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

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An additional factor, Skelton said, was the fact that Dring had left but has not yet been replaced by a new music director, to be found through a national search, who would have the final say about whether BATC would to continue or abandon the event.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


  1. Thanks in part to all of the attention in Wisconsin, Bach Around the Clock Lives On!


    Comment by classical new england — March 13, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  2. Bach’s birthday is actually March 21 (not 31st), a day which I usually try to celebrate in some personal way and not bore my family grousing that there isn’t a law requiring all classical stations to play nothing but Bach on that day in his honor.

    I loved this event. I had heard that Marika Fisher Hoyt had offered to coordinate it, and I was prepared to volunteer to work on it in any way that would have preserved it. If WPR does not have the resources to support it, perhaps something can be put together by volunteers.


    Comment by Mary Gordon — November 8, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

    • Hi Mary,
      You are correct about Bach’s birthday, and I have changed the posting. I apologize for the typo and inaccuracy.
      But I also want to thank you and Marika for offering to coordinate the event.
      I wish you luck.
      Keep me posted an dI will pass along word.


      Comment by welltemperedear — November 8, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  3. This decision sucks. WPR should have put out the call for a new sponsor or host/organizer before giving this popular, participatory event the ax. After the hugely successful recent pledge drive, I don’t want to hear about budget cuts. Sounds to me like somebody just didn’t like this event.


    Comment by Ron McCrea — November 8, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  4. Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (SEW) will be holding a 24-Hour Chamber Music Marathon from December 8th at 9 a.m. to December 9th at 9 a.m. to benefit two great regional educational programs. You can see SEW’s homepage for more details ( and/or e-mail me ( for more info or to participate. The schedule of performance will be posted on the events page of our website by late November. Hope to see you there!

    Mary Theodore, Director
    Sound Ensemble Wisconsin


    Comment by Mary Theodore — November 8, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    • Hi Mary,
      Thank you for reminding all of us of a very exciting event, either to participate in by performing or to listen to.
      It is always good to know that there is a place for amateurs musicians to take part.


      Comment by welltemperedear — November 8, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  5. I think it is a very sad thing. Maybe WPR could enlist volunteers to staff the day. Madison is a musical town and BATC is such a unique event. It provides a performance opportunity for community musicians who ordinarily might not have a regular venue . And what a wonderful way to honor JSB.


    Comment by Joan — November 8, 2012 @ 11:03 am

  6. Perhaps BATC could find a new life as part of Make Music Madison, a global community music event that Madison will take part in next June.



    Comment by Kia Karlen — November 8, 2012 @ 9:40 am

    • Hi Kia,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      Your suggestion sounds excellent to me, with lots of room for amateurs and students as well as professionals.
      Plus the music isn’t limited to Bach or to a purely local event, but is also a celebraiton of the Summer Solstice.
      Maybe I can post something further about it.
      But in the meantime, I hope many other readers follow up on it.
      Maybe Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television or other local media coverage will also cover it.
      See you and hear you there and them.


      Comment by welltemperedear — November 8, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  7. Thanks for announcing this, Jake! Frankly, when I read that Cheryl Dring was leaving (in this blog, several months back), I was just waiting for this announcement to be made — I believe it was pretty much “her baby”, and I didn’t expect that WPR would continue it after her departure, for the reasons that Lori Skelton specifically noted above.

    I also recall (again, in your blog, several months back) that a new chamber music group was being formed here in Madison; and that, among other more typical events, they were tendering the idea of an extended community showcase for short chamber works, similar to that of BATC. However, I haven’t seen any follow-up discussion whatever to suggest that this is in fact going to happen. Can’t remember the name of this new group — perhaps you do know. In any event, I believe that’s where this Romantic composers community event idea originated.

    For the future? Well, WPR seems to program a lot of classical music, and so I would say they’re a pretty appropriate candidate for subsidizing and promoting a classical music community event. To me, BATC does make the most sense, although I would personally very much welcome a more “inclusive” event that celebrates Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, et al..


    Comment by Tim Adrianson — November 8, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  8. That’s too bad. I enjoyed going to BATC. It was fun to hear the various musicians and their interpretations of Bach. I hope it can be revived in the future.


    Comment by Genie Ogden — November 8, 2012 @ 2:42 am

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