The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Bach Around the Clock 2018 is looking for participating performers to sign up

January 27, 2018
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s time to get practicing!

The Ear has received the following announcement to post for those who are interested in participating and performing in Bach Around the Clock 2018.

Dear friends,

I invite you to Bach Around The Clock, the annual FREE community festival celebrating the music and birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach.

It will take place this year on Saturday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side. There is free on-street parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

Players and singers; soloists and ensembles; beginners, amateurs and professionals — all are welcome to come share your musical gifts with the Madison community, and to enjoy the performances that will go on all day. Audience members can come and go, and stay as long or as short as they like. (At bottom is a YouTube video from a previous Bach Around the Clock with arrangements of a Two-Part Invention.)

Those who are unable to attend in person can view the event via live stream.

There will be an upright piano and a grand piano available.

This year there will also be a small back-up for concertos.

Performers and audience members can relax between numbers in the newly remodeled Parish Hall, directly below the Sanctuary, where refreshments, comfortable seating and free wi-fi will be available throughout the event, with birthday cake served at the end.

For more information, please visit our website at: bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com

To sign up for a performance time, visit our Contact/Sign Up page at bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com/contact/

Thank you and hope to see you there,

Marika Fischer Hoyt, Artistic Director 
Bach Around The Clock

Tel : 608-233-2646; batcmadison@gmail.comwww.facebook.com/batcmadison; bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com

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Classical music: For reviving and securing Bach Around the Clock, The Ear names Marika Fischer Hoyt as “Musician of the Year” for 2017

December 30, 2017
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Regular readers of this blog know how much The Ear likes to recognize community-based initiatives, amateur participation, and events that are affordable or free to the public and so help build and widen the audience for classical music.

On all those counts, the Musician of the Year for 2017 goes to Marika Fischer Hoyt (below) who revived Bach Around the Clock and has given it a seemingly secure future.

In Madison, Bach Around the Clock was originally sponsored and put on for several years by Wisconsin Public Radio’s music director Cheryl Dring. But when Dring left for another job five years ago, WPR ended the event, which got its national start in New Orleans and is now celebrated in many other cities to mark the March birthday of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Yet it is not as if Fischer Hoyt didn’t already have enough on her plate.

She is a very accomplished and very busy violist.

As a modern violist, she plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and is a founding member of the Ancora String Quartet (below), with which she still plays after 17 seasons. She is also  a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

As a specialist on the baroque viola, she is a member (below far left) of the Madison Bach Musicians who also plays for the Handel Aria Competition and the Madison Early Music Festival.

In addition, she is a private teacher who finds time to attend early music festivals around the country.

To get an idea of what she has done to put Bach Around the Clock (BATC) on a stable footing here, read the update posting from a couple of days ago:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/classical-music-bach-around-the-clock-2018-is-set-for-march-10-here-is-a-year-end-update-with-more-impressive-news/

Not only did Fischer Hoyt obtain the participation of some 80 performers — students and teachers, amateurs and professionals, individuals and groups– she also got cooperation, facilities, performers and help from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side.

She obtained donations of money and even food to stage the event.

She herself played in the event that drew hundreds of listeners.

She lined up local sound engineers who recorded the entire event, which was then broadcast in parts by Rich Samuels (below) on WORT-FM 89.9 and streamed live as far away as London.

She served as an emcee who also conducted brief interviews about the music with the many performers (below right, with flutist Casey Oelkers)

Recognizing she can’t keep doing so much by herself, the energetic Fischer Hoyt has turned BATC into a more formal and self-sustaining organization with a board of directors.

She has sought advice from experts about Bach and Bach festivals.

She applied for and won one of five national grants from Early Music America in Boston.

She has consulted legal help to make BATC a nonprofit charitable organization, which should help guarantee a steady stream of funding.

And artistically, she has added a back-up mini-orchestra to accompany singers and instrumentalists.

The event this year is on Saturday, March 10, a little early for Bach’s 333rd birthday (March 31, 1685) but a smart decision to avoid spring break in the schools and at the UW, and to help recruit the many performers who are also important, if secondary,  Musicians of the Year.

But the center of the event, the force holds it all together, is Marika Fischer Hoyt and all the hard work, done over a long time, that she has invested in making Bach Around the Clock a permanent part of Madison’s classical music schedule and cultural scene.

If you didn’t go last year, try it this year. It is wonderful, inspiring and enjoyable.

Please join The Ear in congratulating Marika Fischer Hoyt for making Bach Around the Clock the success it now is and giving it the future it now has. Leave your comments about her and BATC in the COMMENT section.

To celebrate, here is a YouTube video of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach:


Classical music: Bach Around the Clock 2018 will be March 10. Here is a year-end update with impressive news and important changes

December 28, 2017
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Violist Marika Fischer Hoyt, who last March successfully revived Bach Around the Clock after Wisconsin Public Radio dropped it five years ago, has sent the following year-end update that is full of impressive news, including this year’s date and a smart change of hours to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. instead of noon to midnight:

“Bach Around The Clock,” the annual community celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), exceeded all expectations in 2017.

