The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Even summer now has its classical music “train wrecks” and scheduling conflicts. Just look at this Saturday night with simultaneous performances by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and the Madison Summer Choir. | June 28, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s bad enough when you have to choose between two or more very appealing concerts taking place at the same time during the regular fall, winter and spring season.

But the now the summer concert season has grown so rich that more and more of such scheduling conflicts – of “train wrecks,” as a good friend of The Ear and of classical music likes to call them – keep happening.

Last Friday night, I had to choose between the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, among other events on the Summer Solstice and during the Make Music Madison festival. Both were, by all accounts, very rewarding events.

What, one wonders, will the future bring?

For the moment, however, my focus is on the present — on another such conflict that will happen this coming Saturday night, June 29. That’s when I and others will have to choose between two events very worthy events that are both attractive.

For one, there is the opening of the third and final weekend of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in the Overture Center‘s Playhouse (below).

BDDS 4 ovation

The intriguing and quite original program includes Dick Kattenburg’s Quartet for flute, violin, cello and piano; Erich Wolfgang Korngold‘s unusually scored Suite for Piano, Left Hand, Two Violins and Cello; and Ludwig van Beethoven‘s famed “Archduke” Piano Trio.

The performers, who have proven reliable and inspired in past years, include cellist Jean–Michel Fonteneau (below top) and violinist Axel Strauss (below bottom), who, with BDDS co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes, make up the San Francisco Trio. 

Jean-Michel Fonteneau

Axel Strauss

And for the Korngold suite, Madison Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) will make her BDDS debut — and not her last appearance, The Ear suspects.

Naha Greenholtz profile

(On Friday night at the Stoughton Opera House and on Sunday at the Hillside Theater (below) at the Frank Lloyd Wright historic compound Taliesin in Spring Green, the trio will Aaron Copland’s Violin Sonata transcribed for flute; a Mozart piano concert (No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482) in a chamber arrangement; and a very intriguing piano trio arrangement of Johannes Brahms String Sextet in G Major, Op. 36. For information about all the BDDS concerts visit:


Competing with that event, and right at the other end of State Street, is the single performance of “The Power of Music” by the Madison Summer Choir (below) under the very active and capable Madison choral conductor Ben Luedcke. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

Summer Choir 2011 orchestraI

The unusual and appealing program includes the “Saint Cecilia” Mass by French composer Charles Gounod as well as music by Virgil Thomson, Johannes Brahms, Josef Rheinberger and Thomas Tomkins.

Tickets are $8 for general admission, $5 for students. For more information, visit:

Why, The Ear asks, can’t there be more cooperation among performers and presenters to prevent that kind of conflict, which benefits no one?

Such solutions do happen.

It used to be, for example, that for quite a few years a concert-goer had to choose on a mid-July Saturday night between attending the All-Festival Concert (below top) of the Madison Early Music Festival and going to the very popular outdoors and FREE “Opera in the Park” (below bottom) put on by the Madison Opera and members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

MEMF 2011

Opera in the Park

But the two groups seem to have worked out a solution that should satisfy all fans of vocal music and singing.

This summer, for example, the MEMF’s final concert “Stuttgart 1616,” featuring music by Michael Praetorius and others, will take place on Friday night, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall; while Opera in the Park will be on Saturday night, July 13, at 8 p.m. in Garner Park. The two events might be close and crowded, but attending both is quite do-able.

So, I ask, why couldn’t the Madison Summer Choir perform on, say, Sunday night, since the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society has had its summer schedule pretty well set for many years. Maybe the hall was already booked; maybe it was just a mistake or an oversight.

True, one could drive to Spring Green to catch up with the BDDS on Sunday (when BDDS will perform its Friday program at 2:30 p.m. and its Sunday program at 6:30 p.m.) after attending the Madison Summer Choir concert. But that seems a bit extreme and hectic to ask of people.

Anyway, The Ear hopes – and suspects that many listeners share that hope – that such mutually exclusive choices can be eliminated or at least minimized next summer and in the future.

In the meantime I will readily admit that such conflicts between worthy concerts may be the price we have to pay for having such a vibrant and active classical music scene in Madison. But it is unfortunate nonetheless.

I hope both events draw good audiences and prove artistically successfully. I expect they will.

Yet however satisfied you feel about whatever one you go to, I suspect you will also feel a sense a loss of the one you didn’t and couldn’t attend.

And that is too bad.

What are you thoughts about this?

How do you resolve such conflicts for yourself, and think performers and presenters should?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. This is precisely why I love Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon performances. (Saturday afternoons in winter are even better.)

    Comment by Lindsay Christians — July 2, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

  2. 13 years ago several organizations that have concerts in the summer started the Summer Music Consortium at least 10 years ago to avoid these very problems: Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF), Bach Dynamite and Dancing Society (BDDS), Madison Savoyards, Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, Token Creek Music Festival, and the First Unitarian Society (when they had their summer chamber music concert series.) For the past 14 years MEMF has taken place during the week after July 4th, because we have tried not to conflict with other early music festivals in the United States. When Opera in the Park began, Ann Stanke, former Executive Director of Madison Opera, contacted MEMF and told me they were limited to holding Opera in the Park to this particular weekend, and asked us to change our dates. We felt we were unable to do this, because our dates were chosen so we would not conflict with the Amherst Early Music Festival on the East coast, where many of our faculty teach, and several participants of our workshop attend. Well, several years later, Amherst EMF changed their dates in direct conflict with MEMF!
    This year, as an experiment, we have shortened MEMF by one day, so our final concert will not conflict with Opera in the Park. We’ll see if our audience numbers are up for the final concert. Some of these concerts attract different audiences, such as UW Summer Choir and BDDS, and the MEMF audiences may not be interested in hearing Opera in the Park, which is amplified and outdoors…not the best acoustical sound for singing!

    Comment by Cheryl Bensman Rowe — June 28, 2013 @ 9:13 am

    • Hi Cheryl,
      All the points you make and good and the background information is most welcome.
      You are right about previous cooperation and consultation over many years. But I suspect some conflicts will always remain, especially as the classical music scene expands and new groups, like the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra form.
      Also, you are right that different audiences look for different things, so some conflicts may be more apparent than real.
      But I do wonder if Friday evening will draw as many people to your final concert since it is a work day and people are tired at the end of it.
      We will see.
      Best of luck to the Madison Early Music Festival and its experiment of shortening the festival by one day.
      Thanks again for reading and replying with so thoroughness and detail.

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 28, 2013 @ 11:01 am

  3. Well expressed and something that needs voice for dance and theater performances throughout the year as we as audiences struggle to choose between compeling offerings and supporting our local arts….

    Susanne Voeltz Susanne Voeltz Public Relations One Langdon Street Madison, Wisconsin 53703 608.284.0848

    Comment by Susanne C. Voeltz — June 28, 2013 @ 9:12 am

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