The Well-Tempered Ear

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

March 24, 2017

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:

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

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.


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.


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 <>, 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 <>, or email

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


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:

From 2011:“bach-around-the-clock”-concert-is-now-officially-a-tradition-in-madison-wisconsin/

From 2012:

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

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

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’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

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 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 (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:

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.


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

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

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.


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.


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.


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 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:

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 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 (

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

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

Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio to hold 2nd annual “Bach Around the Clock” marathon concert on March 19 to mark Johann Sebastian’s birthday

February 24, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

It’s time to get out those scores and start practicing.

Wisconsin Public Radio and the Pres House are teaming up again to offer the second annual “Bach Around the Clock” marathon concert. Can’t you just dig the Warhol-like poster that suggests a watch face (12, 3, 6 and 9):

It will be held from noon to midnight on Saturday, March 19, at the Pres House, 731 State St., which has a good organ, a fine piano and a nicely intimate performance space (below). Last year, snacks and refreshments were also available for free in the nearby cafeteria.

The purpose of the event is to mark the birthday (March 21, 1685) of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach, who died at 65 on July 28, 1750 is generally conceded to be the greatest composer of all time and the one who most affected the future path of Western classical music.

The organizer of the event, and the person who inaugurated the event based on a similar event in her native New Orleans, is Cheryl Dring (below). Dring hosts the “Morning Classics” program on WPR from 9 to 11 a.m. each weekday morning. She is also the music director of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here is my account of it last year, complete with a lot of photos:

Once again, Drink is calling on all kinds of musicians to take part in the celebratory event.

Last year, the performers included professionals like Trevor Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians and violinist Edith Hines and some church organists and choirs. Others who took part included elementary, middle and high school students as well as UW students and faculty members and amateurs from the community. One of my favorites was saxophonist Marc Mayes performing a transcribed solo cello suite:

Several local piano teachers made the event a kind of class or studio project, a good way to practice performing in front of a very friendly, supportive and enthusiastic but small audience.

The performances — which are NOT broadcast on the radio — were also webcast live to the rest of the state in real time. Dring told the Ear she is trying to arrange that again, but I have had no final word about this year.

It was a lot of fun last year, both to play in and to listen to – though I do not have new Bach to offer this year. Last year’s official logo was also playful and captures the spirit of the event.

But it may be more difficult to organize this year because of the timing. That week is also Spring Break for the University of Wisconsin, if not also some public schools.

For more information or to book a time slot, visit the site below and contact Dring on the following page:

You can also email Dring at:

What do you think of Bach Around the Clock last year?

Did you take part or listen?

What did you think?

Will you take part in or listen to BATC-2 this year?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

Classical music news: “Bach Around the Clock” to take place again next year

May 14, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

This year, you have more time to get prepared.

So get out the music and start learning and practicing those preludes and fugues, those suites and sonatas.

Next March will see the second “Bach Around the Clock,” according to Cheryl Dring, the music director of Wisconsin Public Radio. Dring (below) organized and hosted the live music event for the first time this year.

In case you need a reminder, this year’s Bach Around the Clock – or BATC – took place in the chapel of the Pres House, 731 State Street, on Saturday, March 20, from noon to midnight. (Bach’s birthday is March 21, 1685; he died on July 28, 1750.)

An organ, a piano and chairs were provided for the very good turnout.

The event is to give the community a way to mark and usher in the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, whom The Ear considers to be the Big Bang of Western classical music.

The populist and popular event saw so many people sign up that potential participants had to be turned away.

Professional musicians, like Trevor Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians and violinist Edith Hines, took part. So did amateurs, including myself. And so did quite a few university professors and students, and a lot of young and very young people (below above) from various piano teachers and their studios. Marc Mayes played transcriptions of a Cello Suite on his saxophone (below bottom).

“I  had to play. I’m just a Bach geek,” one participant told me.

Free refreshments were available – performing music sure uses up the calories — and despite some glitches, the event was webcast live statewide.

It was a fun and touching time to hear great music that still seems fresh after 3oo years.