“Approximately 80 performers were seen by almost 600 audience members. The performers ranged from beginning students (below top is a photo of the Suzuki Strings of Madison) to adult amateurs (below bottom is amateur pianist Tim Adrianson) to seasoned professionals including the Wisconsin Chamber Choir and the Madison Bach Musicians.

“The audience ran from around 300 persons at the church to 267 live-stream viewers, some from as far away as London, England.

“BATC gratefully acknowledges the valuable support received from Early Music America (EMA). In registering as a Partner of Early Music Month (an EMA initiative), BATC joined nearly 270 individual and organization Partners across the country whose events during the month of March were showcased on EMA’s website and social media.

“The enthusiastic Madison community response to BATC 2017 furnished strong supporting materials for an application for EMA’s coveted Outreach Grant. BATC, one of five organizations to win the award, received $500 and national recognition.

“As artistic director, I flew to Boston in June to attend the award ceremony, presided over by EMA Executive Director Ann Felter (below).  The award will help cover the cost of the sound engineers who record and live-stream the 2018 event.

“While in Boston Marika was able to consult extensively with harpsichordist and internationally recognized Bach scholar Raymond Erickson (below), who kindly offered insights and perspective on how to build a successful Bach festival.


“BATC 2018 — to mark Bach’s 333rd birthday — is scheduled for Saturday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., again at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street. Local luminaries will again take shifts as onstage emcees.

“The program will open once again with individuals and ensembles from the St. Andrew’s congregation, and continue with musicians from the Madison community and far beyond.

“In 2017, BATC attracted performers (below) from Milwaukee, Dubuque, Oshkosh and Chicago. For 2018 we’ve already been contacted by a pianist from North Carolina who wants to come perform The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II. It’s safe to say that the festival’s impact has expanded!

“New this year is the Ensemble-In-Residence, Sonata à Quattro, which will perform as a featured ensemble, and also play a supporting role for singers wanting to perform an aria, or solo instrumentalists wanting to play a concerto. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the gorgeous slow movement of the Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor.)

Led by violinist Kangwon Kim (below), the core ensemble includes strings and harpsichord, and will add obbligato instruments as necessary. Sonata à Quattro will also offer a Fringe Concert during the Madison Early Music Festival at the UW-Madison in July.

“Partner organizations this year will include EMA, as well as the UW Chazen Museum of Art, where BATC ensembles will perform a preview concert on March 4, on the “Sunday Afternoon Live” series.  Radio interviews on WORT-FM 89.9 and Wisconsin Public Radio are also in the works. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“St. Andrew’s will again make their beautifully remodeled Parish Hall available as a place for performers and audience members to enjoy refreshments, fellowship, restrooms, comfortable couches, and free wi-fi. Many thanks are due to the church staff and congregation, for providing BATC with a home.

“BATC is also in the process of establishing its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which should help secure donations and funding. Completion of this process is expected in the next week or so, and will be announced on the BATC website and Facebook page.

“In addition, a board of directors is also being assembled, which should help ensure the survival on BATC by sharing the workload and responsibilities.”

Here is a link to the website, which has other links and information:

https://bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com


Classical music: After this year’s success, “Bach Around the Clock” will return next year on March 10, 2018

March 24, 2017
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The revival of “Bach Around the Clock” (below) this past Saturday proved so successful to listeners, performers and organizers that it will return again next year in March 2018. (Below are violist Stan Weldy and his mandolinist son Alex.)

“It went so well, we will do it again,” said the chief organizer, violist Marika Fisher Hoyt (below), who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Ancora String Quartet. She not only was the main host for BATC, she also played in more than half-dozen performances.

As you may recall, the marathon event to mark the 332nd birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) took place from noon to midnight, wisely revised to 9:30 p.m. after too few performers signed up, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street.

Plans for next year are already being made and meetings have already been held. And next year will bring major some changes, Fischer Hoyt told The Ear.

For one, the date will be March 10, 2018 – not March 17 or March 24 – which means it will come well before the usual timing of the Saturday nearest to Bach’s birthday of March 21. But, unlike what happened this year, this earlier date avoids the UW-Madison spring break plus the Easter break for public schools. That could reap big benefits in terms of audience and performers.

Because of the immense amount of work involved, Fischer Hoyt said, a non-profit organization will also be formed and more volunteers will be recruited to help spread out the workload of lining up performers and donors, and of organizing and hosting the event.

As for lining up performers, Fischer Hoyt is extremely optimistic.

“There’s a lot of talent in this town I’ve never heard of,” she told The Ear. (Below is impressive pianist Tim Adrianson performing three Preludes and Fugues from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” Book II.)

