The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Let us now praise churches for providing concert venues. | January 4, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following message from a loyal reader and thinks it is worth passing on:

“Dear Ear,

“Two of your recent posts sing the praises of Wisconsin Public Radio.

“May I also suggest that we thank area churches?

“Not only do they provide concert venues for various groups, but their active promotion of music more generally — choirs, organ accompaniment — throughout the year is worth a blessing.

“On Christmas Eve, we went to the First Congregational United Church of Christ (below, in a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the Madison Bach Musicians performing its annual Baroque holiday concert) to hear an abbreviated Nine Lessons and Carols.

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2014 CR Kent Sweitzer

“We had the benefit of hymnals and for the first time for me could actually read or sing along with the service. Plus lighting dozens of candles in the darkness and wishing the congregation of the planet peace.”

The Ear couldn’t agree more and is happy to comply.

Quite a few churches or church-like organizations come immediately to mind.

There is the First Unitarian Society of Madison (below) with its FREE Friday Noon Musicales every week and its special concerts:



There is the downtown Luther Memorial Church (below) where University of Wisconsin-Madison choirs hold their annual holiday concert and where the Madison Early Music Festival has performed:

luther memorial church madison

MEMF 2014 Luther Memorial audience

There is Blackhawk Church in Middleton (below) where the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra holds its annual performances of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah”:


There is Grace Episcopal Church (below), on the Capitol Square, which is where the Wisconsin Chamber Choir held its concert this year of various settings of the Magnificat and which hosts the FREE Grace Presents series.

grace episcopal church ext

Wisconsin Chamber Choir Magnificats 1

There is the Immanuel Lutheran Church (below), on the near east side, that hosts the Willy Street Chamber Players and the Madison Bach Musicians.

immanuel lutheran church ext

Immanuel Lutheran interior

There is the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below) on the near west side, which hosts many different concerts and groups:

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

St. Andrew's Church interior

There is Holy Wisdom Monastery (below) in Middleton, which holds a variety of concerts and hosts the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in the summer.

Holy Wisdom Monastery interior

And even though it is now a landmark building rather than an active place of worship, there is the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue in James Madison Park, where the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs.

Gates of Heaven

Thank you, all.

The Ear is sure there are many more that he is leaving out.

So he asks readers to please leave the names of other churches and concerts or musical events in the COMMENT section.


  1. Bethel Lutheran Church has offered major choral works at least once a year. Bethel has one of the finest organs in Madison. Gary Lewis was choir director and organist for many years. Our new director of music is Tony Ward, who conducted the Mozart’s Coronation Mass on November 20.

    Comment by Craig Gjerde — November 26, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

  2. Immanuel Lutheran Church, Madison, home to Maestro Productions, Inc. (including the Madison Area Community Chorus, Orchestra, and Ringing Badgers Handbell Ensemble) and home to Choral Arts Society Chorale, as well as, concert venue for UW Madison.

    Comment by Mark — January 6, 2016 @ 3:31 pm

  3. St. Joseph’s Chapel at Edgewood College is one of my favorite venues. Since it is cruciform, there are three different spaces for a group of musicians . Great for antiphonal singing!

    Comment by Ann Boyer — January 4, 2016 @ 9:42 am

    • Dear Ann,
      That is a fine choice.
      The Ear considered including it.
      But he thought that it really counts more as a campus building than a church.
      Nonetheless, your point about the church architecture and acoustics stands.
      Perhaps it should have been included.

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 4, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  4. First Congregational Church in Madison where Madison Youth Choir and others frequently perform.

    Comment by lbestul — January 4, 2016 @ 9:35 am

    • Dear Libby,
      It’s an excellent choice, but it is already included.
      Thanks for reading and replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 4, 2016 @ 10:56 am

  5. Since the subject of churches has been raised, I have an excuse to mention a sort-of-related topic: When one reads the biographies of many, actually most, composers of Western music prior to the Post-Modern era, it’s almost a given that as children, they were exposed to good music while attending church. Often the teachers of music were church musicians. As church membership declines today, our children and young people aren’t getting that exposure or opportunity. Nor are they getting it in many of our public schools, alas. I sometimes wonder how many talented children grow up without ever having the passion for fine music sparked simply because they never hear it. It’s my personal belief that the decline in audiences correlates directly with the decline in church attendance. Then there’s the sad fact that many churches program ‘popular’ styles of music so the young people who do attend don’t hear good music in church either. I guess it’s the job of people my age to think the world is going to hell in a handbasket!

    Comment by slfiore — January 4, 2016 @ 9:24 am

  6. First United Methodist Church in downtown Madison not only hosts concerts but provides free rehearsal space to a number of ensembles and individual musicians through a residency program established by outgoing Music Director Scott Foss.

    Comment by Kia Karlen — January 4, 2016 @ 9:10 am

    • Hi Kia,
      What a great addition.
      Thank you.
      I apologize for omitting it in the original post.
      It should not be overlooked.
      Best wishes for 2016,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 4, 2016 @ 9:23 am

  7. Christ Presbyterian Church – 944 East Gorham Street in Madison. In addition to having a vibrant music program within the church, CPC has hosted The Madison Bach Musicians, the Madison Chamber Choir, the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble and the Madison Area Concert Handbells. The church Sanctuary is a particularly welcoming space for vocal groups, as many have found. The smaller Chapel at Christ Presbyterian has provided a recital venue for numerous UW student vocal recitals over the years.

    Comment by Kathy O — January 4, 2016 @ 7:58 am

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for reading and replying with your suggestion.
      Of course you are right, is all I can say.
      I apologize for overlooking Christ Presbyterian Church.
      In addition to the groups you mention, I think it has also hosted the Madison Vocal Project and various individual recitals and concerts.
      It is certainly an active participant in the local classical music scene and deserves to be mentioned prominently.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 4, 2016 @ 8:15 am

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