The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A new blog about the future of classical music has been launched in Madison by Lydia Sewell. It is called “A View From the Stage” and features interviews with prominent musicians

March 24, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

As the classical music industry continues to shift and adapt to changing cultural patterns, many performers, administrators, educators, journalists, and music enthusiasts are tracking these changes and exploring best practices to keep the institution alive.

In December 2017, Madison native Lydia Sewell (below) – an accomplished  violinist and daughter of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra artistic director Andrew Sewell — launched a blog that seeks to address those issues in a comprehensive, timely fashion.

“A View From the Stage” features the voices of world-renowned classical musicians, educators and arts administrators and their thoughts on the future of classical music and symphony orchestras.

The blog arose out of Sewell’s research on the strike by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2016.

Says Sewell: “As a graduate student at Duquesne University prepping for auditions, I was trying to answer the question, ‘If orchestras like the PSO are struggling to survive, what does that mean for regional orchestras who don’t have the donor bases that the majors rely on?”

“A View from the Stage” currently features interviews with musicians including Noah Bendix-Balgely, concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic; Scott Pingel, principal bass of the San Francisco Symphony; David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra who performed this fall at the UW-Madison; and Eric Nowlin, principal viola of the Detroit Symphony, as well as administrators including Paul Hogle, Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and critic and composer Gregory Sandow.

With more than 30 interviews to roll out in the coming months, Sewell plans to continue interviewing classical thinkers and document their perspectives in “A View From the Stage,” in hopes to initiate further conversations surrounding 21st-century musicianship, concert reinvention and the sustainability of symphony orchestras.

Here are links to featured interviews, with photos below the link:

Noah Bendix-Balgely: https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/8/4/noah-bendix-balgely

Scott Pingel: https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/8/4/scott-pingel

David Kim (photo by Ryan Donnell): https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/10/26/david-kim

Eric Nowlin:

https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/8/9/eric-nowlin-principal-violist-of-the-detroit-symphony

Paul Hogle:

https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/10/27/paul-hogle

Gregory Sandow: https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/8/21/gregory-sandow

Mike Block:

 https://www.lydiasewell.com/aviewfromthestage/2017/8/4/mike-block

Upcoming interviews include:

Steve Hackman (conductor, composer, arranger)

Rachel Barton Pine (violin soloist)

Tracy Silverman (electric violin soloist)

Kate Sheeran (Dean, Provost of San Francisco Conservatory)

Philip Setzer (Emerson String Quartet)

Aaron Dworkin (Founder of Sphinx, Detroit)

Stanford Thompson (Founder Play on Philly!)

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Classical music: Sound the trumpets! Brass Fest 4 is this Saturday and Sunday at the UW-Madison

September 27, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

A fanfare is in order!

By the fourth year, an event has certainly become a tradition to look forward to and to follow.

So it is with Brass Fest IV, which will take place this Saturday and Sunday at the University of Wisconsin’s Mead Witter School of Music.

The activities will fill two days with workshops, master classes and concerts.

Music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” will be featured, along with many contemporary composers and arrangers.

Many of the events, including the big Saturday night concert at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

The big Sunday afternoon concert at 2:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, with both brass quintets plus students, costs $15 for adults and $5 for non-School of Music students. A post-concert reception to meet students and other performers is included. (Below are students rehearsing at Brass Fest 3.)

The special guest this weekend is the Beaumont Brass Quintet from Michigan State University (below). Members are Ava Ordman, trombone; Corbin Wagner, horn; Alessandro Bonotto, trumpet; Philip Sinder, tuba and euphonium; and brass area chair; and Justin Emerich, trumpet.

The Beaumont Brass Quintet has recorded a CD of Christmas music for Naxos Records. See the YouTube video at the  bottom.

Also appearing with the Beaumont is the UW-Madison’s own Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson). Members, from left, are: Alex Noppe and Matthew Onstad, trumpets; Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; and Daniel Grabois, horn.