The Ear, who spent an enjoyable six hours or so attending the event, has to agree. He took a lot of photos and will be posting more about the event in the coming days.

Right now, he wants to give a big shout-out to Fischer Hoyt for some of the innovations she brought to this year’s revival of a traditional event that was held for three years, and then abandoned, by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here are a few of the changes she made, which The Ear thinks proved all for the better, for BATC 4.

1) There were multiple hosts, which breaks up the event and helps avoid monotony.

2) Prior to playing, performers, some of whom traveled from as far away as Dubuque, Milwaukee, Chicago and Waupun, were briefly interviewed and asked what they liked about Bach’s music and why they chose a particular piece to perform. (Below, flutist Casey Oelkers, left, talks with Hoyt.) That adds personal interest.

3) Free quality snacks of fresh fruit and cheese, not just delicious sweet things like cookies and kringle, were available, as were bottled water, tea and coffee. Good food translates into longer and more comfortable attendance.

4) The church’s venue, especially its woody interior (below), seemed much more suited to Bach’s music and friendly to the audience than the Pres House. And thanks to donations, in addition to a fine church organ there were fine instruments to play, including a Kawai grand piano and a hand-built clavichord from Farley’s House of Pianos. There were also birthday cakes donated by Clasen’s European Bakery of Middleton.

5) The entire event was recorded by Rich Samuels (below) — Madison’s chronicler of live music. He is from WORT-FM 89.9 and he will air BATC in increments on his “Anything Goes” program on Thursday mornings. In fact the broadcasts started this past week with a performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 on Thursday morning.

6) The event was streamed live via four different places or portals: the St. Andrew’s website, the Bach Around the Clock website, the Audio for the Arts website and WORT website.

7) There was an impressive variety of performers on all levels and of repertoire. It ranged from student to amateur to professional; from solo and small chamber groups to larger choral and orchestral ensembles, plus faculty members from the UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh as well as the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music. The Ear expects the lineup will get even better as word of next year gets out and spreads. (Below are students from the Suzuki Strings of Madison.) Time to get out the music and start practicing!

8) There might a 9-CD boxed set from Audio for the Arts, depending on getting authorization from all the performers.

In short, Bach Around the Clock 4 was a remarkable community event to honor both a remarkable composer and a town with a remarkable commitment to and a remarkable amount of classical music.

To keep current with BATC news, check the event’s website: https://bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com

Cheers to Bach Around the Clock.

And special cheers to Marika Fischer Hoyt.

Bravissimo tutti!

Did you go?

What did you think?

Do you have something to say that you can leave in the COMMENT section?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: A revived 12-hour marathon Bach Around the Clock celebration is seeking musicians to mark Johann Sebastian’s 332nd birthday on Saturday, March 18

January 20, 2017
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is some news that The Ear is overjoyed to announce: An annual Bach Around the Clock celebration is being revived this year in Madison.

batc-logo-1-2017

For three years, a similar event, inspired by celebrations in New Orleans, was sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio and coordinated by its music director Cheryl Dring. But when she left in 2013, and so did WPR.

But now baroque and modern violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below right), who plays with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Ancora String Quartet and the Madison Bach Musicians, has undertaken to revive it.

So let’s help resume the tradition and call it Bach Around the Clock 4.

Ancora Trio 2 2014 Robin Ryan, Benjamin Marika Fischer Hoyt Whitcomb

The place has changed.

But the concept remains the same.

The event is now looking for musicians -– professional and amateurs, teachers and students – to sign up to participate.

Bach1

Here are particulars:

Bach Around The Clock 2017

Saturday, March 18

12 Noon to 12 Midnight

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below)

1833 Regent St., Madison, WI 53726

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

The event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Bach Around The Clock is a 12-hour celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Held on the Saturday closest to Bach’s birthday, it offers all members of the musical community, from young students to seasoned professionals, the opportunity to perform selections by this sublime composer.

This year’s BATC takes place in the sanctuary (below) of St. Andrew’s Church, and will be opened with an organ work and a performance by the St. Andrew’s Chancel Choir, under the leadership of music director and organist Ken Stancer.

St. Andrew's Church interior

NOTE: The entire event will be recorded, and audio/video live streaming will be available for those unable to attend.

Birthday cake will be served at midnight!

The month of March has been designated as the official ‘Early Music Month’ by the organization Early Music America <www.earlymusicamerica.org/endeavors/early-music-month>, and the Madison Bach Around The Clock is listed on their website as one of the many partners participating in this annual nationwide celebration.

BATC 3 audience

For more information on BATC, or to request a time to perform, please visit the website <https://bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com>, or email batcmadison@gmail.com

BATC 3 Sked 1

The Ear — who himself played solo piano works and accompanied a famous Siciliano movement from a flute sonata — has such great memories of past ones.

