By Jacob Stockinger
Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Rankin Utevsky. The young violist, singer and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.
Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which will perform its fourth season this summer. He has been named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).
You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.
The Ear immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour three summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.
Here is the review, with performance photo by James Gill, by Mikko Utevsky (below):
By Mikko Utekvky
Madison Opera’s production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” this Friday evening was delightful, entertaining, and well-sung throughout. The cast — mostly young — excelled in both their comic acting and singing, making for a performance that the company can be proud of.
As Count Almaviva (below right), John Irvin’s lush and youthful tenor shone throughout the evening, growing if anything more secure as the night went on. Emily Fons played a girlish and coy Rosina (below left) with impressive vocal flexibility and pure high notes.
Alan Dunbar was delightful as the imperious Doctor Bartolo; his aria “Un dottor della mia sorte” was both solidly sung and absolutely hilarious.
Soprano Chelsea Morris, a Madison Opera Studio Artist, made her company debut as the maid Berta. Her clear and focused tone rang effortlessly atop the ensemble writing, and her lone aria was morbidly funny.
Thomas Forde made for a hysterical Don Basilio (below at the keyboard) from beginning to end, while Bryan Royston did the unbelievable — he stood out in a silent role as the servant Ambrogio with deft physical comedy throughout the night.
The star of the evening was the young baritone Will Liverman (below) in the title role of the barber Figaro. His voice has power and beauty throughout its impressive compass, including a ringing upper register to rival a tenor’s. Coupled with comic sensitivity and delightful physicality, Liverman must certainly be a singer to watch, and it is our fortune to hear him here. (You can hear his famous “Largo al factotum” aria sung by Thomas Hampson in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Perhaps above all, director Doug Scholz-Carlson should be commended for an absolutely hilarious staging that managed to balance the schticky and slapstick with some truly clever opera in-jokes.
The fourth wall is occasionally shattered to tremendous effect, and every singer is in full command of their comic timing and physicality.
This staging does not put Rossini on a pedestal — it acknowledges that this music is, above all, riotously funny stuff, and it makes full use of the modern stage’s arsenal of gags and tricks to remind the audience of this fact. Judging by the response in the hall, most in attendance agreed.
John DeMain led members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra in a clean and capable pit ensemble, with pacing and ensemble mostly tight (though the first act Finale lacked momentum — difficult to bring to so much static music). Scott Gendel provided imaginative accompaniment from the harpsichord, including a few clever musical jokes.
A lovely and versatile set — created by Peter Dean Beck for Opera Carolina — provided an evocative setting, with lighting by Marcus Dilliard including a very nice storm.
You can see it for yourself this afternoon at 2:30 in Overture Hall — and you should, if only to hear Will Liverman before the big houses snap him up for good. It is a thoroughly entertaining way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
By Jacob Stockinger
Many people are starting to make their summer travel plans.
Those plans could include music festivals, many of which will include the American premiere or even world premiere of a new opera or new chamber music. (Below is Marin Alsop conducting the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, California, which champions new music.)
Many are well known, such as the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City, the Bard Music Festival in the Hudson River Valley and the Aspen Festival in Colorado as well as the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina and the Wolf Trap Festival in Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C.
But there are many, many others you may not know.
By Jacob Stockinger
On Monday, the winners of the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes were announced.
You will hear a lot about the journalism recipients.
You will hear much, much less about the arts recipients.
Wolfe, who is associated with the group Bang on a Can!, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in music for “Anthracite Fields,” her oratorio for chorus and sextet about families living in coal mining country.
Here is a link to that interview:
And here is a link to her own website:
Finally, here is a haunting documentary video with excerpts from “Anthracite Fields” in a YouTube video. A recording of the complete work is scheduled to be released in September.
By Jacob Stockinger
Even as the school year winds down, there are several noteworthy events and concerts at the University of Wisconsin this weekend.
The Wind Ensemble is the premier wind/percussion ensemble in the UW-Madison School of Music. Repertoire varies from classical wind compositions to contemporary works.
The Wind Ensemble actively commissions new works from world-renowned composers, often performing with internationally acclaimed soloists and guest conductors.
Jacob Klingbeil will assist as graduate student guest conductor.
YOUniversity Band will be side-by-side with community musicians
The program includes:
Gvorkna Fanfare by Jack Stamp
Baron Cimetieres Mambo by Donald Grantham
Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Grainger
Starwars Trilogy, by John Williams/arr. Donald Hunsberger
At 1:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, a FREE Doctoral Recital: Russian Literature and the Music Salon. It is a multimedia concert with narration.
