The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Meet Mariana Farah, the new choral director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

August 17, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

Following a national search, Mariana Farah (below) has been chosen to succeed Beverly Taylor as the new director of choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.

Due to prior commitments, Farah cannot start her duties until the fall of 2021. But the delay is understandable given that the coronavirus pandemic continues and group singing remains a particularly hazardous or high-risk activity during the public health crisis. (See her comments about choral singing during Covid-19 in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

(In case you are wondering, Taylor, who retired from the UW-Madison last spring, will continue as director of the Madison Symphony Chorus. One wonders if she will still have a chance to do performances of the requiems by Verdi and Dvorak, both of which were canceled due to Covid-19.)

At a time when more focus is being placed on diversity, the Brazilian-born Farah (below) seems an especially apt choice.

Here is the official UW press release about Farah’s appointment along with much biographical material:

“Mariana Farah is the Associate Director of Choral Activities at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where she teaches courses in graduate choral literature and conducting, directs the university’s Concert Choir and Women’s Chorale (below bottom), and helps oversee all aspects of the choral program.

Born in Brazil, Farah received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas; her Master’s degree from the University of Iowa; and her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Her choirs have successfully performed at the Missouri and Kansas Music Educators Association conventions and at the 2008 and 2018 Southwestern ACDA conferences.

Farah’s research focuses on Brazilian choral music, particularly the a cappella choral works of Ernani Aguiar (b. 1950, below). Her edition of Aguiar’s “Três Motetinos No. 2” has been published by Earthsongs, and she expects to introduce more of his music to the United States through performances, recordings, editions and future publications of his unknown choral literature.

In addition to her work at KU, Farah (below) maintains an active schedule as a clinician for festivals in Brazil and in the U.S., where she is often sought out for her expertise in Brazilian choral music.

Farah has presented at several conferences for the National Association for Music Education and the American Choral Directors Association.

Recent engagements include appearances as a conductor at the 2019 Northwest Kansas Music Educators Association High School Honor Choir; the 2018 Southwestern ACDA conference, 2016 and 2014 Kansas Music Educators Association Convention; Universidade de São Paulo-Ribeirão Preto; Universidade Estadual de Campinas; Universidade Estadual de Maringá; Festival de Música de Londrina; Adams State Honor Choir Festival; the 2015 Kantorei Summer Choral Institute, a residency with the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum; and the 2014 Idaho All-State Treble Choir.

Farah is the music director at First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kansas, where she directs the Chancel Choir and oversees a thriving music program. She also serves as the interim 2019-20 conductor for the Wichita Chamber Chorale (below) and as a board member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization.

She has served as the president elect (2018-2020) and R&R Chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Perspectives (2014-2018) for the ACDA Southwestern Division.

As a singer, Farah performed with the Kansas City Te Deum Chamber Choir (2015-2018) and participated in their 2016 recording of Brahms’ “A German Requiem” (Centaur Records). The recording was recognized by The American Prize, naming Te Deum a semi-finalist for best Choral Performance (community division) for the 2019-20 contest.

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Classical music: The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble will use its 13th annual summer concerts to explore expressions of LOSS on this Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Plus, you can check Day 6 of WYSO’s tour to Argentina.

July 30, 2014
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ALERT: For the latest news from the 10-day tour to Argentina by the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), here is a link to Day 6:

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the many summer musical events that have become institutions to look forward to are the two concerts by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.

Here are the details, from a press release, for this weekend’s sets of two concerts:


MADISON – When conductor Scott MacPherson –- a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — convened some of Madison’s top singers in 2002, he had no way of knowing that the newly formed Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below) would begin one of Madison’s most anticipated summer musical traditions. (You can hear a stirring sample at the bottom in a YouTube video of a live performance by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.)

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble group concert dress

Now in its 13th year, the ensemble -– a professional-level choir of approximately 60 singers –- brings new life to over 500 years of choral music. Amazingly, the choir continues to do it all within a brief two-week rehearsal period.

This intense spirit of camaraderie produces a singular and remarkable experience, year after year.

Madison-area audiences have two opportunities to hear the 2014 program.