Those memories include hearing whole studios of young piano students performing; duos and trios done by siblings and friends, by parents and children, by teachers and students; accomplished professional and amateur instrumentalists, including UW-Madison faculty members; church choirs in cantatas; lots of intriguing arrangements including the solo cello suites on the saxophone and a flute and bassoon duo performing some Two-Part Inventions (in the YouTube video at the bottom)  as well as Bach on the accordion and bagpipes. And on and on.

BATC 3 Confident kids

BATC1MarcMayes

BATC 3 Sean Michael Dargan bagpiper

And to give you the flavor of the event, here links to the events, complete with photos, to the past Bach Around the Clock celebrations when they were sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio and held at the Pres House near the UW-Madison campus:

From 2010:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/classical-music-events-here-is-the-line-up-for-saturdays-bach-around-the-clock/

From 2011:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/classical-music-review-the-marathon-“bach-around-the-clock”-concert-is-now-officially-a-tradition-in-madison-wisconsin/

From 2012:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/classical-music-here-are-8-lessons-i-learned-from-my-day-of-berlitz-bach-at-wisconsin-public-radios-bach-around-the-clock-3-last-saturday/


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
17 Comments

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.


Classical music: Here are 8 lessons I learned from my day of “Berlitz Bach” at Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Bach Around the Clock 3” last Saturday

March 23, 2012
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I call it “Berlitz Bach.”

That’s because my experience last Saturday amounted to total immersion, much the way the famous Berlitz school teaches foreign languages so effectively.

From noon to midnight, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Pres House (“Pres” for Presbyterian) held the third annual Back Around the Clock to greet the 327th birthday — which was this past Wednesday — of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was webcast live and in real time by WPR.

Most performers played a couple of pieces, in 15- to 30-minute intervals. I heard much to enjoy. But I also learned some new things or had previous lessons reinforced. Most things remained similar to the two previous years, although this there time seemed to be more young students and amateur community members, fewer individual or group singers, fewer professional groups, and better refreshments and treats.

Here are the eight lessons I learned, although I could probably come up with more if I thought about it longer:

1. Call him the greatest composer. Call him the best composer. Call him the most influential composer. Call him whatever you want, but Johann Sebastian Bach (below) brings out the public like nobody else.

It is hard to imagine doing the same 12-hour community celebration as successfully with any other composer. In fact, it was so successful that WPR music director Cheryl Dring, who founded the event and continues to direct it, says that she had to turn away quite a few would-be performers.

As a result she has already set a date for BATC 4: March 16. 2013. And, she says, she may expand it by two hours, from 10 a.m. to midnight, just to accommodate all the people – professionals, amateurs and students – who want to participate. Stay tuned.

2. Madison truly is a haven for classical music.

Madison has an awful lot of classical music for a city of 250,000 in a county of 300,000 – as those of us who live here well know since we often have to choose between conflicting or competing events.

But apparently others in the area and region also know it and appreciate it, and so Madison now has a reputation beyond the city limits. One example: Husband and wife Roy and Nancy Carroll — he is a keyboard player and she is a flutist — drove all the way, with a harpsichord,  from Dubuque, Iowa, to perform, according to Dring, who also said that listeners came from as far away as Racine to attend the event. And the listeners who wandered in and out all day and night were young, old and in-between as well as attentive and appreciative.

3. Bach transplants well and survives in just about any setting, form or genre. He truly is timeless.

I heard Bach’s “Musette” on bagpipe from a Saint Patrick’s Day bagpiper – Sean Michael Dargan — who wandered in. But, sad to say, I missed Michael Briggs playing Bach on the accordion and the jazz piano stylings of another participant..

I also heard Bach’s Trio Sonata No. 1, superbly and beautifully done on cello and two saxophones (the saxophone didn’t even exist unit the late 19th century) by the Simonson Trio (bel0w), which featured cellist Brian Grimm, alto saxophonist Pete Ross and soprano saxophonist Dennis Simonson.

I heard original scorings of the solo violin partitas and sonatas (Michelle Xie, below bottom, played the Adagio from the Solo Violin Sonata No. 1) and solo cello suites (Lindsay Crab, below top, played the entire Cello Suite No. 3).

I heard a ear-catching duet arrangement for flute (right hand) and bassoon (left hand) by Casey Oelkers and Cynthia Cameron Fix of Two-Part Inventions that were originally composed for solo for keyboard and played by countless students for the instructional intent Bach intended them to have. Here they are (below) playing Invention No. 4 in D Minor:

I heard pianists play works for the organ, and organ people — like Alex Ford — play all kinds of organ works on the digital organ that features sound samplings from the organ Bach himself used.

