The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players open its new season with “Weekend Stroll” this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

September 16, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) will give the kickoff of their 2015-2016 concert series when they present their first concert of the season: Weekend Stroll on this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

The program will include a two-movement trio from early 20th-century American composer Amy Beach (below), Pastorale and Caprice, for flute, clarinet and piano, subtitled “Watersprites.”

Amy Beach BW 1

Also on the program is the jazz-influenced Suite for horn, clarinet and piano by American composer Alec Wilder (below top). You can hear the work in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Norwegian composer and famed violinist Ole Bull’s best known work, Dairy Maid’s Sunday, arranged by Edvard Grieg, will be performed on violin, viola and cello.

Sonata en Trio for flute, clarinet and piano by French composer Maurice Emmanuel (below bottom, in 1930) takes listeners from a movement of folk-like melodies to a contemplative theme to a dazzling scherzo close.

Alec Wilder

Maurice Emmanuel in1930

Chicago-based composer James Stephenson (below) wrote five short movements for his chamber piece Thinking in 2007. He gives the performers clever and creative musical lines that link to his whimsical movement titles such as: “Outside the Box,” “Twice” and “It’s Over.” The music is vital and virtuosic and at times a bit jazzy. It showcases violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon, piano and trumpet.

James Stephenson composer

The concerts are this weekend: Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

This is the first of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-2016 season series titled “Play.” Remaining concerts include Holiday Fun on Nov. 29 (two performances), Fairy Tales and Other Stories on Jan. 16 and 17 (2016), Children’s Games on March 5 and 6 (2016) and Summer Splash on May 14 and 15 (2016).

For a previous post abut the Oakwood Chamber Players’ new season, see:

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.

Tickets are available at the door and $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. Visit for more information.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.

Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players announces its new season of serious “Play” for 2015-16.

August 11, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) has announced its new season for 2015-16. It has the theme of serious “Play.”

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

As usual, the eclectic programs feature well-known masterpieces but also neglected repertoire and new music. Notice that you don’t see anything by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and many other standard composers on this season. That is unusual — and most welcome!

All concerts take place on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in the Oakwood Village West auditorium (below) – now known as the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education — at 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.

For more information about the players, the programs, the group’s history and individual or season tickets, visit:

Oakwood Village Auditorium and Stage

Here is the press release:

“The Oakwood Chamber Players welcomes you to our 2015-16 season, which promised to be FUN! We often refer to our work in music as “play,” and this season we look forward to sharing the fun with you.

“Our concerts will stir memories of fun and games in the outdoors! Join us for musical performances that contemplate the beauty and pleasure of nature. This season will lift your spirits and please your ears. We love to play for you … now come play with us!

Oakwood Village Players on playground


Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m.

Amy Beach (below) – Pastorale and Caprice for flute, cello and piano

Ole Bull/Edvard Grieg – Dairy Maid’s Sunday for violin, viola and cello

Alec WilderSuite for clarinet, horn and piano

Amy Beach BW 1


Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 at 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Annual Christmas Lights Concert



Saturday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, at 1:30 p.m.

Malcolm Arnold (below) – Quintet for violin, viola, flute, horn and bassoon

Elisenda Fábregas – Voces de mi Tierra (Voices of My Land) for flute, cello and piano

Robert Schumann — Fairy Tales, Op. 132 for clarinet, viola and piano

malcolm arnold


Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday March 7, at 1:30 p.m.

Irving Fine (below, at Tanglewood in 1956) – One Two Buckle My Shoe for oboe, clarinet, violin and cello

Georges BizetJeux d’Enfants for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn

Jack GallagherAncient Evenings & Distant Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn

Irving Fine at Tanglewood 1956


Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m.

Franz SchubertTrout Quintet for violin, viola cello, bass and piano

Samuel BarberSummer Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)

Craig Bohmler – Six Pieces After Shakespeare for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bass

Classical music: SUNDAY afternoon Edgewood College mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson will perform a recital of songs by Schubert, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Berlioz, Rossini, Gershwin, Alec Wilder, Andre Previn and others. Plus, Ilona Kombrink memorial is set for Oct. 20.

