The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The gala opening this weekend of the UW-Madison’s new Hamel Music Center is SOLD OUT. What do you think of the building, the music and the event? Plus, veteran music critic John W. Barker has died | October 25, 2019

PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event. And you might even attract new readers and subscribers to the blog.

ALERT: Word arrived late last night that the respected longtime music critic John W. Barker, a retired UW-Madison professor of medieval history, died Thursday morning. He wrote locally for Isthmus, The Capital Times and this blog. Details will be shared when they are known. 

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, Oct. 25-27, marks the official gala opening of the new Hamel Music Center (below, in a photo by Bryce Richter for University Communications) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. It is located at 740 University Ave., next to the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art, which has a special exhibit relating to the new music center.

The impressive $58-million structure, which has taken many years to fund  (completely privately) and then to build, will celebrate its opening tonight, Saturday night (while the 14th annual Halloween FreakFest on State Street is happening) and Sunday afternoon.

The performers will include distinguished alumni, faculty members and students.

Here is a link to an overall schedule as published on the School of Music’s home website: https://www.music.wisc.edu/hamel-music-center-opening-schedule/

Thanks to an astute reader who found what The Ear couldn’t find, here is a complete schedule — long, varied and impressive — of works and performers: https://www.music.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/20191025-Hamel-Music-Center-Opening-Weekend.pdf

And here is a link to the official UW-Madison press release with more background and details about the building: https://news.wisc.edu/mead-witter-school-of-musics-hamel-music-center-opening-this-fall/

UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger (below) has been commissioned to write a Fanfare that will receive its world premiere tonight.

The opening promises to be a success, complete with receptions at the end of each performance.

In fact, the public has signed on enough that the FREE tickets to all events are SOLD OUT, according to the School of Music’s home website.

Taste is personal and varies, and The Ear has heard mixed reviews of the new building. (For the special occasion, you can hear “The Consecration of the House” Overture by Beethoven, performed by the La Scala opera house orchestra in Milan under Riccardo Muti, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Basically, people seem to agree that the acoustics are much improved over Mills Hall and Morphy Recital Hall in the old Humanities Building.

But public opinion seems more divided over other aspects, from the overall external architecture and interior design to the smaller size of the big hall, the seats and seating layout, and the restrooms.

So if you go – or have already gone – let the rest of us know what you think about those various aspects of the new building and about the various performers and programs.

As a warm-up preview, here are photos of the main halls or spaces, all taken by Bryce Richter for University Communications:

Here is the 660-seat Mead Witter Concert Hall:

Here is the 300-seat Collins Recital Hall:

And here is the Lee/Kaufman Rehearsal Hall:

But what do you say? You be the critic.

The Ear and others hope to see COMMENTS from listeners and especially performers. What is it like to perform there? Or to sit and listen?

What does the public think of the new building and concert halls? Are you satisfied? What do you like and what don’t you like?

Should some things have been done – or not done – in your opinion?

Does the building and do the concert halls live up to the expectations and hype?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music
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7 Comments »

  1. Is the opening gala of the Hamel Center being streamed (live or otherwise)? It does not appear to be the case. If not, why not? The new Hamel Center is supposed to have state-of-the art facilities for recording.

    There are hundreds of thousands of Badger alumni around the world and this would be an ideal way of reaching them. I can understand the wish of the university to have a full, live audience/house but why not a delayed stream, for instance, made available to all? You might even be able to make some money off of this service. Music school programs could also be archived.

    Comment by fflambeau — October 26, 2019 @ 6:56 pm

  2. While I haven’t been inside yet, and am not particularly impressed by the external architecture, I find it both somewhat amusing and disheartening at the same time that with a building this newly built, there are already letters not lighting on the facade, or at least, they were missing/burnt out the night I drove past it recently. What was amusing to me was that the name of the building became the “HAM MUSIC CENTER”. I’m not sure if that’s a comment on what happens within the structure, or if it refers to the egos of those who purchased the naming rights, but either way, with a building this new, it really shouldn’t have happened.

    Comment by bratschespeilerin — October 25, 2019 @ 11:07 pm

  3. As much as I loathe the exterior of the Hamel Music Center, I felt blessed when I experienced the sheer beauty and the acoustics of the two concert halls; one as a volunteer listener when the acoustics were being fine tuned, and Collins Hall last night for the cello/piano concert (due to your sharing the news of its existence.) My husband felt that the sound was a little too live (bright), though at the same time Parry Karp’s voice did not carry well.

    I look forward to hearing other reactions, remembering that it is far easier to be a critic than to be a performer or to be someone who takes part in bringing this complex project to completion. My overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.

    Jane Pizer

    On Fri, Oct 25, 2019, 12:00 AM The Well-Tempered Ear wrote:

    > welltemperedear posted: “PLEASE HELP THE EAR. IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG > POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT > (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to > draw potential audience members to an event. And you might” >

    Comment by Jane Pizer — October 25, 2019 @ 7:28 am

  4. “But there is no program for the rest of the concert, including what the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra will play and which choral groups will perform what pieces.”

    Actually, there is a detailed program of the pieces played, composers, performers at: https://www.music.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/20191025-Hamel-Music-Center-Opening-Weekend.pdf

    For instance, The UW Symphony under Conductor Sans will perform John Adams, “Short Ride in a Fast Machine”; “Alla bella Despinetta” byWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (from Così fan tutte, K. 588 (1790); Fantasia in C Minor, Op. 80 (“Choral Fantasy”) (1809) by Ludwig van Beethoven with Christopher Taylor, piano
    Carly Ochoa and Miranda Kettlewell, sopranos
    Lindsey Ann Meekhof, mezzo soprano
    Benjamin Liupaogo and DaSean Stokes, tenors
    Benjamin Galvin, bass
    Concert Choir
    Madrigal Singers
    Chorale
    Symphony Orchestra
    Beverly Taylor, conductor

    It’s a very detailed program. You must have missed it.

    Comment by fflambeau — October 25, 2019 @ 12:55 am

    • The program is over 20 pages long so what I quote above is just an excerpt. Again, the link for the detailed program for the Hamel Music Center opening is at:

      https://www.music.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/20191025-Hamel-Music-Center-Opening-Weekend.pdf

      Comment by fflambeau — October 25, 2019 @ 1:11 am

    • Thank you for the detailed correction and link to the complete schedule. Unfortunately, I did indeed somehow miss it, but I have included it now. It’s very impressive! I regret and apologize for the mistake and oversight.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 25, 2019 @ 6:12 am

      • No problem. Such things happen. The important point is that you have corrected the original oversight.

        You also asked good questions about people listening to concerts during the program. How do they find the new concert hall both visually and acoustically? Getting feedback here is important not only for readers but for the UW Music School.

        Interesting that Jane Pizer in her comment found it difficult to hear Parry Karp’s voice; maybe that hall, with almost 300 seats, is a bit too large for a duet? Maybe the next project is a truly small, hall (say 125 seats?). I think “gratitude” is a wonderful choice of words too.

        Comment by fflambeau — October 25, 2019 @ 7:39 pm


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