I heard the all-adult and many-elder New Horizons Wind Ensemble play chorale preludes, including Martin Luther’s own tune “A Mighty Fortress” (below):

3. No Bach is easy or small.

Forget titles. Even the so-called “Little Preludes” are challenging to play. But all Bach, big or small, is worth it. It is hard to think of another composer with so much music to his credit and so few failures among it. Bach (1685-1759) wrote an enormous amount in his 65 years. All the more reason, then, it is good to take some time to appreciate his variety, productivity and quality – and to play him with confidence. His music holds up to just about anything.

4. The future of classical music is secure, no matter what sales figures and prognosticators say.

How do I know? BATC is a great event for students to learn to perform and to share their musical gifts with others, and we need more such events.

Once again, as you can see from the photos, dozens of students came from the studios of teachers Gloria Chuang, Bill Lutes, Irmgard Bittar, Denise Taylor and others.

BATC 3 was also a family affair in many cases. For example, Madison piano teacher Denise Taylor accompanied her daughter Ellie Taylor on violin (below top) in a transcription of the two Gavottes from the Orchestral Suite in D Major, and then herself played the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor from Book I of “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” despite being unnerved when she was asked to cut out one of the two pieces she had prepared in order to save a couple of minutes (Unfair, I say!):

5. Adults, even older adults, can start at the beginning and learn to play an instrument – and to play Bach, and to be rewarded for their efforts.

Take David Pilmer (below): He started late in life but played beautifully and from memory. And he wasn’t alone.

6. Bach was a prophet who prefigures the rest of music that followed him.

You can see Bach as the summation of what came before him. No surprise, there.

But when retired University Opera director Karlos Moser explained and then played half a dozen fugues (without their Preludes) from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier – and played them more beautifully and robustly than I have ever heard – Bach’s legacy became clear.

Listen closely. Your hear seeds, stalks and blossoms.  You could hear the Baroque, of course. But you could also hear Classicism. You could hear Romanticism. You could even hear 12-tone and serial music, such as the theme from Fugue 24 where Bach uses all 12 tones in the scale in the theme. Maybe such comprehensiveness helps to explain Bach’s universality.

7. You do not have to be old, wise or experienced to have musicality.

I heard some astounding playing from very young students who performed on the piano, the violin, the viola, the organ. It was full of confidence and technical precision and, for lack of a better term, soul– just like the playing of Allen Chang (below).

8. Wrong notes don’t matter.

BATC started as an informal community celebration, a public event where casual dress and casual playing remain the norm. People could pick and choose movements according to their taste.

But more importantly, the event made you realize just how little mistakes matter. Music exists for the joy of communicating beauty and joy to others. There were no Olympics judges holding up scorecards and awarding medals. Instead, there was plenty of appreciation and applause for everyone – whether they were old or young;  professionals or amateurs; using modern old instruments; hitting right notes or wrong ones.

That is the joy of music.

And the joy of Bach, who apparently had a good sense of humor and would have appreciated the Warhol-like poster for BATC 3:

Thank you, all – Cheryl Dring, Wisconsin Public Radio, Pres House and the many dozens of performers and listeners.

I will see you again – and maybe even play for you – next March 16.

As either a performer or a listener, do you have some comments about or reactions to Bach Around the Clock 3?

The Ear wants to hear.

Meanwhile, here are viola da gambist Eric Miller and harpsichordist Max Yount, who performed two of the three gamba (or cello) sonatas by Bach:


Classical music datebook: Let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Bach Around the Clock. Then you can add in some great orchestral and chamber music as well as Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni.”

March 14, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This week we celebrate two annual events: St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, March 17; and next Wednesday, March 21, the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Each event will be marked with music.

The first event is on Friday night, performed by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and University of Wisconsin pianist Christopher Taylor; the second is on Saturday from noon to midnight, performed by the community and Wisconsin Public Radio in the third annual 12-hour Bach birthday marathon of music-making.

Details for both events are below, along with several other noteworthy concerts, including three performances of the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s production of Mozart’s pre-Romantic operatic masterpiece “Don Giovanni.”

Of course that is not all that is on tap in a very busy week. There is also a good amount of chamber music to be heard, including various unusual combinations.

Just take a look:

FRIDAY

Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive features flutist Marilyn Chohaney and harpist Linda Warren in music of Mozart, Krumpholtz, Shaposhnikov and Prokofiev. For information, call 608.233-9774 or visit www.fusmadison.org

On Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. and Tuesday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m., in Music Hall, the University Opera presents “Don Giovanni” by W. A. Mozart, sung in Italian with English surtitles. William Farlow directs and James Smith conducts the UW Chamber Orchestra

The production features Michael Roemer as Don Giovanni (below, left, with John Arnold as Leporello); Benjamin Schultz as Commendatore; and alternating casts on Friday/Tuesday and Sunday: Lindsay Sessing and Cassie Glaeser as Donna Anna; Shannon Prickett and Chelsie Propost as Donna Elvira; John Arnold and Yohan Kim as Leporello; Daniel O’Dea and Alex Gmeinder as Don Ottavio; Ariana Douglas and Lydia Eiche as Zerlina; and Benjamin Li and Erik Larson as Masetto.