The traditional Friday night concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on this Friday, August 1, at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham Street. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors; children 12 or under get in for free. Tickets can be bought at the door or on-line at

Christ Presbyterian Church

The program will be repeated at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, August 3, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road. General admission tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for students and seniors. Children under 13 get in free. Tickets can be bought at the door or on-line at:

Covenant Presbyterian Church chancel

This year, the singers will tackle texts in Latin, French (medieval and modern), Russian, German, English and even a form of nonsense language, notated loosely in Finnish, inspired by both Scandinavian folk dance and the Muppets’ Swedish Chef (below).

Swedish Chef

This year’s performance includes introspective choral masterworks by Henry Purcell, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner and others, exploring the labyrinth of emotions begat by LOSS.

Also featured are contemporary works by Andrew Rindfleisch and Lionel Daunais, and a rousing conclusion with spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan.

The French chanson “Mille regretz” by the 15th century composer Josquin des Prez (below top) is matched by a modern setting by Andrew Rindfleisch (below bottom). Here is a link top the home website for the Prix de Rome-winning composer Andrew Rindfliesch, who did his bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison:

Josquin Des Prez

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

The choir’s renowned low basses will be on display in Russian works including Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Tebé poyém (We Hymn Thee)” and Alexander Gretchaninoff’s stunning “Ñe rïdáy Meñé, Máti (Do not lament me, O Mother).”


Alexander Grechaninov in 1912

From the German tradition, Johannes Brahms’ Two Motets, Op. 74 (beginning with “Warum ist das Licht gegeben”), join Anton Bruckner’s classic “Virga Jesse.”


Anton Bruckner 2

Other composers represented include Jaako Mäntyjärvi, Lionel Daunais, Henry Purcell (below), Imant Raminsh and the great spiritual arranger Moses Hogan.


The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble is led by Scott MacPherson (below), director of choral activities at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, who trained at the UW-Madison.

Scott MacPherson older BW

The IVE’s members include professional singers and choral directors, professors, lawyers, students and passionate advocates for the arts. The choir has performed by invitation at the North Central Conference of the American Choral Directors Association, commissioned several world premieres and released two albums.

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble rehearsing with Scott MacPherson

For more information, visit or the choir’s page on Facebook.



Classical music datebook: This very busy week features a four-day national choral conference, plus orchestral and chamber music as well as The Metropolitan Opera’s “LIve in HD” production of Wagner’s “Gotterdammerung.”

February 8, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

This is a big week for vocal music in Madison, with both a four-day national choral conference and on Saturday the long-awaited “The MET Live in HD” broadcast of “Gotterdammerung,” the final installment of Richard Wagner’s mammoth “Ring” cycle in a new production by the Metropolitan Opera that began last season.

But there is also a lot of orchestral and chamber music to be heard, especially by University of Wisconsin performers and guest artists.

Here is a round-up;


The American Choral Directors Association will host its national conference in Madison from today through Saturday. It will feature some 2,000 singers with 700 directors and quite a few local groups, including the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below, in a photo by Jim Pippitt) plus the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Youth Choirs (see Friday’s listing.)

Many venues will be used, among them the Overture Center.

Tickets have been kept affordable and run $5-$15.

For a background story, visit:

For a list of events and performers, visit the American Choral Directors Association site:


The FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the First Unitarian Society’s Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature “From the Sublime to the Ridiculous” with Eva Wright, organ; Donna Corcoran, soprano; Tyrone Greive, violin; Janet Greive, cello; and Betty Bielefeld, flute.


At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra, under conductors Jim Smith (below) and David Grandis, and the winners of the annual concerto and composition competition will perform a FREE concert.

The concerto winners are violinist Alice Bartsch, pianist Jeongmin Lee, baritone Michael Roemer and marimbist Brett Walter.  The composition winner is Youn-Jae Ok.  The conductors are James Smith and David Grandis. (A special posting about this concert and these young performers will be featured tomorrow.)

The program includes “Scottish Fantasy” by Max Bruch, “Le nozze de Figaro by Mozart, Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody for Marimba and Orchestra, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58, and the world premiere of DMA Youn-Jae Ok’s Mi-Ryen.