September 10, 2013

ALERT: Edgewood College teacher and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson, a loyal reader and friend of The Ear, writes: “There will be a memorial concert for the UW-Madison soprano and voice professor Ilona Kombrink (below), who died last month and with whom I was privileged to study, on Sunday, October 20, at 3 p.m., at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community’s Grand Hall. We are very early in the planning stages, but we hope that former students and colleagues will perform or speak on the program. More information will follow soon.”

Ilona Kombrink color

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College mezzo-soprano and voice professor Kathleen Otterson will perform a song recital this coming Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is $7 to benefit the music scholarship fund at Edgewood.

Otterson writes:

“I am dedicating this concert to my former teacher, the UW-Madison soprano Ilona Kombrink who died last month. But the program is a collage of things I performed on two concerts in Bayfield this summer — hence its title: “What I Did With My Summer Vacation.”

The pianist is Edgewood College coach and accompanist Susan Goeres (below top, on the right with Otterson on the left) . Flutist Elizabeth Marshall (below bottom), who performs in the Black Marigold wind quintet, teaches at Edgewood College, UW-Platteville and Madison Area Technical College and who is the second flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, will also participate.

Kathleen Otterson (l) and pianist Susan Goeres

Elizabeth Marshall flute

Describing the major works to be performed, Otterson continues: “Of particular interest, I think, is the Andre Previn piece: “Two Remembrances,” written for Sylvia McNair and first performed by her at the Tanglewood Festival in 1995. The intermingling of the alto flute and the voice is really remarkable, with the flute providing the second voice in the evocative dialogue. 

andre previn color


“Ilona had a special fondness for the “Rueckert-lieder” of Gustav Mahler (below top), and I was fortunate to work on these wonderful songs with her for my graduate recital.

“The poems of Friedrich Rueckert held deep personal meaning for Mahler, and these songs are very much more intimate than the better-known “Wunderhorn Songs.””Ich atmet einen Lindenduft” is included in the program, paired with a song by Alma Schindler Mahler (below bottom) composed at around the same time: “Laue Sommernacht” (performed in a YouTube video at the bottom with some good listener comments.)

Gustav Mahler big

Alma Mahler

“Rossini’s song cycle “La Regatta Veneziana” tells the story of the historical Venetian Regatta, which takes place each year on the waters of the Grand Canal (below) at the beginning of September (this year it was on Sunday, September 1).

“Along with a spectacular procession of elaborately carved boats and costumed participants, there is a race – the subject of the song cycle, as the young girl Anzoletta watches anxiously for her lover Momolo, offering scorn if he fails to win and kisses if he succeeds.

Grand Canal, Venice

“Three songs from the beautiful “Nuits d’été” (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz (below) round out the program. They are not specifically about “summer” but instead seem to be summertime musings, both sweet and bitter, settings of texts by Théophile Gautier. Musically, they are everything from playful to melancholy in character.


“Parking at Edgewood is free and the Chapel is accessible to all.”

Classical music news: UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois will pay homage to his department with his recital on Wednesday night.

February 3, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

The second semester of the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series opens mid-week next week, on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall.

The FREE and PUBLIC series begins with a recital by UW-Madison hornist Daniel Grabois (a Roumanian name pronounced gra-BOY) who is just in his second year of teaching in Madison.

Grabois (below, in a photo by James Gill) agreed to  Q&A in which he talks about the special program he has chosen to play to pay homage to his department and predecessors, and how satisfied he is with his teaching post and performing life:

Your recital program is intended to pay homage to the horn department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where you now teach and also perform with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Can you elaborate on that, and on your view of the UW horn department and how it compares to other places you have taught?

Perhaps what has distinguished the horn teaching at UW is: first, the quality of the teaching; and secondly, the longevity of the teachers. My immediate predecessor, Douglas Hill, started teaching here in 1974 when I was finishing up fourth-grade, and he retired last year. I am only the fourth horn professor in the UW School of Music’s history.

Beyond that, however, every place I have taught employs adjunct professors, who are in and out of school quickly, without being a real on-site presence for their students. Having a full-time faculty makes a very special situation for UW students: They can find their professor in his or her office, ready to help by listening, talking, giving advice, or whatever. A student can run in and play through audition material. The faculty members are a resource for the students.

Can you give a brief description of what listeners should look for or pay attention to in each piece, and how each piece fits into the overall theme?

I’ll go in program order.