For more information about the many activities, including biographies of the performers, full concert programs, a listing of other events, and tickets, go to:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/brass-fest-iv/2017-09-30/


Classical music: What makes the 25th anniversary season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society special? The three-week annual summer season opens this Friday night and runs for the next three weekends in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green.

June 7, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The big classical music event this week is the opening of the 25th anniversary season of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

BDDS 25th poster

It was co-founded and is still co-directed by pianist Jeffrey Sykes, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley; and by Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute at the UW-Madison School of Music who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Here is a link to the BDDS website with information about tickets, programs, venues and performers:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

Recently, Jutt (below) spoke to The Ear about the upcoming season, which runs June 10-26:

StephanieJuttNoCredit

“This silver anniversary season has something for everybody, and we’ve made it extra special in every way, with personnel, with repertoire and with audience favorites that we’re bringing back.

“In the first week, we have two short pieces by our featured composer, Kevin Puts “Air for Flute and Piano” and “Air for Violin and Piano,” and the world premiere of “In at the Eye: Six Love Songs on Yeats’ Poetry,” a piece we co-commissioned, with several other participating festivals, from the American composer Kevin Puts (below).

We commissioned him just before he won the Pulitzer Prize, luckily for us! We have performed several works by him in the past (“Einstein on Mercer Street,” “Traveler” and “Seven Seascapes”), and he will be here for the premiere performances at the Overture Playhouse and the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen compound in Spring Green.

(NOTE: Composer Kevin Puts will speak about “How Did You Write That?” at the FREE family concert on this coming Saturday, to be held 11-11:45 a.m. in The Playhouse of the Overture Center.)

Kevin Puts pulitzer

“In Week 2, we have three crazy, inspired works by Miguel del Aguila (below), a Uruguayan composer from Montevideo, who now lives in Los Angeles, that we commissioned and premiered. We’ll be performing “Salon Buenos Aires,” the piece that we commissioned, along with “Presto II” and “Charango Capriccioso.”

Miguel del Aguila

During Week Two, we are also bringing back the amazing pianist, arranger and raconteur Pablo Zinger (below), also originally from Uruguay and a longtime New Yorker, to perform his arrangements of movie music by Nino Rota, Henry Mancini and others, as well as some of Pablo’s brilliant arrangements of tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

Pablo Zinger at piano

“In Week 3, we are bringing back the “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla and the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. People have begged us to repeat this program for years. It’s one of the most thrilling programs we’ve done, and this seems like the perfect time to return to this beloved repertoire. (You can hear the Summer section of Piazzolla’s Four Season of Buenos Aires in the youTube video at the bottom.)

“In the same Week Three, you will also hear some favorite works, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and, in Week 1, Franz Schubert’s final song cycle, “Schwanengesang” (Swan Songs”) with one of our favorite artists, bass-baritone Timothy Jones (below top). That third week also features the Ravel Piano Trio with the San Francisco Trio (below bottom), comprised of Axel Strauss on violin, Jean-Michel Fontaneau on cello, and JeffreySykes on piano.

Timothy Jones posed portrait

BDDS 2014 San Francisco Trio

“We wanted to repeat special things and also do new pieces. Some of the music has links to the number 25 for our 25th anniversary – like Opus 25 for the Piano Quartet by Johannes Brahms or the Piano Concerto No. 25 by Mozart.

“We’re spending a lot more on artist fees this summer – it increases our budget by a lot, but it makes for a very special 25th season. We will have special mystery guests and special door prizes, as we love to do, and some special audience participation activities. (Below is a standing ovation from the audience at The Playhouse.)

BDDS 2014 Playhouse standing ovation

“Did we think we would reach 25 years when we started? Of course not! We didn’t even think we’d reach two. It was started on such a lark.

“But the festival resonated with the summer audience and has every single year. I think we’ve been a success because listeners love to approach serious music with a light touch. You don’t have to behave very seriously to play serious music in a serious way. Artists from all over the United States come to play with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and it’s what draws them back year after year.

