The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: As the holidays approach, vocal and choir music again come to the fore.

November 30, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

Clearly, at least when it comes to classical music, this is the busiest week of the season for Holiday Music.

Music is, and always has been and will be, integral to celebration of the holidays. It brightens up the short winter days and expresses so many hopes, so much aspiration and consolation.

It often seems to The Ear that most of the regular concert season belongs in large part to strings, the piano and winds.

But there is no arguing the fact that as the holidays approach, the human voice — both individually and in groups, used by both amateurs and professionals — comes to the fore.

How better could one express the joy that the holidays stand for and the renewal that they represent for individuals and society than by singing?

Sure, brass often comes to the fore and the strings, piano, organ, winds and other instruments still play important roles. But their roles are usually secondary or back-up. Just look at the numerous following events and you will see how much the human voice means now I and in the coming weeks  — and the datebook doesn’t even include churches and synagogues or private homes or popular music.

Take a look. Take a listen.


No classical musician in Madison “keeps a better Christmas” – as Charles Dickens might put it — than maestro John DeMain (below, in his Santa hat), whose “Christmas Spectacular” concerts with the Madison Symphony Orchestra have become legendary over the 18 years of his tenure.

This year, the Christmas Spectacular returns with MSO favorites including  soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, local bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta) and organist Samuel Hutchison.

Classical repertoire will be mixed with carols and popular music.

The caroling in the lobby of the Overture Center prior to the performance has become one of this concert’s most popular aspects.

The Madison Symphony Chorus, Madison Youth Choirs (below top) and Mt. Zion Gospel Choir (below bottom) once again join the MSO as local participants in an event that draws more than 6,000 people to Overture Hall, year after year.

Performances are in Overture Hall, 201 State St. on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Season Subscriptions are available at and through the MSO offices at 608 257-3734.

Subscribers save up to percent with five-concert packages starting at just $56. Flex Ticket packages are also available.

Single concert tickets are $16.50-$78.50 and are available at and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, 608 258-4141.

Seniors and students save 20% and the MSO’s $10 Student Rush is good  for the best available seats on the day of the concert. Groups of 15 or more save 25 percent.

The FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., at the First Unitarian Society (below), 900 University Bay Drive, will feature Jeffrey Wagner playing piano music of Mozart and Liszt. For information, call or visit 233-9774 or visit

On Friday, December 2, at 7 p.m. in St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Edgewood College (below) will present the 84th annual Edgewood College Christmas Concert.

The Edgewood College Guitar Ensemble, Concert Band, Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir and Jazz Ensemble will perform a variety of holiday works, and audience members will be invited to join in singing traditional carols.

Tickets are $7, which will support music scholarships. Tickets may be reserved in advance at

NOTE: The concert will be streamed live on

Friday, December 2 at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble and Verona High School Band, directed by Scott Teeple (below) and Eric Anderson, will perform. Free admission.

The program includes works by Morten Lauridsen, David Maslanka, Shostakovich and Rossini. The combined ensembles will perform “Children’s March” by Percy Grainger (arr. Rogers).  NOTE: The entire program will be webcast live at


The UW Horn Choir will present their popular annual holiday concert at the Chazen Museum of Art on Saturday at 1 p.m. 

This year’s ensemble, made up of 10 music majors from around the country, will perform Bach’s Prelude, selections from Handel’s Water Music, and Gabrieli’s Three Canzons, as well as some seasonal music and “Privilege of Being” by Madison composer Douglas Hill, the previous horn choir director. This festive event is free and open to the public. It will take place, as in past years, in the museum’s Paige Court.

Daniel Grabois (below) will conduct the annual horn choir concert for the first time as he replaces longtime director Douglas Hill, who retired. Grabois was appointed assistant professor of horn at the UW–Madison School of Music in September 2011. The former chair of the Department of Contemporary Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, he is also the hornist in the Meridian Arts Ensemble, a sextet of brass and percussion soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Refreshments will be served following the performance.

Saturday, December 3 at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW All-University String Orchestra, under conductor Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), conducts two complete orchestras in works by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Schulhoff, J. Strauss, Tchaikovsky and others. Students Dorothy Hui and Daniel Jacobs conduct works by Geminiani, Persichetti and Ives. Free admission.

One way to light up the short days of winter is with bright and sunny Italian music. The Madison-based group Candid Concert Opera (below) is offering three FREE performances of Rossini’s popular opera “The Barber of Seville”  in non-traditional places and practices. Opera singers, a narrator and a chamber orchestra will be used in this version.

Here are the dates and locations:

This Saturday, December 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Oakwood West Village, 6201 Mineral Point Road in Madison.

Also: On Friday, December 9, at 7 p.m. in the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, in Madison; and Saturday, December 10, at 4 p.m. in St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2126 North Sherman Ave. in Madison.

For more information, visit:


“Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” features welcomes cellist Paul Kosower with pianist Owen Lovell from 12:30 to 2 pm. in Brittingham Gallery Number III at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Kosower is Professor Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he served as professor of cello and conductor of the University Chamber Orchestra. Owen Lovell, Assistant Professor of Piano at UW-Eau Claire, has appeared as soloist, accompanist, chamber musician, and new music advocate in 12 U.S. States, Washington D.C., Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands.

The program features some of the most well known and beloved classics of the cello repertoire by such composers as Saint-Saens, Dvorak, Debussy, Mendelssohn and Faure, as well as the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Cesar Franck.

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 (below) 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.

Sunday, December 4 at 2 and 4 p.m., in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, the UW Winter Choral Concerts, with five of the UW School of Music’s seven choirs, will take place. Free admission with a free will offering.

Performers include: the Concert Choir, directed by Beverly Taylor (below); Madrigal Singers and Chorale, directed by Bruce Gladstone; the Women’s Chorus, directed by Sarah Riskind; and the University Chorus, directed by Russell Adrian.

Sunday, December 4 at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band, directed by Scott Teeple, Matthew Schlomer, Matthew Mireles, Allison Jaeger and Toby Shucha, will perform. Free admission.

The program includes “Shepherd’s Hey!” by Percy Grainger; “Suite Francaise” by Darius Milhaud; “Trauermusik” by Richard Wagner; “East Coast Portraits” by Nigel Hess; and “Russian Christmas Music” by Alfred Reed.

On Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood College Campus-Community Choir and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will perform a music scholarship benefit concert under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault (below, conducting the Edgewood College Chamber Singers).

The concert will feature works by Beethoven and Mendelssohn as well as traditional Christmas carols and excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah.” Tickets are $7, and may be purchased at the door.

Sunday, December 4 at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall: Three University Bands will perform under the direction of Justin Stolarik, Matthew Schlomer and Matthew Mireles. Free admission.

Works include the “Second Suite in F major” by Gustav Holst; “Passacaglia: Homage on B-A-C-H” by Ron Nelson; “Four Scottish Dances” by Malcolm Arnold; “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson; “The Young Prince and Princess” from “Scheherazade” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; and “West Side Story Selection” by Bernstein, arr. Duthoit.


On Monday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Masters Singers, directed by Sarah Riskind and Brian Gurley, will perform. Free admission.

The program includes “There Shall a Star Come out of Jacob” by Mendelssohn; the 16th-century villancico “Riu, Riu, Chiu”; the Finale from “The Gondoliers” by Sir Arthur Sullivan; “Glory to God” and “The Last Words of David” by Randall Thompson; and works by Gluck and Lassus.

Posted in Classical music

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