The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Two percussion concerts — by Clocks in Motion and Madison native Nathaniel Bartlett — take place on Sunday afternoon. This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale features vocal music by many composers.

October 23, 2014
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ALERT: This Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Rachel Eve Holmes (below), soprano; Christopher Apfelbach, baritone and Michael Keller, piano, in the music of Carlisle Floyd, Reynaldo Hahn, Amy Beach, Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Faure, Paul Bowles and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Rachel Eve Holmes big

By Jacob Stockinger

As I wrote and posted on Monday and Tuesday, Friday night is a major “train wreck” of competing concerts.

But Sunday is busy also and brings potential conflicts, particularly for percussion fans, though there is time to get from one concert to the other.

CLOCKS IN MOTION

On Sunday at NOON — NOT 1 p.m. as previously stated — in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the percussion group Clocks in Motion (below), will give a FREE concert. The program features world premieres as well as music by Frank Zappa, Edgard Varèse and John Cage. (Free parking is available on Sundays in nearby Grainger Hall in the basement of the UW-Madison Business School.)

Clocks collage 2014

Here is a press release from the group, which includes Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski and James McKenzie:

“Contemporary chamber ensemble Clocks in Motion blends the classical concert hall with the rock n’ roll venue in a bold performance on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The program will pair one of the first pieces written for percussion ensemble with music by iconoclast Frank Zappa.

Zappa listed Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking work, Ionisation, as one of his fundamental inspirations in becoming a composer.

Clocks will juxtapose this influential piece with Zappa’s Black Page, a drum solo that was later expanded to a full-band tune.  Black Page’s uniquely virtuosic sound blends rock, contemporary, and experimental avant-garde music.

Guitarist Anthony Lanman joins the program as a guest performer on the world premiere of his 8-string electric guitar concerto, Automaton.

A lush quartet for mallet percussion, piano, and cello by Joseph Diedrich will also receive its world premiere.

Rounding out the program is John Cage’s Second Construction, a grooving classic in the percussion literature.

Here are more specifics about the program:

Ionisation: Although it is only 5 minutes long, Edgard Varèse’s seminal percussion piece laid the groundwork for 90-plus years of composition for the genre (and beyond, as displayed by Frank Zappa). Varèse (below) explores the coloristic possibilities of percussion with unique instruments including drums, woodblocks, sirens, cymbals, chimes, maracas, slapsticks, and more.

edgard varese

Black Page: Originally constructed as a drum solo in a style unique to Frank Zappa (below), Black Page is known for its impressive rhythmic complexity and polyrhythms. This meticulous, thrilling piece is in two parts: No. 1, a full-ensemble percussion unison featuring a “statistical density”; and No. 2, the “Easy Teenage New York Version,” which grooves through the same material with a full band.

Frank Zappa

Automaton: Says Anthony Lanman (below): “When Clocks in Motion asked me to write a piece for them, immediately their name set off a series of images in my head. I saw a lonely watchmaker — an unappreciated genius — who had a vision in his mind of a great automaton. I saw him slaving away in his workshop, creating the massive creature, and then, finally, releasing it (with the best of intentions) upon the world. Unfortunately, the automaton didn’t function as planned…

“This all broke down into a concerto for electric guitar and percussion, and was organized into three movements: I. Watchmaker’s Daydream – II. Workshop/Steam – III. …In Motion.”

anthony lanman headshot 1

Saturation: Writes Joseph Diedrich: Composed in 2013, Saturation combines the distinct timbral subtleties of mallet percussion, strings, and piano. Using UW-Madison composer Stephen Dembski’s constellation protocol, the piece embarks on an evolutionary journey, culminating in the discovery of tonality. Starting with distant, sparse reverberations, Saturation quickly becomes a wild musical adventure.

Joseph Diedrich

Second Construction: The 1940 work by John Cage (below) is scored for four players, and features piano prepared with cardboard, screws, and a metal cylinder carefully placed inside the instrument. The instrumentation is fascinating — water gong, temple bowls, almglocken, maracas and tam-tam are heard.

John Cage and cat

New music, new instruments and new sounds define Clocks in Motion’s fresh and innovative approach to contemporary classical performance. Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program. Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.

Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, this ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire. You can hear how they make music on found objects in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate young audiences through master classes, residencies, presentations and school assemblies.

The ensemble’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of rock, jazz, contemporary classical, orchestral, marching and world styles.

Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as the affiliate ensemble of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

NATHANIEL BARTLETT

At 6:30 p.m. in Promenade Hall of Overture Hall, the Madison-born percussionist and marimba-player Nathaniel Bartlett (below), who uses complex computer technology in his music, will perform an unusual concert.

Nathaniel Bartlett 2

Tickets are $16.

Here is a link to the full description of the artist and the concert:

http://www.overturecenter.org/events/nathaniel-bartlett

 

 

 

 

 


Classical music: Fresco Opera Theatre lands a body slam and puts a submission hold on opera and wrestling this Friday and Saturday in its production of “Opera Smackdown” at the Overture Center. And the audience will get to choose the winner!

March 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Opera is rarely just opera when the creative talents behind Fresco Opera Theatre decide to do it. Invariably, the Fresco folks come up with some creative and new or unexpected take that combines self-deprecating humor with serious singing and acting talent.

Take the latest project.