This doctoral project, organized by pianist Oxana Khramova, involves several students and faculty members from various departments.
It will be devoted to writers and composers who were connected to St. Petersburg in their lives and works: Nikolai V. Gogol, Anna A. Akhmatova, Joseph A. Brodsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke.
Listeners will experience their masterpieces through the prism of Russian music, language and visual images. By attempting to combine literature, music and art. participants hope to recreate the atmosphere of St. Petersburg’s culture (as recreated in the museum photo below).
Oxana Khramova, piano, DMA candidate, School of Music, where she is a student of Christopher Taylor
Yana Groves, piano, DMA candidate, School of Music
Nicole Heinen, soprano, MM candidate, School of Music
Ilona Sotnikova, visual images and literature, PhD candidate, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature
Conor Ryan, narrator, Undergraduate Student, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature
At 4 p.m., in Mills Hall, the All-University String Orchestra will give a FREE concert under the baton of director Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on the program.
From 4 to 6 p.m. the Wingra Woodwind Quintet will hold its 50th Anniversary Party at the University Club (below), 803 State St., next to the Humanities Building.
Embodying the Wisconsin Idea and serving as role models to our students, the Wingra Quintet has a rich tradition and will honor current and former members.
Former members who plan to attend are Robert Cole, flute, Marc Fink, oboe, Glenn Bowen, clarinet, Richard Lottridge, bassoon, Douglas Hill, horn, and Nancy Becknell, horn. (Below are photos from 1990 and 2010.)
A short program of 20 minutes is planned and then we will celebrate with hors d’oeuvres and beverages catered by the University Club. Everyone is invited to enjoy the food, music, and good company of current and former members of the Wingra Quintet.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn about the rich history of the WWQ here: http://www.music.wisc.edu/wingra-woodwind-quintet/
At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Women’s Chorus (below) and University Chorus will give a FREE concert. Anna Volodarskaya and Sarah Guttenberg will conduct.
This event is FREE. Registration is encouraged, but not required.
No program has been announced.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, features guitarists Jaime Guiscafre (below) and Christopher Murray in music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Moreno, Paul Hindemith, Fernando Sor, Toru Takemitsu and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following word from Music con Brio, a local group that specializes in music education:
You are cordially invited to a concert featuring Music con Brio (below top) and the acclaimed Madison-based percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion this Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom) 925 Bascom Mall, Madison WI 53606 — NOT the Humanities building) on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.
We are proud to present the world premiere of “Illusions” by Madison composer Brad Fowler, which was commissioned specifically for this concert.
The concert is FREE and UNTICKETED.
However, parking on the UW-Madison campus can be a challenge. The UW-Madison website offers the following information: “The closest public parking to Music Hall is the Helen C. White Parking Garage at the end of Park Street. You may also want to check the Memorial Union Lot or the Lake Street Ramp. Please plan accordingly as parking can be challenging in this area. There is no free parking anywhere close to Music Hall as all of the lots surrounding the building are controlled 24/7. You can follow this link to check out the real-time parking availability in the Helen C White Garage.” http://transportation.wisc.edu/parking/lotinfo_occupancy.aspx
For more information about the various groups here are links:
For Music con Brio (below):
For Clocks in Motion (below):
For Sound Cloud samples of works by Brad Fowler (below):
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also provided the performance photos for this review.
By John W. Barker
Having already established an enviable level of achievement with his Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below), conductor Robert Gehrenbeck led it to new heights with the concert on Saturday night at Luther Memorial Church.
The program opened with two examples of Gehrenbeck’s interest in promoting new choral works through commissions.
Entitled “Prairie Spring,” it set a poem by Willa Cather, celebrating the Nebraska landscape, scored for choir and string orchestra. This is a gentle piece, full of lyric grace, in a neo-Romantic style, and reflecting a confident command of choral texture. It made me think a little of the music of British composer Gerald Finzi. The words were somewhat obscured, but that may partly have been a function of the church’s spacious acoustics.
The second new work was by the older British composer Giles Swayne (below) that sets selected lines from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, under the title of “Our Orphan Souls.” Solo baritone Gregory Berg (below) delivered reflections of Captain Ahab, with chorus, alto saxophone, harp, double bass and percussion.
The solo writing has strength, and might have been built into a more extended soliloquy—and baritone Gregory Berg delivered it with strength. But the choral writing — sung by the Wisconsin Chamber Choir itself — was unsettled and unidiomatic, running from word to word without much continuity of lines.