Here is a link if you want to check out my blog post, with my own photos, about the event, although I couldn’t stay until the end. Be sure to read the positive comments from readers.

There are no dates and details yet about the 2011 BATC.

But when I e-mailed Dring about whether she would do it again, she said:

Yes, I’m definitely planning to do it again next year. I have no thoughts about BATC2 yet, beyond absolutely, yes.  I was so touched and humbled by how seriously all the performers took it, and how beautifully and earnestly they all played.  I wish you could have been there at the end, it was SPECTACULAR!”

I have only one piece of advice: When I checked out the original Bach Around the Clock that Dring patterned this one after – it takes place at a church in New Orleans, Dring’s hometown – I saw that music and events that were Bach-related – though not strictly by Bach – were included. Dance was allowed, for example, and so was music that paid homage to Bach.

I think that would be a nice touch. I would love, for example, to hear some Bach and Chopin preludes contrasted and compared.

Or maybe some poems about Bach read aloud.

Anything that is a testament to Bach and helps out understanding and appreciation of him would be good.

I think BATC is great idea and I like making in an annual event.

But what do you think?

Do you like the idea of another “Bach Around the Clock”?

Should Bach-related music and events be included?

Should it be webcast a statewide again?

What improvements or suggestions do you have to share?

I’m sure Dring would appreciate it.

And The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

Classical music events: Here is the line-up for Saturday’s “Bach Around the Clock”

March 20, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

On today, Saturday, March 20, the inaugural Bach Around the Clock (BATC) will take place from noon to midnight in the chapel at the Pres House (below), 731 State Street, around the corner from the University Bookstore and across from the Library Mall and UW Faculty Club. It has a fine piano and a new organ that will get its first workout.

The community event is sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio but will not be broadcast.

However there will be a live web cam you can go to at in order to get more information and background, and to hear and see amateurs and professionals and students play Bach in order to greet the 325th birthday of Johann Sebastian on Sunday.

Here is a direct link to the live streaming web cam:

“I want it to be very relaxed and fun,” says Cheryl Dring (below), the music director at WPR who worked so hard to get this event started and recruit talent, and who hopes to expand it and make it an annual event.

Here is the tentative and impressive line-up:

Noon: harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below top) and the Madison Bach Musicians (below bottom) in movements form Cantata No. 78.

1 p.m.: Organist Alexander S. Ford from Verona playing Preludium in G, the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” chorale, and 3 of the 8 “Small Preludes and Fugues.”

2 p.m.: David Susan.

2:30 p.m.: Pianist Jacob Stockinger (The Ear turns Fingers) and flutist Laura Muller in the F Minor Prelude and Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II; movements from Partita No. 1 in B-flat and French Suite No. 4;  the song “Bist du bei mir” and the “Siciliano” movement from the Flute Sonata No. 2.

3 p.m.: two piano students of area teacher Gloria Chuang (below).

3:30 p.m.: Susan Hollingsworth.

3:45 p.m.: Soprano Katherine Peck with  pianist Dorothy Hui and flutist David Pierringer.

4 p.m.: Piano students of area teacher and UW voice coach Bill Lutes. Pieces include Two- and Three-Part Inventions, preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier; movements from the French Suite No. 6; and other works.

5:30 p.m.: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) in selections from the “St. John Passion.”

6:30 p.m.: Madison Symphony Orchestra violinist Edith Hines (below) performing some solo violin works and sonatas.

7:30 p.m.: Mike McConnell.

8 p.m.: Organist John Krueger in various works.

9:30 p.m.: Chris Allen.

10-Midnight: UW organist and harpsichordist John Chappelle Stowe (below top in a photo by Katrin Talbot), violinist Edith Hines, Ancora String Quartet and Madison Symphony Orchestra violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below bottom in a photo, also by Katrin Talbot).

If you go to Bach Around the Clock — or watch it on web cam — let us know what you thought of the event and the performances?

Do you use the live web cam?

Should it be held again next year?

How can it be improved?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music
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