Is professional wrestling real competition? Or is it a staged, even faked, competition? And what does real opera’s theatrical qualities have in common with professional wrestling?

But then what does it really matter as long as the participants and fans have fun?

To launch its fourth season, Fresco Opera Theatre’s latest production — called “Opera SmackDown” –- is this coming weekend. It will be held on Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Promenade Hall in the Overture Center. 

Fresco Opera Theatre logo

Here is one description from the preview video that sounds exactly like a Ring Announcer’s hype if you read it out loud:

From all over the country, from all “fachs” (that’s opera lingo for voice categories such as Coloratura, Lyric, Dramatic Soprano), bringing a fresh take on opera for a good portion of the 21st century, Fresco Opera, the worldwide leader in live entertainment brings you Opera SmackDown.

“The SmackDown Champion is the most coveted title in the opera world. There is no parallel, no bigger accolade in the genre. It is the dream of every competitor who ever stepped out on stage. From young artists to seasoned vets, eight singers will endure vocal battles they have trained years to prepare for.

“Who will outperform to seize the spotlight in this collision course with destiny? ONLY the studio audience can, and will, decide. Their vote determines the winner in this live internet broadcast, spanning the globe for all to see!

“These singers will battle each other, sacrifice their bodies, betray colleagues, and embrace the soulless ally that is desperation. To the victor goes the spoils. To the winner, a once in a lifetime chance to become the next heir apparent to the Fresco Opera SmackDown throne!”

Does the winner get to wear one of those really outrageously big and blingy belt buckles too?

wrestling belt

Here is how Jeff Turk, the president of the group’s board of directors who can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom, describes the production and its novel concept:

“SmackDown is a take on the traditional vocal competition, with elements of pro-wrestling thrown in. We came upon this concept given the cut-throat nature and over-the-top presentations of both competitions and wrestling.

“Another twist is that the AUDIENCE will choose the winner. And the winner will receive a cash prize!

“Our goal here is to introduce the masses to opera. We have demonstrated over the years that performing classical music using familiar pop culture references makes it less intimidating for people who may not have any experience in the concert hall.

“I am proud of the fact our organization has inspired countless numbers of people who have had no experience with classical music to embrace it — which is good for all classical performers and organizations in the Madison area.

Tickets are $20.

Here are some links.

To the Fresco Website and preview video:

http://www.frescooperatheatre.com

http://www.frescooperatheatre.com/upcoming-productions.html

To the Overture Center for tickets:

http://overturecenter.com/production/opera-smackdown

And here are mini-bios of the contestants, with their nom-de-wrestling, vying for the championship:

Fresco Opera Theatre cast for Opera SmackDown

Mezzo Soprano Allison Waggener (Primal) recently won praise from reviewers for her “fine legato” and “strength and vocal beauty” as Annio in dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s New York production of Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito.”   Other highlights from her 2012-2013 season include the roles of Miss Pooder in the Texas premiere of “The Hotel Casablanca” with Abilene Opera and Hansel in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with Opera Oggi.

Diana Kelly Eiler (The Valkyrie) majored in vocal performance at Heidelberg College, where she received the Ohl Prize and Hoernemann academic awards, as well as making her professional debuts with the Toledo Opera in “Babes in Toyland” and Findlay Light Opera in “The Gondoliers” and “Die Fledermaus” while still a student. She was a N.A.T.S. Great Lakes Regional winner, Jessye Norman Award recipient, and semi-finalist in the Friedrich Schorr Opera Star Search.

George Abbott (Canto Libre) has 20 years of singing performance experience starting with the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio at age nine. His credits include singing with: Madison Bach Musicians, Fresco Opera Theater, University Theater, Music Theater of Madison, Middleton Players Theater, Madison Opera Chorus, and Madison Choral Project.

J. Adam Shelton (The Gladiator), lyric tenor, recently performed as the Leading Man Ghost in Fresco Opera’s Paranormal Playhouse. During this season, he will finish his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin where his dissertation, “The Singing Dream: A 21st Century Critical Edition of Tauberlieder”, explores the compositions of the great Austrian tenor, Richard Tauber.

Madison native Rachel Edie Warrick (Vox) is thrilled to be singing her second show with Fresco Opera. Rachel is a versatile performer who has sung with Madison Opera, Opera for the Young, Madison Choral Project and the Madison Bach Musicians. Rachel has also been a soloist throughout the Midwest in Handel’s “Messiah” and “Alexander’s Feast,” J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, Magnificat, and “St. Matthew Passion,” the Mozart Vespers, and Haydn’s “The Creation.”

Soprano Erin Sura (Toxin) has recently been seen performing the role of Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” with East Side Chamber Players, and in the Skylight Opera Theatre’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” in addition to appearing as a soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Concord Chamber Orchestra, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with the South Shore Chorale.

Soprano CatieLeigh Laszewski(Asylum) is currently completing a Master of Music degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. With UW Opera, she has performed the role of Caterina in Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz” and scenes from “Die Fledermaus” (Rosalinda), Bizet’s “Carmen” (Frasquita), “Hansel and Gretel” (Gretal), and Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” (Melisande) in Opera Workshop.

Caroline Wright (The Boss), Soprano, received her vocal training at Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While studying, Caroline performed roles such as Lauretta from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” the title role from Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah,” and Donna Anna from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J37IEOXiRGI

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