The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Sunday afternoon brings a memorial for modern violinmaker William “Jack” Fry; an Opera Props gala benefit; and UW bassoon-piano duo on the radio.

September 23, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Sunday afternoon sees several events that take place more or less simultaneously, though if you rushed around you could make it to all of them.

It’s just another sign of how crowded the classical music calendar is getting in the Madison area.


A memorial gathering will be held to honor William F. “Jack” Fry (1921-2011) and pay tribute to his lifetime’s achievement on this Sunday, Sept. 25, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Token Creek Festival Barn, 4037 Hwy. 19, in DeForest, Wisconsin.

Here is a tribute from Token Creek Festival co-director and violinist Rose Mary Harbison (below):

Little did I know that a casual meeting with Jack Fry at Norman Paulu’s home in 1975 would evolve into a life-changing experience.  Jack had stopped over to show Norman (the longtime first violinist of the UW’s Pro Arte String Quartet) some bows that he had made and the discussion later turned to a violin in Chicago with a big reputation.  It was the “Sanctus Serafino” that I acquired later that year.

It was also the beginning of a long association with Jack, and my awakening to the unknown about violins as I played his instruments for him and discussed his theories and hopes for rediscovering the structural mysteries of the great Italian instruments.

As the years progressed, the Token Creek Festival (below) presented Jack in forums and demonstrations, culminating in a concert in 2004 in which the ensemble played exclusively on Fry instruments (available on CD, TCR 111).  Most prized among Jack’s many awards was his election to the Galileo Academy of the University of Padova, Italy, for his discoveries in violin acoustics.

Jack leaves an amazing legacy as scientist, seeker of musical mystery, colleague and friend.  It is hard to imagine a world without him.  He did, indeed, find the truths he sought and there is great solace in that fact. 

Here is a brief bio:

Jack Fry (below) was born at the family farm on Scotch Ridge, south of Carlisle, Iowa. After completing his Ph.D. in 1951 he was commissioned a naval officer, supervising research on jamming devices for guided missiles. At the White Sands, New Mexico, rocket site he was in charge of researching German V-2 rockets.

Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin, in high-energy physics, from 1952 to 1998, he later pioneered the astrophysics program. He also was an accomplished amateur watercolor painter and he collected fountain pens.

An avid historian who collected Italian manuscripts from the 12th century through the Fascist period during his extensive travels in Italy, he donated more than 40,000 books and documents to the University of Wisconsin Library, the largest collection of Italian Fascist-era documents available to scholars worldwide.

He spent more than four decades in violin acoustical research, in search of understanding the secrets of the fine Italian instruments. His accomplishments in violin research are recognized in books and film, and are detailed in a scientific video book he completed last year. 

Here is a link to the more lengthy obituary that appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal:


This week’s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” will present the Duo Ricercata (below) this Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art. The FREE concert will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio.

University of Wisconsin-Madison students Theresa Koenig, bassoon, and Kirstin Ihde, piano, will present a program featuring works of the Baroque period and of today. Both are currently doctoral students studying music performance at the UW-Madison.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

A reception follows the performance, with refreshments generously donated by Fresh Madison Market, Coffee Bytes and Steep & Brew. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.


At 3 p.m., Opera Props, the support organization for University Opera, will hold its annual gala benefit, “Voices Over Lake Mendota,”  this Sunday afternoon at the scenically located and beautifully designed Holy Wisdom Monastery at 4200 County Highway M  in Middleton (below).

Eight student singers — Shannon Prickett, Caitlin Miller, Lydia Eiche, Chelsie Propst, Michael Roemer, Aldo Perrelli, Alex Gmeinder and Ben Schultz – will sing arias from several major operas, all of them to be accompanied by piano. (Below, soprano Emily Birsan sings last spring  during the “Prairie Rhapsody” fundraiser in the Monastery’s crisp and resonant concert hall.)

The operas include: Rossini’s “La Cenerentola,” Puccini’s “La Boheme” and “Madama Butterfly,” Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Un ballo in maschera”; Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt” and Donizetti’s “La Fille du regiment.”

The cost is $50 per person.

The suggested itinerary is 2:30-3 p.m. – early arrival to see the building and grounds, and meet University Opera staff and singers and fellow supporters; 3-4 p.m. – hear the concert; 4-5 p.m. – socialize and enjoy light refreshments of wine and cheese.

This season, The University Opera will present Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

For more information, visit:

Posted in Classical music

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