Ah, but the main event! Nothing less than the “German” Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem), one of the greatest of choral works, by one of the greatest of choral composers, Johannes Brahms (below). Setting passages from Scripture in the Martin Luther translation, Brahms made this a big work, both in length and in performing demands.
The chancel of Luther Memorial has only so much space, forcing a lot of crowding. The orchestra—37 players, familiar local performers—was arrayed through the center, while the two blended choirs were stationed on risers to either side: sopranos and tenors on the left, altos and basses on the right (below).
Such an arrangement could have strained ensemble coordination, but in fact it worked quite well. Indeed, it actually made it possible to follow the interaction of voice parts better than when the whole choir is in a single clump. German diction was a bit blurred, but, again, acoustics must take some blame. (I should note that I sat close and up front, so that what and how I heard may have been somewhat different from those in seating further back.)
The two soloists were both engaging. A last-minute replacement, soprano Catherine Henry (below left), was deeply expressive, a rich-voiced exemplar of the comforting mother we would all want to have.
The baritone, Brian Leaper, was a deft guide to the mysteries of mortality.
The orchestra took on its large assignment with skill, and the choral singers were simply magnificent. But the highest praise must go to Gehrenbeck himself. His tempos were flexible, his balances neatly coordinated, and his sense of what each of the seven movements had to say was perfect. This is not only a superb choral conductor, but a musician of true artistry.
I write as someone for whom the Brahms Requiem has profound meaning. I have known and loved it since student days. I have sung in it several times, and listened to it in many recordings and performances. It is one of the musical threads of my life.
But I think I can honestly say that this was the most meaningful performance of the work that I have ever experienced. I often felt moved to tears by the beautiful, truthful messages that Robert Gehrenbeck (below) — who heads the choral program at UW-Whitewater — brought to realization out of it.
There is a small lifetime list I keep of concerts and performances that I forever cherish, and this one is a rare addition—a presentation I will remember for the rest of my days.
One more reminder, then, of the riches Madison offers in choral music alone!
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this post made the error of calling Will LIVERMAN by the wrong name of Livermore. I apologize for the inaccuracy.
By Jacob Stockinger
For the first time in 12 years and the first time in Overture Hall, the Madison Opera will present “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini (below) at 8 p.m. on this Friday, April 24, and at 2:30 p.m. on this Sunday, April 26, in Overture Hall.
The opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Tickets are $18-$125. Student and group discounts are available. For tickets and more information, call the Overture Center box office at 201 State St., Madison, at (608) 258-4141 or go to www.madisonopera.org
One of the earliest romantic comedies, “The Barber of Seville” tells how Figaro, the title character, helps Count Almaviva and Rosina outwit the latter’s guardian, bringing about a wedding in the final scene.
Multiple disguises, love notes passed in secret, and even a music lesson are used to bring the young couple together. Since its first performance in 1816, Barber has been an international hit, with Figaro’s aria “Largo al factotum” becoming perhaps the most famous opera aria of all time.
“The Barber of Seville” was one of the first operas I fell in love with,” says Kathryn Smith (below, in a photo by James Gill), general director of the Madison Opera. “Rossini’s musical brilliance is unique, and the way the music literally sparkles is one of its most enduring characteristics. It’s a genuine pleasure to share one of the all-time great operas with our community.”
This will be the first time John DeMain, the artistic director of the Madison Opera and music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has conducted “The Barber of Seville” in Madison, and he considers it a perfect conclusion to the company’s 10th anniversary in Overture Hall.
“The effervescent strains of Rossini’s scintillating score should be especially vibrant in the glorious acoustics of Overture Hall,” says DeMain (below in a photo by Prasad). “It will be like drinking musical champagne.”
A dynamic young cast brings this witty comedy to life. Emily Fons, a Wisconsin native who debuted with Madison Opera at Opera in the Park 2012, returns for her first main stage role with the company. These will be her first performances of Rosina, a role she sings later this summer at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and next season at Pittsburgh Opera.
Making his debut opposite Fons is tenor John Irvin, a recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago — which is now headed by former UW-Madison School of Music professor and professional soprano Julia Faulkner. Irwin also sang Count Almaviva for Lyric Opera’s family performance.
Another recent Ryan Opera Center graduate, baritone Will Liverman, makes his Madison Opera debut as the illustrious barber Figaro, a role he has previously sung at the Utah Opera and in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s family performance.
