it more moving and intimate than the Verdi, and the Mozart always leaves me a little haunted and unsatisfied because it wasn’t completed by Mozart.
      But any of the three would get me and many friends to the Overture Center.
      And I too think student groups should get a big discount.
      Keep reading and writing.
      And don’t miss the Choral Union performances this fall and spring. I think you will like them.

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 13, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

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