The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival runs Aug. 25-Sept. 2 will focus on the land and ecology and also include music by George Gershwin, J.S. Bach, Mozart and John Harbison. | August 21, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Each summer the acclaimed Token Creek Chamber Music Festival – which was founded by and remains co-directed by composer John Harbison and his wife violinist Rose Mary Harbison (below) — focuses on beautiful music performed in a beautiful setting.

This year, the setting will be explored more in-depth as the link between music and ecology – specifically the land the festival takes place on — is emphasized by the festival, which runs Aug. 25-Sept 2.

Here is a press release with landscape photos by former Isthmus music critic and festival  board member Jess Anderson:

TOKEN CREEK, WIS. – For just one day, the public is invited to an exclusive guided walking tour of a pristine private farm adjacent to the Token Creek County Park.

With its segment and tributary of Token Creek – an important fishery and major source of water for the Madison lakes – this 100-acre tract is a strategically located green space in a rapidly developing area. Originally purchased by Alice and Dan Pedersen in the 1930s, passed on to their daughter Rose Mary Harbison, this property has been lovingly stewarded by a single family for most of the last century.

Now for the first time, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has organized, as part of its annual summer music series, a special program to introduce visitors to the property and to share some ideas about prospects for its future as a green space.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, a panel of restoration ecologists knowledgeable about this site will talk about its water and land resources, natural features, anthropological and cultural history, and its prospects for the future.

Interested participants will be invited on a 50-minute guided walking tour of the property, which will include surprise encounters with art along the way — visual, literary and musical. The program culminates in a brief performance, with a reception and continuing informal discussion with presenters.

Speakers include James T. Addis, fisheries and hydrology expert from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Stephen Glass, founder of the Restoration Ecology Lab and formerly at the UW Arboretum; and William Jordan, the leading intellectual visionary of “restoration ecology” and director of the New Academy for Nature and Culture.

Topics to be covered include the ecology of the Token Creek property, possibilities for restoration efforts, its role as part of Wisconsin’s important water resources, our essential role in the stewardship of this land, and a chance to imagine its future.

The natural and cultural histories of the Token Creek property form a rich legacy that includes two generations of experiments in organic farming, nearly a quarter century of music festivals and forums, an ever-expanding community of participants, and the land itself.
All of this presents a unique opportunity for serious conservation efforts that will enhance the local environment while exploring the role the arts have to play in the urgent task of reconnecting with nature.

The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival continues through the week with the concerts that are typical of the Festival’s main fare.

The annual jazz club this year offers a 75th anniversary tribute to George Gershwin, and the Festival concludes with a program of serenades by Bach, Harbison and Mozart, music that addresses the season themes of place, conservation and restoration. Galleries this year will exhibit the people and places of Token Creek.

All events will be held inside the Festival Barn (below), 4037 Highway 19, near the hamlet of Token Creek, just west of Sun Prairie. Ample parking is available, and (except for the walking tour on Aug. 25) the venue is indoors and air-conditioned.

Tickets range from $30-40, with a limited number of $10 student tickets available for each event. The venue is invitingly small, and reservations are recommended. For more information: Call 608-241-2525; visit; or write to P.O. Box 55142, Madison, WI 53705.

The season also features the release of a new CD: “Jazz 2011: Burton Lane and Jule Styne,” a live recording of last season’s jazz session. This new title, and all other Token Creek CDs, will be available at Festival concerts and also via the website.


“Listen to the Land: Encounters with Nature and Art” (A Token Creek Special Event)
A forum on restoration ecology with guest lecturers, walking tour, performance and reception Saturday Aug. 25, 3 p.m. (rain date is Sunday, Aug. 26).
Jim Addis, Wisconsin DNR (retired)
Steve Glass, Restoration Ecology Lab, UW Arboretum (retired) William Jordan, III, New Academy for Nature and Culture

Jazz Club: “Gershwin (below) — No Sad Songs” is on
Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; and
Thursday Aug. 30, at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (both are sold out). Performers include
Ricky Richardson, vocals; Tom Artin, trombone;
Rose Mary Harbison, violin; John Harbison, piano; 
John Schaffer, bass; and Todd Steward, drums.

“Outside In: Music About Place” feaures
Bach arias, “Crane Sightings” by John Harbison (below) and Mozart’s Divertimento, K. 334, on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 8 p.m.
and Sunday, Sept. 2, at 4 p.m. 
Performers include Anna Slate, soprano;
Rose Mary Harbison, Heidi Braun Hill and Laura Burns, violin; Jennifer Paulson and John Harbison, viola;
Karl Lavine, cello; Elizabeth Foulser, bass; and
 John Harbison, conductor.

The concert venue is the
 Token Creek Festival Barn 
(indoors and air-conditioned), 
4037 Highway 19, just west of Sun Prairie. Ample parking is available.

Tickets cost 
$30-$40 ($10 for students, limited availability) and reservations are recommended.

For more information: 
 PHONE: (608) 241-2525; 
ADDRESS: P.O. Box 55142, Madison, WI 53705.

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