The Well-Tempered Ear

Here is a collaborative obituary for music critic, radio host, performer and gay pioneer Jess Anderson, who died in January at 85

March 7, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

In late January of this year, Jess Anderson (below) — a longtime friend, devoted musician and respected music critic – died at 85.

The Ear promised then that when more was known or written, it would be posted on this blog.

That time has come.

Jess was a polymath, a Renaissance Man, as the comments below attest to time and again.

For the past several years, he suffered from advancing dementia and moved from his home of 56 years to an assisted living facility. He had contracted COVID-19, but died from a severe fall from which he never regained consciousness.

Jess did not write his own obituary and he had no family member to do it. So a close friend – Ed Wegert (below) – invited several of the people who knew Jess and worked with him, to co-author a collaborative obituary. We are all grateful to Ed for the effort the obituary took and for his caring for Jess in his final years.

In addition, the obituary has some wonderful, not-to-be-overlooked photos of Jess young and old, at home, with friends, sitting at the piano and at his custom-built harpsichord.

It appears in the March issue of Our Lives, a free statewide LGBTQ magazine that is distributed through grocery stores and other retail outlets as well as free subscriptions. Here is a link to the magazine’s home webpage for details about it: https://ourliveswisconsin.com.

That Jess was an exceptional and multi-talented person is obvious even from the distinguished names of the accomplished people who contributed to the obituary:

They include:

Chester Biscardi (below), who is an acclaimed prize-winning composer, UW-Madison graduate, composer and teacher of composition at Sarah Lawrence College.

John Harbison (below), the MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who teaches at MIT and co-directs the nearby Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in the summer.

Rose Mary Harbison (below), who attended the UW-Madison with Jess and became a professional performing and teaching violinist who co-directs the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

Steve Miller (below), a close friend who became a bookmaker and is now a professor at the University of Alabama.

The Ear, who knew Jess over many decades, was also invited to contribute.

Here is a link to the joint obituary in Our Lives magazine, a free LGBTQ periodical that you can find in local grocery store and other retail outlets: https://ourliveswisconsin.com/article/remembering-jess-anderson/?fbclid=IwAR027dzv2YqRUNlYF1cF6JyXnEcQxAwcprPYbtBQCs3rYt0Nu847W_xbjpk

Feel free to leave your own thoughts about and memories of Jess in the comment section.

It also seems a fitting tribute to play the final chorus from The St. John Passion of Johann Sebastian Bach. You can hear it in the YouTube video below. It is, if memory serves me well, the same piece of sublime music that Jess played when he signed off from hosting his Sunday morning early music show for many years on WORT-FM 89.9.

 


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Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra receives a National Endowment for the Arts grant for community outreach and music therapy, and gives its season-closing last performance of “The Gershwin Legacy” this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. Plus, the University of Wisconsin Masters Singers give a FREE concert Monday night.

May 4, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Today brings some of this and some of that:

MSO GETS NEA MUSIC THERAPY GRANT

The federal National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) a $15,000 grant to support HeartStringsSM, an internationally-recognized music therapy-informed community engagement program for individuals with special needs.

The MSO, under music director John DeMain, is one of 886 nonprofit organizations nationwide that received grants totaling $25.8 million.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

HeartStrings uses live music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of children and adults with disabilities, long-term illnesses, dementia, and assisted-living needs.

The distinctive program is presented free-of-charge by the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), a professional string quartet comprised of principal MSO musicians: from left, they are violinist Suzanne Beia, violinist Laura Burns, violist Christopher Dozoryst and cellist Karl Lavine.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

The Quartet leads a series of 9 group music therapy-informed sessions at 10 retirement communities, healthcare facilities, and state institutions across Dane County each year. It reaches nearly 3,200 individuals per season–many of whom would not otherwise have access to the restorative effects of live classical music.

Acting NEA Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation’s artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape.”

Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. A complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support is available at the NEA website at http://arts.gov/.

MSO Education and Community Engagement Director Michelle Kaebisch (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) commented, “HeartStrings is a signature program of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and has transformed healthcare environments by bringing meaningful musical experiences directly to individuals across south-central Wisconsin. This nationally-recognized community engagement initiative combines the profound impact of live music with interactive, music therapy-informed activities designed to promote the well being of traditionally underserved populations.”

Michelle Kaebisch WYSO cr Katrin Talbot

THE “GERSHWIN LEGACY” PROGRAM ENDS MSO SEASON TODAY

Here is a link to background preview with information about tickets and program notes to the program about the musical legacy of American composer George Gershwin (see the photo of Gershwin further down) with music by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Harold Arlen.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-turns-this-weekend-to-george-gershwin-and-his-legacy-with-leonard-bernstein-stephen-sondheim-and-harold-arlen-to-close-out-its-88th-season-and-conducto/

Clearly, the program  points to what George Gershwin might have achieved had he lived longer than 39 and had he developed the orchestral skills he was exploring in the “Catfish Row” Suite he extracted from his folk opera “Porgy and Bess.” (You can hear it performed by conductor James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Also, two stars are born at the MSO concert — by which I mean that two local talents were given the opportunity to stand out, and they did: the young pianist Garrick Olsen (below top) and the increasingly familiar soprano Emily Birsan (below bottom), who was trained at the University of Wisconsin-Madiosn School of Music and then the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Garrick Olsen MSO 2014

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

Just read the review by John W. Barker (below) for Isthmus. Here is a link: 

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42665&sid=b176b1add7d22af437fc720c5a689e79

John-Barker

And here is a link to the review by Greg Hettsmanberger (below) for Madison Magazine:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/May-2014/Madison-Symphony-Closes-Season-With-Two-Legacies/

greg hettmansberger mug

And here are links to the MSO’s new 2014-15 season:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/classical-music-madison-symphony-orchestra-announces-its-new-2014-15-season-including-programs-soloists-and-ticket-prices/

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/14-15

gershwin with pipe

UW MASTERS SINGERS PERFORM MONDAY

On this Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music Masters Singers will perform a FREE concert.

The choir will singer under the direction of Anna Volodarskaya and Adam Kluck (below).

Sorry, no word about the program.

Adam Kluck conducting

 

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