Tickets are available in advance ($22 adults/$18 seniors/$10 UW students) through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at music.wisc.edu. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office or Vilas Hall Box Office during normal business hours.  As performances often sell out, it is recommended that tickets be purchased in advance.

In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5.  Pre-order your permit online at http://arts.wisc.edu/map (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee).

At 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under conductor Andrew Sewell will mark St. Patrick’s Day with “A Celtic Celebration.”

The program features Piano Concerto No. 4 in E-flat Major by Irish composer John Field with UW pianist Christopher Taylor as soloist.

Also on the program are: Mendelssohn’  “The Hebrides Overture,” Op. 26; 
the rarely heard “Celtic” Symphony for string orchestra and six harps by British composer Granville Bantock (below); and Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 “Haffner,” which was composed the same year as the birth of John Field.

Tickets are $15-$62. For more information, call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/28/event-info/

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, a FREE UW-Madison faculty recital features percussionist Neil Sisauyhoat (below) in music by Eugene Novotney, Keiko Abe, Joseph Koykkar and others. Collaborating musicians are pianist Douglas Jurs and Grupo Balanca, a five-person percussion ensemble.

Sisauyhoat is a percussion instructor at the School of Music, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate percussion majors and directs the Afro-Cuban segment of the World Percussion Ensemble. He was a co-founding member of Grupo Ara Oko, an Afro-Cuban folkloric ensemble in New York, and he currently performs with WADOMA, an African drum and dance group in Madison.

SATURDAY

From noon until midnight, Wisconsin Public Radio will hold its third annual Bach Around the clock at Pres House, 731 State St., off State Street  and across from the Library Mall and  the Chazen Museum of Art, on the UW-Madison campus.

This year, Johann Sebastian Bach (below) – by general consensus the greatest composer who ever lived and who affected all the composers who followed after him – turns 327. (He was born on March 21, 1685, he died on July 26, 1750, at age 65.)

So why not celebrate?

Why not indeed!

Professional musicians and amateurs as well as students, both children and adults, will perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach for 12 straight hours.

The event will NOT be broadcast on the radio, there will be a real-time webcast that can linked to via the homepage at WPR.org.

The Ear hasn’t seen a schedule of performers yet, but founder and organizer Cheryl Dring, the music director of WPR, has said that this year even more members of the community are involved. That is a good trend to The Ear, who himself participated in the first BATC but just attended it last year.

It is a fun event to attend. The performances are good, and there is a good communal feeling to the event. There are snacks and conversations with performers and other audience members. And the event will culminate with a cake at midnight for The Birthday Boy.

The the event will NOT be broadcast on the radio, there will be a real-time webcast that can linked to via the homepage of WPR.org.

It is a fun event to attend. The performances are good, and there is a good communal feeling to the event with a lot of children and  young people present, plus anattentive  and appreciative audience. There are snacks and conversations with performers and other audience members. And the event will culminate with a cake at midnight for The Birthday Boy.

Of course that is not all that is on tap. There is also a good amount of chamber music to be heard, include music by cello, bassoon, voice and various other combinations.

 At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra (below, with the UW Choral Union), with James Smith and David Grandis, conductors, will perform “Ricercare No. 2” from “The Musical Offering” by J. S. Bach, arranged by Anton Webern; “Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance,” Op. 23a by Samuel Barber; and Symphony No. 1 in D major “Titan” by Gustav Mahler.  Admission is free.

SUNDAY

This week’s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” offers members of the Oakwood Chamber Players (below, in a photo by Bill Arthur)  from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery Number III at the Chazen Museum of Art. It will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio.

The program features Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 1; Glinka’s Trio for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano; Malcolm Arnold’s Trio for Flute, Viola and Piano; and Jena Francaix’s Trio for Viola, Clarinet and Piano.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

NOTE: Due to the 2012 UW Art Department Faculty Exhibition, the post-concert reception will not be held again until the April 15th concert. We would like to thank our generous donors, Fresh Madison Market, Steep & Brew, and Coffee Bytes. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

MONDAY

At 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW’s  Guest Artist Series features violinist Diana Seitz (below) in a FREE concert.

Seitz will perform Sonata No. 1 in G major for violin and piano, Op. 78, by Brahms, with UW pianist Christopher Taylor; the famous “Chaconne” from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, by J.S. Bach; “The Last Rose of Summer” for solo violin by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst; and “Waltz Scherzo” in C major by Tchaikovsky, with pianist Claire Mallory. 

Diana Seitz, a member of the music faculty at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, is a native of Azerbaijan and graduate of Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Oklahoma, where she studied with Felicia Moye, now professor of violin at the School of Music, UW-Madison. While in Oklahoma, Seitz served as associate concertmaster of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra and first violinist of the Crouse String Quartet.

