The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Wisconsin Public Radio has cancelled Bach Around the Clock 4 for March 2013 with no plans for a future revival.

November 8, 2012
17 Comments

Alert: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive from noon to 1:15 p.m., features violinist Wendy Adams and pianist Ann Aschbacher, piano, in music by Copland and Bartok. For information, call (608) 233-1163.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has learned that Wisconsin Public Radio has cancelled, or at least indefinitely postponed, any plans for Bach Around the Clock 4, which would have taken place this March to mark the birthday — March 21, 1685 — of Johann Sebastian Bach. (Below is a photo of very young pianist at BATC 3 last March. If I recall correctly, he played one of the Short Preludes by Bach.)

The event was started four years ago by the Louisiana native Cheryl Dring (below), the former music director of WPR who left last summer to become Program Manager of KMFA, an Austin, Texas radio station, and who originated the Bach event and patterned it on a similar one held in New Orleans.

Usually in mid-March, student, amateurs and professionals all played tag-team Bach from noon until midnight at the Pres House off State Street to celebrate the Master’s birthday. The community event drew a loyal and sizable following, and was webcast (below) live by WPR.

Several factors have caused the cancellation of the event in March of 2013, according to WPR’s acting music director and radio host Lori Skelton (below).

One reason, Skelton said, is that so many other youth-oriented programs take place around the same time, including the Final Forte concerto competition with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition, also sponsored by WPR with the Wisconsin Union Theater.

An additional factor, Skelton said, was the fact that Dring had left but has not yet been replaced by a new music director, to be found through a national search, who would have the final say about whether BATC would to continue or abandon the event.

The Ear has also heard that due to retirements and state budget cuts, staffing at WPR has become thin and overworked to the point where planning and staffing the 12-hour marathon BATC would be a drain on human resources.

The Ear understands and appreciates the causes for the decision, but still feels that it is unfortunate. It is really too bad to see such a terrific community event that was just getting a solid foothold begin to lose ground and perhaps even to disappear. BATC had become a tradition that many people – including myself – practiced for months in advance, looked forward to, attended and learned from. It was especially welcome as winter gradually gave way to spring.

And of course it celebrated the music of J.S. Bach (below) the composer that many of us consider the greatest of all composers. Over four years I heard a lot of suites, preludes and fugues, chorales and other works, as interpreted from young students to seasoned professionals. I also heard a bagpiper and saxophonist perform Bach.  (At bottom is a YouTube video of bassoonist Cynthia Camerion Fix and flutist Casey Oelkers performing a Two-Part Invention in a transcription worthy of the Old Master humself.) How Bach, who himself loved transcriptions, would have loved the variety of homage!

The Ear had also heard the a similar event but focused on Romantic composers – so performers could play short works of Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and other composers – had been discussed.

“This is the first I ever heard about it,” said Skelton.

What do you think about Bach Around the Clock and its cancellation by Wisconsin Public Radio? Leave a COMMENT.

The Ear wants to hear.

What do you think about losing Bach Around the Clock 4?

Should WPR try to restore it or a similar event?

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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