Two Madison Opera favorites return in key roles. Alan Dunbar, whose most recent appearances were in “Dead Man Walking” (below, third from right) and the Overture 10th Anniversary Celebration, sings Rosina’s guardian, Dr. Bartolo. Thomas Forde, who sang Judge Turpin in Madison Opera’s recent “Sweeney Todd,” sings Don Basilio, the music teacher and purveyor of gossip.
Madison Opera Studio Artist soprano Chelsea Morris (below) sings her first principal role as Berta, and baritone Trevor Martin makes his debut as Fiorello. Directing this traditional staging is Doug Scholz-Carlson, who directed “The Tender Land” and “The Turn of the Screw” for Madison Opera.
“I am thrilled with this cast,” says Smith. “Rossini requires a lot of vocal teamwork, and it’s exciting to produce the opera with singers who are perfectly matched to their roles and to each other.”
Will Liverman (below) recently agreed to a Q&A with The Ear:
Can you briefly introduce yourself to readers?
My name is Will Liverman, and I hail from beautiful Virginia Beach, Virginia. I graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois for my undergraduate degree and finished with a Master’s degree at the Juilliard School. I recently completed the Ryan Opera Center program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Have you sung the role of Figaro before? How have you changed or developed it? If the role is new to you, what do you find most appealing and most challenging about it?
I have only sung this role twice before. The more that I sit with this role, the more that I think it’s imperative to show that Figaro is a man with a good heart. There’s more to Figaro than just wanting money from the Count Almaviva and only looking after himself. I think he really enjoys helping people and he takes pride in that.
Is it fun to play Figaro?
Figaro is a TON of fun. First of all, comedy is my favorite thing to do onstage and The Barber of Seville is the essence of an opera comedy. It’s fun because there are so many different comedic bits to play in each scene. The music is exciting to sing, and it’s a satisfying show to perform.
What do you think explains the popularity and longevity of Rossini’s opera ever since it was first performed in 1816 in Rome? Why should the public today go see and hear it?
Each production has the potential to be something completely different in terms of how it’s staged and who’s singing in the cast. That can be said about other operas as well but The Barber of Seville is essentially a showcase for singers and you get to laugh out of your chair while you’re at it! In addition to Barber being one of the most well-known operas to the general public, it has endless amounts of comedic moments that a director can use.
In your interpretation, what aspects of Figaro’s character do you emphasize and why?
Figaro is three steps ahead of everyone in this piece and in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. It’s important that comes through in every way, because being a cunning man with a plan is simply what he does and how he is able to help everyone.
What would you like to say about the famous showstopping “Largo al factotum” aria in terms of singing it and its universal appeal? (NOTE: You can hear it sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky with Charles Dutoit conducting the Montreal Symphony in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
There isn’t much to be said about it. The aria speaks for itself, and it’s the most famous aria tune out there. My job is to not mess it up and at the same time make it my own!
What else would you like to say about your role, about the opera or about this production?
This production is going to be fantastic! I say that because when you’re able to laugh a lot in rehearsal at how funny the staging is -– and you’re one of the folks performing –- you know the audience is going to enjoy it even more. At least, I hope they do!
By Jacob Stockinger
Not a lot of musicians write well. It’s probably because they prefer to let their music-making do their communicating.
But one notable exception is the “minimalist” composer Philip Glass (below), whose new volume of memoirs is being praised for its insights and for its engaging, articulate style. (A good sample of his speaking, composing and playing is in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Recently, Glass did a 46-minute interview for Terry Gross and her “Fresh Air” program on NPR (National Public Radio.) He discussed his early days composing and performing as well his training with famed French teacher Nadia Boulanger.
The NPR story has the interview plus some highlights from the interview and also some excerpts from the book “Words Without Music.
The Ear thinks that Glass, now 78, emerges as a very thoughtful and perceptive man who is also droll and self-deprecating.
See what you think.
Here is a link to the NPR story:
And here is a highly positive review of the book that appeared in The New York Times:
What do you think of Philip Glass and his music? His memoirs?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Tweets — those messages that comes via Twitter — may be short, containing a maximum of only 140 characters.
But they can sure pack a wallop and get people riled up.
Consider what is happening in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (below top, in a photo by John Loper) that canceled an appearance – with full payment of a concert fee — by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below bottom).
Lisitsa tweeted about the political situation in her native Ukraine and that apparently caused quite the stir among symphony sponsors. So the symphony canceled her performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – and paid her concert fee anyway. (Rachmaninoff and this concerto are specialties of Lisitsa, as you can hear on the YouTube video at the bottom)
Locally, Lisitsa — known for her power, endurance and phenomenal technique as well as her savvy use of YouTube to establish a career — has played several times at the Wisconsin Union Theater and at Farley’s House of Pianos.