A reception for musicians and audience will follow in Mills Hall lobby, sponsored by the School of Music Alumni Association.

 At 8 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus’ oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” will receive its Wisconsin and Madison premiere.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students (available from Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141.)

The work was commissioned in 2005 by the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis as a gift to Temple Israel Synagogue in commemoration of both the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps and the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document “Nostra Aetate,” which officially decried anti-Semitism and opened the doors to significant interfaith dialogue.

It will be conducted by Lee Nelson (Wartburg College) and performed by Wisconsin Youth Orchestra’s Youth Orchestra; the Madison Youth Choirs (the Britten and Capriccio choirs, below) and a combined choir of singers from Nebraska Wesleyan, Minnesota State and Wartburg College.


At 11 a.m. at the Point and Eastgate cinemas in Madison, the Metropolitan Opera’s “The MET Live in HD” series will present “Gotterdammerung” (The Twilight of the Gods), the last in Richard Wagner’s ambitious “Ring” cycle.

Tickets are $24, $22 for seniors. The production, which stars Deborah Voight (below with Morris), Bryn Terfel and Jay Hunter Morris as well as The Machine set of Cirque du Soleil director Robert Lepage, lasts six hours.

Here is a link to a video preview and other links to downloadable program notes and other information.

Four members of the eight-musician Oakwood Chamber Players (below, in a photo by Bill Arthur) will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Oakwood University Woods Auditorium, 6209 Mineral Point Rd., and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the UW-Madison Arboretum Welcome Center, 1207 Seminole Hwy.

Tickets at the door are $20; $15 for seniors; and $5 for students.

Performers are Leyla Sanyer, violin; Christopher Dozoryst, viola; Maggie Darby Townsend, cello; and Vincent Fuh, piano.

The program is the Trio in C minor, Op. 66, by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847), which replaces the advertised Schumann Piano Quartet, and the Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 15, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).

For information visit:


This week’s “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” features the Ancia Saxophone Quartet (below) on Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery Number III at the Chazen Museum of Art.

As usual, the concert will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio.

The acclaimed quartet performs regularly at regional, national and international composition and saxophone conferences, including the World Saxophone Congresses in Montreal (2000) and Minneapolis (2003).

The quartet will be performing a program including the works of modernist composers of the 20th Century Charles Ives, William Albright, and Jean Absil; a quartet by Romantic-era composer Alexander Glazunov; and “Hammering Away (at the Great Unknown)” by the highly acclaimed Caroline Mallonée, a composer of today’s era.

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.

A reception follows the performance, with refreshments generously donated by Fresh Madison Market, Coffee Bytes and Steep & Brew. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m., members of The Oakwood Chamber Players will perform Mendelssohn and Faure at the UW Arboretum Visitors Center (below). See Saturday above. 

At 2 pm. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra (below), conducted by James Smith and graduate assistant conductor David Grandis, performs a FREE concert.

The program features “Homage to Mozart” by Frank Martin; “Pulcinella Suite” by Igor Stravinsky; and “Symphony No. 3 in A minor,” Op. 56 (“Scottish”) by Felix Mendelssohn.

At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Guest Artist Series will offer a FREE recital by pianist Robert Shannon (below), a member of the faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory.  “Sonata in D major,” D. 850 by Schubert; “Le moqueur polyglotte” (“The Mockingbird”) from “Des canyons aux etoiles” (“From the Canyons to the Stars”) by Messiaen; and two movements from “Years of Pilgrimage” (Second Year: Italy) by Liszt.


At 7 p.m. in Morphy Hall, piano Robert Shannon will give a FREE and public master class. He is a specialist in the Taubman Method, which stresses injury-avoidance. See his concert on Sunday.


At 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall: The UW Faculty Concert Series will offer a FREE concert by Mark Hetzler, trombone (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) and Vincent Fuh, piano; with Yorel Lashley, conga; and percussionists Anthony Di Sanza, Sean Kleve, Joseph Murfin and Brett Walter.

The program features “Mystic with a Credit Card” by Michael Colgrass; “Sonata for trombone and piano” by Daniel Schnyder; “Sonata” by Jack Cooper; and “Javier’s Dialog” by Dennis Llinas.

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