The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Madison Symphony Orchestra’s new organ concert series in Overture Hall is selling well; begins Oct. 19

September 14, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Samuel Hutchison is the curator of the Overture Concert Organ and the organist for the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which owns the organ and pays for Hutchison in both capacities.

He is primarily responsible for selecting repertoire and for putting together organ programs, including this year’s first-ever Overture Concert Organ Subscription season that starts this fall.

There are three events. The first two are on Tuesday nights at 7:30 p.m. and the third is on a Thursday night at 7:30. All are in Overture Hall:

Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m.: John Scott in recital. Scott (below) is one of the world’s preeminent organists. From his debut as the youngest organist ever to play the Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, through his tenure as Organist and Music Director at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, to his current position at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Scott has appeared in concerts throughout the world.

He will perform Scott will play Fagiani’s “Veni Creator Spiritus”; Sweelinck’s “Est –ce Mars?”; J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 546, R. Schumann’s Canon No. 2 in A minor, Guilmant’s “March on a Theme of Handel”; Bonnet’s “Variations de Concert”; Vierne’s “Naïades”; Bolcom’s Gospel-Prelude: “What a friend we have in Jesus”; Wammes’ “Miroir”; and Jongen’s “Sonata Eroica.”

Nov. 16, at 7:30: “Three for All II: “Too Hot to Handel – Music by George Frederick and Other Hotties.” This is a festival of local talent that will celebrate the brilliant music of Handel and other composers with the return of three of Madison’s finest organists. Bruce Bengtson (below left), Director of Music and Organist at Luther Memorial Church; Gary Lewis (below right), Director of Music and Organist at Bethel Lutheran Church; and Samuel Hutchison (below center).

May 19: Samuel Hutchison in recital. Hutchison will perform his favorite works for the King of Instruments. He’s chosen soft, shimmering solos and thrilling roof raisers from among the works of Bach, Mendelssohn, Alain, Guilmant and others.

Subscriptions tickets to all three concerts are $45 plus $5 for handling and save 30 percent off the single ticket price of $20. The subscription tickets are on sale through Sept. 25. You can call 608 257-3734 or order on-line at

Single ticket will be $20 and will go on sale Sept. 27.

In addition there is another organ event: “VOICES OF SPRING: A CELEBRATION OF THE OVERTURE CONCERT ORGAN: AN EVENING IN VIENNA” will take place on Saturday, March 19, at 6 p.m. in Overture Hall.

The evening celebrates the Overture Concert Organ. People will gather for wine and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m. in the Overture Lobby followed by a grand processional to the Overture Stage. There, they will enjoy a sumptuous dinner sprinkled with Viennese musical interludes by Samuel Hutchison and Viennese dancers and violinists. Tickets are $125 ($75 is tax-deductible), and all proceeds benefit the preservation and programming of the Overture Concert Organ. To order tickets, call 608 257-3734.

“So far, series tickets are selling really well,” says the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s director of marketing Ann Miller, who adds that a little under the goal of 300 subscription tickets have been sold and the goal should be exceeded by Sept. 25. “There are a lot of organ fans in Madison.

Hutchison recently took time to answer an e-mail Q&A about the organ and the festival:

Why did you start the series?

We started the series because there has been very strong support for all of our organ programming.

Is the organ repertoire in general less well-known than it should be? Why do you think so?

It is generally less well-known, due somewhat to the fact that many of the composers wrote only for the instrument.  Consequently, their names are not as familiar as some of the great classical composers who wrote for many different performing forces.

Much of this repertoire can only be heard in churches, as that is where the majority of organs are housed.  Many people don’t attend church and are never exposed to hearing the great literature played on a great instrument.

Sadly, I don’t think this is limited to organ music alone.  I find that classical music in general in our country is little known compared to the trivial issues and music that people throng to in the pop culture.

Is the Madison area good for organ music? How do you know?

Madison has provided a most enthusiastic audience for organ music.  All of our organ events have been well attended.

Friends of the Overture Concert Organ is an incredibly supportive group of organ ambassadors who not only support our programming, but also have made very generous financial contributions toward organ programming and maintenance.

Do you intend to make it an annual event and to expand it?

We do intend to make the organ subscription series an annual event. We also have plans to expand it for the 2011-2012 season to include a major European choir accompanied by the organ.

Do you have a philosophy or overarching theme to programming and to choosing repertoire and artists?

Primarily, I believe that organ programming must always be accessible for the audience.  Organ recitals tend to be notoriously NOT SO!  Based on feedback we have received, our programming has accomplished that goal.

Repertoire and artists need to be both varied and imaginative in order to hold an audience’s attention.  All of our guest artists have understood this concept and have greatly helped to continue to build an audience for all of our events.

What has been the public reaction so far to the series and how are tickets selling?

Organ season subscriptions are selling very well. Last season’s Three-for-All drew an audience of 1,300.  We hope for a similar response this year.

What is your reaction to that reception?

I’m thrilled, of course!   The organ has been extremely well received in Madison.  Colleagues around the country are amazed and very envious of the large audiences that we draw for concerts.

Will there be special repertoire – old and new works, classic and neglected works or composers?

All programs will be well-balanced between old and new. John Scott’s program contains 21st century works as well as works from 15th century composers. November’s “Three-for-All” will spotlight the works of Handel.  Other composers from the French and German organ schools will be included.

Does the Overture organ attract major talent? What role does the hall play?

Artists world-wide are attracted by the hall and the organ.  We have numerous requests from international organists to perform here.

Posted in Classical music

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