Then the Toronto Symphony tried to engage pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear (below), who is famous for doing marathons in which he plays all 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven in one day. He has performed several times with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
Anyway, here is a terrific account of the story — with great reporting and writing from Anastasia Tsioulcas — that was posted on Deceptive Cadence, the outstanding classical music blog that is on NPR (National Public Radio).
Here is the link:
What do you think of this dust-up?
Was Lisitsa treated fairly?
The Ear wants to hear.
REMINDERS: This Saturday night from 6 to 10 p.m., the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will hold its annual “Art of Note” fundraiser at CUNA Mutual. Auctions, fine food and live music will be featured.
For more information visit: http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/artofnote/ and https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/classical-music-education-wysos-art-of-note-benefit-on-april-18-seeks-to-raise-50000-to-benefit-music-education-in-greater-madison-area/
Also: The Madison Bach Musicians presents two performances of “Pygmalion” by Jean-Philippe Rameau It’s a 1784 Baroque opera-ballet done in the Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.
The first performance is tonight with a 6:45 p.m. lecture and 7:30 p.m. concert. The second is on Sunday afternoon with a lecture at 2:45 p.m. and a 3:30 p.m. concert.
Internationally recognized UW-Madison early-music specialist Marc Vallon will direct a full baroque orchestra, dancers and an outstanding vocal cast as they tell the tale of a sculptor who falls in love with his beautiful creation—and then, through the power of Venus, the statue comes to life. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
For more information, go to: http://madisonbachmusicians.org/concerts/current-concert-season/
ALERT: At 2:30 p.m. this Sunday afternoon, in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will give its Spring Concert.
Admission for the public is $5 and will benefit music scholarships. Admission is FREE with an Edgewood College ID.
The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will play under the director of Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci). Included on the program are the Symphony No. 32 in G by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Claude Debussy and the Pulcinella Suite by Igor Stravinsky.
Also being performed is the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19, K. 459, featuring pianist Stephanie Crescio (below), the winner of the Edgewood College Music Department Student Concerto Competition.
By Jacob Stockinger
Madison-based music publicist and activist Jon Becker writes:
Wisconsin’s Earth Day Heritage will be celebrated in music and words this Saturday, April 18, and on next Wednesday, April 22. (You can hear a short history of Earth Day in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Music broadcasts will feature the voices of the descendants of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Earth Day Founder U.S. Senator and former state Governor Gaylord Nelson, set to the symphonic music of Wisconsin composer John Harmon.
There will be several opportunities to hear a “sneak preview” of Earth Day Portrait, music celebrating Earth Day values, before its international release on CD later this year.
For the third year, the music will be “broadcast” in the Rotunda of Wisconsin’s State Capitol building (below). Listeners should gather at the bust of “Fighting Bob” La Follette (the East Gallery entry is closest).
On Saturday, April 18, the music will be broadcast 10 times on the half hour, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m.
On Wednesday, April 22 — which is Earth Day — there will be broadcasts at 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Earth Day Portrait is a symphonic setting of eco-moral texts of John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Earth Day founder, former Wisconsin Gov. and U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (below). For the CD recording, the words of these environmental legends were read by their descendants: William (Muir) Hanna, great-grandson; Nina Leopold Bradley, daughter; Gaylord Nelson Jr., son; and Kiva Nelson, grand-daughter.
Patty Loew, an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, narrated connecting texts that paint intimate, personal portraits of Muir, Leopold, and Nelson, while recalling their unique mutual connection to Madison, Wisconsin.
All this is woven together by the story of the passenger pigeon’s extinction. Members of the Madison Youth Choirs (below, in a photo by Karen Holland) recorded a call-and-response part that -– at concert performances -– is spoken by audience members.
Earth Day Portrait was composed in 2001 by John Harmon (below), who graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and who makes his home on the Wolf River, near Winneconne.
Harmon’s music was recorded in Glasgow by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, led by conductor Marin Alsop, the first conductor to win a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. London’s EMI-Abbey Road Studios produced the master recording. Voiceovers were recorded at Audio for the Arts in Madison and at Umbrella Studios in Los Angeles.
For the forthcoming Earth Day CD, Harmon’s composition will be paired with Hymn to the Earth, by American composer Edward Joseph Collins (1886-1951, below). Composed in Door County, and inspired by Wisconsin’s seasons and landscapes, Collins’s ode to nature also may well be the first Western classical composition to refer to our home planet as “Mother Earth.”