“We make a huge effort to make the music approachable, for ourselves as well as the audience. We talk about the music itself, about what it is like to learn it, and what it’s like to be together in such an intense way during the festival.

“We try to share the whole experience with the audience, and it’s something you just don’t find anywhere else. The concert doesn’t just go on in front of you, presented on a fancy plate. It surrounds you and you are a part of it.”


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players will give two performances of “Holiday Fun” this coming Sunday afternoon.

November 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at The Oakwood Chamber Players write:

Join the Oakwood Chamber Players as they present two performances of Holiday Fun, their annual Christmas Lights concert on this coming Sunday, Nov. 29.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2015-16

Holiday Fun, which will mix in the sweet appeal of pieces such as Home for the Holidays, the upbeat It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and Vaughan-Williams’ gentle and lulling Withers Rocking Song.

Also on the program is Old World Wisconsin Christmas arranged for the group by Wisconsin composer and arranger Pierre LaPlante.

Pierre LaPlante

An array of holiday songs and carols, interspersed with stories, will fill out the concert programming. The group will offer a range of combinations from solo piano to keyboard plus a variety of winds and strings.

The ensemble is pleased to feature the talents of soprano Heather Thorpe (below) who will collaborate with the Oakwood Chamber Players on “The Oxen,” which brings to life the poetry of Thomas Hardy in a setting by Paul Brantley, as well as Pietro Yon’s “Gesu Bambino.” (You can it sung by Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Stade in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Heather Thorpe

Both performances are on Sunday afternoon and will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison far west wide. The first performance will be 1 p.m. with a second performance at 3:30 p.m.

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

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

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

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


Classical music Q&A: Founder Kevan Feyzi talks about the new Madison Area Trombone Ensemble (MATE), which will perform its FREE inaugural concert this Sunday in Madison. It features University of Wisconsin-Madison trombone professor Mark Hetzler as guest soloist.

March 27, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This Sunday, the Madison Area Trombone Ensemble will makes its official local debut when it performs its inaugural concert, with UW trombone professor and member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet Mark Hetzler as a special guest soloist.

MATE 6

The FREE concert is 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave., Madison, WI.

A new all-volunteer ensemble, MATE features many of the areas top trombonists, students, as well as members of the community, all of whom share a passion for music-making and trombone.  Members play in a wide variety of groups, such as the Madison Symphony, the WYSO Youth Orchestra, the Madison Jazz Orchestra, the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra, the Madison Brass Band and Phat Phunktion. (Performance photos below come from MATE when it performed at Barnes and Noble booksellers as part of the Wisconsin School Music Association’s “Music in Our Schools” Month Bookfair on March 13).

Mark Hetzler will be the guest soloist in David P. Jones’ “Bone Moan,” a work for solo trombone and six-part trombone choir. The piece draws on rhythms and harmonies found in not only jazz, but also reggae and Latin popular music. In both the solo and ensemble parts, the piece uses a full range of the trombone’s capabilities through the use of glissandi, mutes, flutter tonguing and other techniques.

MATE will also perform a piece by Madison-area bass trombonist and prolific composer-arranger Rich Woolworth, plus arrangements for trombone choir that span a variety of eras and styles, including works by Luca Marenzio, Franz Joseph Haydn, Randall Thompson and Duke Ellington.

The Ear asked MATE founder and player Kevan Feyzi (below) to talk about MATC and he kindly responded with an email Q&A:

Kevan Feyzi

When, why and how did the Madison Area Trombone Ensemble come into being?

Last summer, I was playing a bit with the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra (a large jazz band which performs charts from the Stan Kenton library). I looked to my left and right, and noticed that all four other trombonists are some of the finest players in the area and were doing this pro-bono. They each truly love to play, and do so as much as they have the time. In other groups I work with many other fine trombonists who have the same philosophy. All of us seem to get along quite well. So the light bulb then popped into my head: What if we all got together to make some music?