WEDNESDAY

From 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building, American composer William Bolcom (below) — whose Piano Quintet No. 2 will be premiered by the Pro Arte Quartet and pianist Christopher Taylor in a FREE concert at The Wisconsin Union Theater at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 24 —  will talk about his recent music with composition students. Bolcom has won the Pulitzer Prize and received the National Medal of the Arts. The public is invited to attend the free and unticketed event.

At 7 p.m. in a LIVE broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, four of Wisconsin’s most talented young musicians, grades 9-12, will vie for honors in the 2012 Bolz Young Artist Competition with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The program will be live simulcast on the Web at wpt.org. WPT will offer an encore broadcast at 8 p.m. Friday, March 23. WPT’s Adam Schrager and Lori Skelton of WPR will cohost.

Members of the public may attend the live performance at Overture Hall in Madison. Tickets are free; call 608-257-3734 for reservations. The audience must be seated by 6:45 p.m.

The finalists (below, from left in a composite photo by James Gill) are pianists Michael Doerr, trombonist Charles Dieterle violinist Anthony Cudzinovic and Garrick Olsen.

Each finalist will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under the direction of Music Director John DeMain before a live audience.

Here is a link to the event and the biographies of the four contestants:

http://madisonsymphony.org/bolz

Doerr will play excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Olsen will perform Ravel’s “Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major.” Cudzinovic will play the first movement from Khachaturian’s “Violin Concerto in D minor,” and Dieterle will play Grondahl’s “Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra.”

The winner and runner-up will be featured as soloists with the MSO at the Spring Young People’s Concert. In addition, each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship, either the Marian Bolz Prize or the Steenbock Youth Music Award. Up to two Honorable Mention scholarships of $1,000 may be awarded.


Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio will hold the third annual Bach Around the Clock on Saturday, March 17. Start practicing now.

January 27, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This year, Johann Sebastian Bach (below) – by general consensus the greatest composer who ever lived and who affected all the composers who followed after him – turns 327.

Bach was born on March 21, 1685, he died on July 26, 1750, at age 65.

So why not celebrate?

Why not indeed!

Wisconsin Public Radio has sent out the following press release:

“Calling All Musicians:  Annual Bach Bash is Back”

It reads:

“Wisconsin Public Radio and the Pres House are once again planning a community-wide celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday and you’re invited to participate.

“Join us on Saturday, March 17, from noon until midnight.  We’ll be gathered at Pres House, 731 State St., near the Chazen Museum of Art, on the UW-Madison campus to perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach for 12 straight hours.

“It’s our Third Annual BACH AROUND THE CLOCK!  We’ll mark the birthday at the stroke of midnight . . . and there may even be cake!

“We’re looking for musicians – amateurs, professionals, students, individuals, ensembles, choirs. If you love Bach, we want you to perform.

“This is NOT a radio broadcast.

“This is NOT a professional showcase.

“It’s a FUN, community event – so don’t be shy.

“Whether you are a performer or just a music lover, we hope you’ll join us!

“For more information and to schedule your performance, contact Cheryl Dring (below), WPR Music Director, at cheryl.dring@wpr.org or call 608-890-2585.”

That’s pretty much it for the basic facts.

In the past, the performances have scheduled and webcast live so people – or your friends and family — in Wisconsin and around the country and the world too, I assume – can listen in. by going to Wisconsin Public Radio’s web site (www.wpr.org).

Two years ago, The Ear played movements of a Partita and the F minor Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 as well as the piano part of a Siciliano movement from a flute sonata. So let me just mention what a lot of fun it is both to perform and to listen to and mingle with the performers.

Bach is performed in all kinds of original scorings and transcriptions on all kinds of instruments ranging from the organ and voice, to piano and strings, to a saxophone version of a solo cello suite.

In the past you could also here period instruments such as baroque violin and harpsichord (below, baroque violinist Edith Hines turns pages for UW keyboard professor John Chappell Stowe) as well as modern instruments. Part of Bach’s genius is how well his music holds up in just about any arrangement.

Free refreshments and snacks are provided.

You can hear wonderful music performed by area church musicians UW faculty and students, young students from various piano and string studios, and much more.

To tease you and interest you, I have included some photos along with a video (at the bottom) of a live performance of the last movement of Bach’s English Suite No, 6 by John Chappell Stowe.

If you haven’t performed in  BATC before, consider doing it this time. (This year the UW spring beak won’t interfere.)

And if you have done it before, help it get better.

This is the beginning of a great local tradition, one hosted by the pleasant-voiced, quick-witted and cheerful Dring (below) – who also hosts WPR’s Morning Classics from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday — has imported and adapted from her native New Orleans, where I think it lasts for 24 hours and includes music by composers other than Bach, with laudable success.