The piece by Alec Wilder (below) uses a language that I would call almost jazz. You can feel the jazz bubbling beneath the surface (in the third movement, it actually comes to the surface). The piece was written for John Barrows, who taught at the UW (he was also the teacher of one of my teachers). I love the piece because it is very approachable and fun but also a nicely structured piece of classical music.

The second piece is by Todd Hammes (below), the percussionist who is playing with me on the recital. After our first rehearsal, we were talking about – what else? – music, and I was telling him about an instrument I had sort of invented. I showed it to him, and he said “I have a piece we could play together and you could play that thing.” We tried it out, and it worked great, so I put it on the program. I love discovering things by accident like that. The piece itself is a simple slow meditation. If you want to see what the instrument is, you’ll have to come to the concert!

After that is a piece I wrote called “The Spikenard.” I wrote it as a solo horn piece, but in the concert Todd will be accompanying me on some really great drums from the Middle East. That fits perfectly with the flavor of the piece. I think of it as Middle Eastern chant meets rock and roll, for solo horn. Pretty odd idea, I know. I wrote the piece in little chunks backstage on tour waiting to go on stage.

After intermission, there are two pieces. The first requires a little explanation. I used to run a contemporary music degree program at Manhattan School of Music (below), and I had students with all kinds of creativity. One violinist had been an art major in college, and she found a way to fuse art and music by writing graphic scores.

These are basically sequences of pictures that you read from left to right and interpret musically as you please. They are beautiful to look at and are structured in a very “musical” way (for example, there might be a shape on the first page, that is repeated with variations on the second page and returns again on the seventh page). The composer’s name is Leah Asher, and I commissioned a graphic score from her for this concert, which will be the world premiere. I’ll be projecting the images on a big screen as I play the piece.

The last piece is by Doug Hill (below, in  photo by Katrin Talbot), who taught at UW from 1974 until his retirement last year. It’s a five movement work called “Song Suite in Jazz Style.” It’s written for horn and piano, but I decided to have Todd play drum set to make it even more in a jazz style. It’s very fun to play and very fun to listen to.

In summary: a piece written for my predecessor’s predecessor, a piece written by my predecessor, a piece I wrote, a piece I commissioned, and I piece I discovered here through collaboration.

What current or upcoming projects are you involved in?

Lots. This coming summer, I’ll be writing a brass quintet for the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, which is the faculty ensemble I play in. I also have been in the Meridian Arts Ensemble (below top)  for the last 24 years. It’s a brass quintet plus percussion. With that group, I just finished recording 3 CDs (yes, three of them), and we’ll be editing and releasing them. I’m also working with another faculty member at UW, trombone professor Mark Hetzler (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), on writing and playing tunes that involve lots of electronics and lots of groove. When we get together, it’s like two kids messing around with fun stuff.

How have you found Madison as place to live, to teach and to perform in the year since you arrived here? High points? Low points?

I love it. There’s lots to do. Believe it or not, this is my first full-time job – and I’m 47 years old. I have always been a freelancer with about a million different jobs all put together in a crazy patchwork schedule. Now, I wake up, eat breakfast, and go to work. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t.

Anyway, I don’t feel like I’ve hit any low points yet, knock on wood. My students are incredibly talented and motivated, the faculty is wonderful, the city is great, my family is happy, and I eat Thai noodle soup for lunch two or three times a week. I’ve been dealt a royal flush!

What else would you like to say about the horn department, your recital, your life and career here, or the classical music scene in Madison?

I would like to speak more generally. Across the country, classical music is in grave trouble. Orchestras are folding, musicians are out of work, people aren’t going to concerts. Please note that this seems not to be the case, thank God, in Madison. But, as an educator, I have to look at my students’ futures.

We classical musicians need to figure out what our purpose is, what the role of serious music is in society. We need to play music that is enjoyable, yes, but that stretches people, makes them see (and hear) the world in a richer way, opens them to experience bigger than themselves and to see the connections between things. In a tiny way, I’m hoping to do that in my concert.

I want to thank my two performer collaborators, Todd Hammes (percussion) and Kirstin Ihde (piano, and she’s a graduate student who REALLY gets the job done), and Leah Asher (below), who wrote me a really cool piece, and all my fellow faculty members who have been so supportive in my first year at the UW.

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