The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Co-artistic director Cheryl Bensman Rowe talks about early Eastern European music, which is the focus of this summer’s Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF). The festival starts this coming Saturday and runs through the next Saturday. Here is Part 1 of 2 parts.

July 6, 2015
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The 16th annual Madison Early Music Festival opens this coming Saturday night and runs through the All-Festival Concert the following Saturday night. The topic is “Slavic Discoveries: Early Music from Eastern Europe.”

MEMF 2015 Slavic banner

Here is a link to the home website, where you can find complete information about events, concerts, venues and prices:

http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/

Cheryl Bensman Rowe, who co-directs the festival with her husband, UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe, agreed to talk about the festival and its lineup of workshops, lectures and concerts. Her interview will run in two parts. Today is Part 1.

Cheryl Rowe color 2

How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? How well established is MEMF now nationally or even internationally?

This year we are right on track with enrollment, budget and performers as we have been for the past several years. MEMF was “on the map” literally, as you will see from this article from the summer edition of the magazine Early Music America, a national publication that is read by all early music enthusiasts and professionals. We were honored to be included in this map of not-to-be-missed festivals.

Here is a sampling of Early Music Samplings this summer:
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/EMAM/21-2/index.php?startid=8

Our faculty and ensembles come from all over the world:

The Rose Ensemble (below) is from Minneapolis. www.roseensemble.org

East of the River is based in New York City, although the performers are originally from Israel, Turkey, and the United States. www.eastoftherivermusic.com

Piffaro is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: www.piffaro.org

Ensemble Peregrina is based in Basel, Switzerland, and their members are originally from Poland, Finland, Switzerland and the U.S.: www.peregrina.ch

rose ensemble performing

What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?

Our biggest news is that we are now a part of The Arts Institute on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Our program director, Chelcy Bowles, retired from the Division of Continuing Studies at the UW, and she felt that MEMF would be a perfect fit for this relatively new initiative on campus.

Our new program director, Sarah Marty, has been a part of MEMF since she was a student, and has also been a participant in the MEMF workshops, and on our board. She knows a lot of the “behind the scenes “ information, which was really helpful when she took over for Chelcy.

The workshop format remains the same, but this year we have several new faculty members from some of the ensembles:

Daphna Mor, from East of the River (below), teaching recorder and Balkan music.

Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett and Kelly Landerkin from Ensemble Peregrina, teaching Polish medieval chant.

Michael Kuharski, http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Michael-Kuharski/9630833, a fantastic teacher of Balkan dance, will be leading the wonderful dance event with live music played by the local Balkan music ensemble Veseliyka.

https://veseliyka.wordpress.com/

The dance event will be on Wednesday, July 15, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

East of the River 2

Why was the topic of the Early Eastern European music chosen for the festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?

There has been a lot of new musical discoveries over the past ten years of repertoire from Eastern Europe. John W. Barker brought up the idea of Polish Music, and Tom Zajac, a faculty member and performer who has been to MEMF for at least 12 years, has done a lot of research in this area, and was interested in sharing it with MEMF. We are always looking for new and interesting topics to present, and the time seemed right to bring this music to Madison.

Please look at the concerts link for more information about each individual concert:

http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/concerts.htm

John-Barker

Tomorrow: Part 2 — What makes early Slavic music different? What composers are being rediscovered? And what will the All-Festival concert feature?  

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform a concert of Russian and Baltic music this Saturday night — in the shadow of political events and turmoil in Ukraine. Plus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet also performs a FREE concert of Bach, Gershwin and others on Saturday night.

March 28, 2014
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Two fine and FREE concerts are on tap this Saturday night:

WISCONSIN CHAMBER CHOIR

On this Saturday night, March 29, in the critically acclaimed Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will perform its spring concert.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir 1

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church (below top is the exterior, below bottom the acoustically terrific beautiful interior), located at the corner of West Washington Avenue at Carroll Street, on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

grace episcopal church ext

grace episcopal church inter

The concert features Russian music. But it worth noting that even an event this small and this local shows the ripples of the political situation in Ukraine where Russia has illegally annexed Crimea. Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for students. “Because of the situation in Ukraine (below), the choir made a decision to change the title of the concert from “Back to the U.S.S.R.” to just “Spring Concert,” the choir says. “We are confident the change will help our audience focus on the beautiful music and not current politics.”

Venezuela protest 2014

The riches of Russian choral music will be represented by selections from the Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninoff (below top) along with ravishingly beautiful works by  Alexander Grechaninov (below middle in 1912) and Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (below bottom and at bottom in a YouTube video).

rachmaninoffyoung

Alexander Grechaninov in 1912

Chesnokov mug

The scope widens to include sacred and secular music from various former Soviet Republics. Works by Veljo Tormis (below top) of Estonia), Pēteris Vasks of Latvia (below middle) and Vytautas Miškinis of Lithuania (below n bottom) exemplify the vibrant choral traditions of the Baltic states.

Tormis

Vasks

Miskinis portrait

Sacred and secular works from Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Belarus round out this fascinating and varied program. There is also the possibility of something by the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney (blew left and right, respectively) to bring things to a rousing close.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Advance tickets are available for $15 from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports. Student tickets are $10. Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Joseph Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world-premieres. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s artistic director.

Robert Gehrenbeck

WISCONSIN BRASS QUINTET

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (below, in a 2013 performance photo by Jon Harlow) in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will perform a FREE concert on Saturday night, March 29,  8 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Maidson campus.

WBQ members include John Aley, trumpet; Jessica Jensen, trumpet; Daniel Grabois, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; John Stevens, tuba; and special guest Abby Stevens, soprano, who is the daughter of John Stevens, who is retiring this May.

The program offers “Distant Voices” by David Sampson; “Brass Calendar” by Peter Schickele, aka P.D.Q. Bach); “Contrapunctus” by Johann Sebastian Bach; and a selection of songs by George Gershwin sung by Abby Stevens.

Wisconsin Brass Quintet 2013 CR Jon Harlow

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