Thank you, Cheryl.

And thank you, Johann Sebastian.


Classical music review: the marathon “Bach Around the Clock” concert is now officially a tradition in Madison, Wisconsin. Let’s go for three.

March 21, 2011
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

When does an event become a tradition?

Probably when the promise of a so-called “first annual” event turns into reality and actually becomes the second annual.

And that is the case with the marathon noon-to-midnight “Bach Around the Clock” concert that was held last Saturday, March 19. Like last year, it was organized by Wisconsin Public Radio and hosted at the Pres House chapel, 731 State St.

The event, patterned after a similar 24-hour event in New Orleans, is to greet the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach (March 21, 1685-July 28, 1750), who is generally considered the be the greatest and most seminal or influential of all composers.

In some ways, this year was harder to do. The momentum for starting something new is often considerably less than the momentum for continuing it.

Add in the early spring break at the University of Wisconsin, where the outstanding School of Music usually provides great performers, both student and faculty, and you have some idea of the challenge.

“We were just killed this year by spring break,” admitted Cheryl Dring, WPR’s music director and morning host who dreamed up and organized the event, then hosted it (below, with Pres House music director Michael Hillestad.)

Dring promised that next year, the event would not coincide with UW Spring Break (March 31-April 8, 2012). I’m happy personally because then it is more likely I will play. The Ear’s guess is BATC-3 will be held on Saturday, March 17, 2012.

But from what I saw and heard, this year was still a resounding success.

It started perfectly, with great contrast between student and professional musicians. Bach’s universality clearly calls to both.

First came 10-year-old Mikaela Steckelis, whose playing was also used for a radio engineer’s sound check, performing Bach’s Two-Part invention No. 13 in A minor on the piano (below).

And she was followed by UW professor and early music specialist John Chappell Stowe (below, with his page-turner, baroque violinist Edith Hines) explaining and playing Bach’s long, difficult and dark English Suite, No. 6 in D Minor, in its entirety on the harpsichord.


Organ music was once again provided in plenty by Alex Ford (below), who played a handful of trio sonatas, preludes and fugues, and choral preludes, including “Wachet auf” (Sleepers, Wake) from Cantata 147 (below and at bottom).

Along the way several piano teachers brought their studios to perform.

They included Denise Taylor, who also accompanied her violinist daughter Ellie (below) in a minuet from the “Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach” and who herself performed the difficult opening movement of Bach’s big Partita No. 4 in D major.

Sophia Musacchio (below) played three movements from the French Suite, No. 6 in E Major.

Caroline Zhou (below) played the Two-Part invention No. 1.

Caleb Zimmick (below) played two of the “Little Preludes,” which don’t seem so little when you are performing them in public.

And Sevan Virperian (below) played the Two-Part Invention No. 8.

Gloria Chuang, who coincidentally also played the same partita movement as Taylor, also brought students, including some very young very talent children – one boy (below) who played with great sensitivity and from memory. But her students (and their pieces) were never identified by themselves or by her, so I can’t credit them by name. I regret that because they worked hard and performed well.

Casey Oelkers (below top) played a solo flute partita that was a delight, while Aaron Catalano showed up in a red badger athletic shirt and played a prelude for guitar (below bottom).

I was particularly impressed with the musicality of solo violinist Maynie Bradley (below).

Some snafus were inevitable – a baritone got a cold and cancelled and a cellist lost a tuning pegged and couldn’t play – but host Dring made the best of it and stay unruffled.

In a nearby cafeteria, generously donated snacks – cookies and peanuts, water and lemonade, coffee and tea – had been provided along with tables and chairs to sit and talk about the music and greet the various performers.

And this year, the statewide live and real-time webcast (below) did NOT fail. So before I went to bed at home, I got to see baroque violinist play a sonata with Stowe and then a wonderful solo sonata of Bach.

Were there mistakes, wrong n motes and memory lapses? Of course, this was a live event. But there was also wonderful music-making and an appreciative and forgiving public.

All in all, it was a lot of fun for the performers and the listeners.

The Ear says: Do It Again Next Year.

Let’s make it No. 3!

And I have a few suggestions to offer:

WPR should start signing up players soon. It gives people an incentive and lots o time to learn pieces and practice them.

Have someone or a couple of people do the same piece – maybe a two- or three—part invention or a prelude and fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier – on the piano and harpsichord so listeners can compare period performance to modern performance. The same goes for the baroque and modern violin.

Maybe a particular teacher could line up five students to each do three Two-Part Inventions and then in Tag Team fashion perform the complete set? Or 15 students to do one each.

Oh well, ideas are easy and execution is hard.

However BATC-3 is planned and turns out, The Ear expects to be there again next year and hear another successful homage to Mr. Bach.

And hopes you will too.

What do you think of this year’s Bach Around the Clock?

Should it continue?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music
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