The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Live music-making for the holidays starts this Thursday and this weekend with the Oakwood Chamber Players and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

November 21, 2012
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AN APOLOGY to My Readers and Subscribers: My Internet service was down more than a day, and so many of you downloaded a repeat of Tuesday’s blog post because I could not launch this one. And there should be another post up as of midnight tonight for Thanksgiving Day.

By Jacob Stockinger

After Thanksgiving, we start the headlong rush into the holidays – which inevitably and happily includes music.

As in past years, The Ear will restrict himself to offering detailed stories about classical music – says, Handel’s “Messiah” or J.S. Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” or concerti grossi by Corelli and Vivaldi, or Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Hodie” or choral works by any number of composers, classical and contemporary.

But even many of the classical groups in the area mix classics with pops and other holiday-appropriate music. And even when the music is not strictly classical, the quality of the music making is usually very high.

If you doubt that, just look at the names of some of the groups, which include the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (now playing as the Wisconsin Pops), the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Bach Musicians among many others.

Plus, one shouldn’t forget that popular holiday concerts help offset the costs of the more classical fare during the rest of the season.

Also as I do every year, I will offer the observation that for the next month or six weeks, music-making will shift for the most part from the concert hall to places of worship, to private homes and to other social institutions such as hospitals, retirement centers and the like.

Although I won’t go into details about holiday music except when it is classical music, that doesn’t mean I can’t be helpful. So I will provide some general details and offer links.

So if your idea of holiday cheer goes beyond the commercialism, hoopla and shopping frenzies of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber-Monday, consider the following:


At 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on this Friday at Oakwood Village West auditorium, 6201 Mineral Point road, the very talented and under-appreciated, low profile Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will be joined by the acclaimed Celtic music vocal quartet, Navan.

These concerts are same popular “Christmas Lights” concert that the Oakwood Chamber Players, who offer some of the most interesting chamber music programs in the area, offer every year and which usually sell out.

“A Celtic Christmas: Christmas Lights” will feature a mix of vocal and instrumental music as the groups perform creative interpretations of familiar music that is spirited and expressive of the holiday season.

Navan singers Amy Curl, Sheila Shigley, Paul Gorman and Elizabeth Simcock have studied the Celtic language, traditions and culture and will intersperse colorful stories throughout the performance.

The Oakwood Chamber Players will perform instrumental arrangements drawn from both traditional and Celtic holiday music.

Navan is a nationally recognized vocal ensemble that has recorded several CDs and has been featured on Boston Public Television WGBH’s “A Celtic Christmas Sojourn” singing seasonal music.(Hear Navan at bottom.)

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door. General admission is $20; $15 for seniors; and $5 for students. Visit and for more information and for an audio/visual clip of Navan (below).

Here are some program notes by flute player Marilyn Chohaney:

“They members of Navan are scholarly in their research of the origins of their songs and sing in the native Celtic languages.  I had no idea of the diversity of the languages of the British Isles!  For example, the Noel Nouvelet that we’ve “sound-smithed” for our sample, is sung in Breton (Ni Ho Salud, The Greeting).

“Our arrangement was created for us by John Stevens, of UW-Madison. Navan will be also singing in Welsh (Ar Hyd y Nos: All Through the Night), Irish (Airdi Chuain: traditional Irish lament), and Scottish (“Mouth Music” songs for dancing), some songs a Capella and some with us.

The concert will open with “Amhran Oiche’ Mhaith,” “The Night Song,” a traditional Manx Christmas Eve Carol in our own arrangement with Navan.

There will be purely instrumental music played by the Oakwood Chamber Players, such as woodwind trios by Turlough O’Carolan the famous blind Irish harpist and our arrangement for chamber group of Ralph Vaughan Williams “Fantasia on Greensleeves.”

There will be stories told about the music heard to help us all engage in songs sung in foreign languages.  We feel the concert will be a true celebration of winter and the Christmas Holiday.”

The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation, in collaboration with Friends of the Arboretum, Inc.


At the Madison Marriott West, near the West Beltline, on this Saturday at 8 p.m. and then on Sunday at 1 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, playing as the Wisconsin Pops under conductor Andrew Sewell (below top) will team up with guest singer Aaron Thompson (below middle), who recently moved from Gilbert, Arizona, to Madison to become the Director of Music Ministries for St. Thomas Aquinas Church, and the Middleton High School Choir (below bottom) for its annual Middleton Holiday Pops concerts.

General admission for adults is $19-$25; for seniors $16-$22; and for students and young people $10-$15. Call 608 258-4141 or visit for more information, including group reservations for entire tables and meal options.

Audiences will hear some old favorites and new favorites in “A Christmas Sampler” that includes selections from “The Nutcracker,” “Christmas on Broadway,” “Wassail Dances” and a medley of well-known carols. And listeners can clap to the traditional encore, “Sleigh Ride!”

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