In the fall, I floated the idea around to trombonists around town and received very positive feedback, so I decided to go ahead with it. With some help from Steve Ash, who directs the Glenwood Moravian Trombone Choir, and the generosity of the staff of First United Methodist Church, the group finally got off the ground in January. We’re now 15 strong!

What do you and other members like about the trombone so much as to have created an all-trombone ensemble?

We’re all certainly biased, but consider this: Are any of the other members of the brass family as dynamic and versatile as the trombone? The amount of tone colors we can generate is so vast. I can hardly think of a genre of music where a trombone wouldn’t fit in. So we can play any sort of music, even in a group setting. And when you have a dozen-plus trombones playing together, you get something really remarkable. To me, it’s a collective sound that’s unsurpassed by any other collection of instruments.

I also have a lot of fun arranging for trombone choir — we can cover about the same range as a human, SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir. Choral music lends itself quite well to a group of trombones: in fact, on the March 30 concert we’ll be playing my choral arrangement of Randall Thompson’s well-known “Alleluia.” (You can hear a tribune choir perform Morten Lauridsen‘s “O Magnum Mysterium” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Trombone

What kind of repertoire will you favor? Original compositions? New music? Older established repertoire? Transcriptions? Classical music? Jazz and crossover music?

I make a point NOT to favor any one style (jazz versus classical) over another. Trombones sound great in all music, so let’s show off our versatility! For example, we’ll start off with some Renaissance music, some Haydn, and move chronologically forward — more or less — into the 20th century and jazz. There are all kinds of great arrangements and transcriptions for trombone choir—some great ones being done by members of the group in fact — but original repertoire is harder to come by.

So I’m particularly excited about a piece contributed by Monticello-based trombonist and composer Rich Woolworth (below top)  called “Octagon,” as well as the piece we’ll feature Mark Hetzler (below bottom, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) in, David P. Jones’ “Bone Moan.”

Rich Woolworth trombone

Mark Hetzler 2011 BIG COLOR Katrin Talbot

Mark Hetzler and David P. Jones (below) are long-time friends, and the two have collaborated on many compositions for trombone. I like to feature a few original trombone choir compositions on any performance, but these two stand out because of the local connections. The more we can play from the output of area composers, arrangers or members of the group, the better.

David P. Jones full face

Bone Moan CD cover

Do you worry about establishing another music group in a city with so many music groups already?

I suppose if money were a concern then I might, but this is a community group. MATE’s mission is one of music-making and camaraderie, while sharing the unique sound of a trombone choir with music lovers. I think that we can achieve that regardless of the amount of other groups in town. For a mid-sized city, we have a notably large music scene in Madison, which means that some very fine players can’t always commit to a series of weekly rehearsals and a performance or two.

About the only thing I’m concerned about is having enough players to make the group viable. But I’m quite satisfied about how the group has grown — 15 is a great number for a trombone choir, and it should only grow from there.

MATE 7 close up

What are your plans for future concerts and events? Is membership open and how does one audition?

I have a summer performance in the works much like what we’re doing this month, but I’d like to introduce the group into other performance settings as well. A group of trombones works just as well at a jazz festival as it does in a concert hall — we just have to play the appropriate repertoire. Membership is open to anyone in the community who plays the trombone solidly, and has a decent amount of experience. Anyone interested in joining is welcome to sit in for a rehearsal to see if they enjoy it.

What kind of support is the group seeking to keep it going?

A good-sized audience at our performances, and lots of positive vibes! I don’t keep a budget for the group: the players are all volunteering their musical talents, and I volunteer my own time outside of rehearsal to promote the group and keep things running smoothly. That being said, donations will be accepted at performances in order to purchase new music.

Is there anything else you would like to say or add?

Creating and directing this group has been a real bright spot for me in what’s been one of the worst winters in history. I’m very thankful for all the trombonists who have donated their time and efforts toward getting us off the ground, and I’m excited to keep it going!

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