The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The fifth FREE citywide annual Make Music Madison – featuring 300 concerts at 100 venues — takes place all day tomorrow

June 20, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tomorrow – Thursday, June 21, 2018 — is the Summer Solstice.

That means summer arrives.

That makes it the longest day and shortest night of the year.

And that also makes it the day when the fifth annual Make Music Madison will take place. The FREE citywide festival of outdoor music-making will go on all day.

According to the official website, there will be more than 300 concerts at more than 100 venues.

The website also has a very well-organized listing of concerts, artists and venues. It features a very user-friendly search engine – called a Filter Map — where you can check out the events by genre of music, name of the performers and the venue. It also includes rain accommodations, and given the weather this week, that could come in handy.

Here is a link to the complete listings:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/listings/2018/locations/

Here is a link to the website, which has a fascinating and impressive overview and also a gallery of photos from last year’s event:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org

Of course the majority of the music that will be played by both amateurs and professionals, both individuals and groups, will be non-classical: jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock and roll, folk, world, musical theater, early music, blues, Celtic, funk, gospel and many more.

But from what The Ear sees there are about 25 noteworthy classical offerings too. They include music for guitar, organ, brass, strings, cello, flute and piano, including a public piano that will be at the UW-Madison’s Alumni Park from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Other venues include churches and libraries, schools and shopping malls, parks and businesses.

Here is a more detailed list of classical offerings with artists as well as venues (you can hear a vocal group from 2015 in the YouTube video at the bottom):

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/listings/2018/artists?artist_name=&genre=Classical

Happy Listening!

If you go, leave a message about your reaction and how well it went in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Make Music Madison 2015 takes place this Sunday and features some impressive classical music projects. And there is still time to participate.

June 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sunday is the summer solstice, which arrives at 11:39 a.m. CDT.

That means it is also time for the Make Music Madison festival – a day-long, citywide FREE event with live music taking place mostly outdoors.

Here is a link to the event’s website:

http://makemusicmadison.org

Make Music Madison logo square

The map of events is impressive, which is why Madison’s Make Music event is second in size only to New York City’s.

One thing is the sheer number of events and the number of artists, which is close to 400.

But the website is good too, although it is hard to see programs and specific pieces to be performed.

Use the filter map to see the genre -– classical, pop, folk, jazz, choral, Celtic, whatever – and the location.

For classical fans, I single out a couple of events, although there are many more.

One noteworthy event is that Farley’s House of Pianos will place an upright piano in the Hilldale Mall outside Metcalf’s grocery store from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with chairs available for seating. A full schedule of individuals and groups will perform all kinds of music.

And here is an another unusual event planned and directed by the talented Jerry Hui (below), a UW-Madison graduate who is now a music professor at UW-Stout and who has come up with a project that involves singing choral music on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Jerry Hui

I will let Jerry Hui describe it:

“The official name of the event is called the Massed Choir, part of Make Music Madison 2015. Make Music Madison is modeled after a similar event in New York City called Make Music New York, which for the last few years have featured flash mob-style music-making — including a choir. Since Madison has a vibrant choral community, I think it’s about time that we come together and have fun making music as one big choir.

“We’ll be performing three pieces on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Edgewater Hotel Plaza. Two of the pieces were voted by the participants: “Dona Nobis Pacem” (in a Youtube video at the bottom) from the Mass in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the hymn “Joyful, Joyful.”

“The third piece is freshly composed by Scott Gendel (below). Gendel is an award-winning composer and pianist, who has strong ties with Madison and is a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Scott Gendel color headshot

Gendel has set to music a beautiful poem titled “In Summer” by late 19th-century African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (below).

Paul Laurence Dunbar

There is still time to join the Massed Choir!

The scores are available as PDFs on Make Music Madison’s website http://makemusicmadison.org/mass-appeal/#choir; just print a copy and show up on Sunday!

There’ll be two optional rehearsals, both at Christ Presbyterian Church: Friday, June 19, 7-8:15 p.m.; and Saturday, June 20, noon-1:30 p.m. To help with logistics planning, singers are encouraged to register at http://tinyurl.com/MadisonMassedChoir2015.

NOTE: Back to The Ear, who encourages other classical performers to list their event, time, program and place in the COMMENTS section and who says enjoy whatever you play or listen to!


Classical music: On Saint Patrick’s Day, The Ear explores Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland -– who composed it, who played it and how important it has been.

March 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day.

ST PATRICK'S DAY logo

There will be big, loud. colorful and music-filled parades (below top), complete with leprechauns, around the country and around the world wherever the Irish gather and celebrate their heritage. Even the Chicago River even turns green (below bottom).

And a lot of us who aren’t remotely Irish will nonetheless eat the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage.

saint patrick's day parade albany 2010 leprechaun

Green Chicago River on Saint Patricks Day

So The Ear asks: What about Irish classical music? And what about classical music in Ireland?

After all, the Irish seems a deeply musical culture. But there must be more to Irish music than Riverdance (below top), Celtic Woman, The Irish Tenors and The Chieftains (below bottom), don’t you think?

riverdance

The Chieftains

For all the immense popularity of Celtic music these days, for all the justly famous Irish literature by William Yeats, James Joyce, John Millington Synge, Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy and many others –- especially fiction, poetry and plays -– one never hears very much about Ireland and classical music.

(To be fair: The Ear does recall a memorable and rare performance a couple of seasons ago of a John Field piano concerto by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell, who also happens to be an adventurous programmer.)

So today seems a fitting occasion to take a look both those issues.

Oh, there are some well-known composers.

In the 19th century John Field (below), who spent much of his career in Russia, is said to have invented the nocturne form that Frederic Chopin turned to and mastered and made famous. He also wrote quite a few piano concertos and a piano quintet.

John Field

Of course Irish singing and fiddling are justly famous. But how did it affect the classical music tradition.

These days the early 20th-century composer E.J. Moeran (below) seems to be undergoing something of a revival. He had strong Irish roots, but is technically an English composer if you look at his biography.

e.j. moeran

So who are the Irish classical composers – and their masterpieces – that we should know about?

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford seems to be one candidate. 

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

What about Irish classical music performers? Perhaps the most well-known candidate today is the prize-winning and award-winning pianist John O’Conor, who, concertizing and teaching at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, has championed Irish piano music as well as the piano music by Ludwig van Beethoven and other standard classical composers?

John O'Conor_1

And what about the role that some famous, non-Irish classical music composers and performers –- including George Frideric Handel, who premiered his oratorio “Messiah” in Dublin, the violinist Paganini and the pianist Franz Liszt -– played in the history of Irish culture?

Here are some links to help you explore the question of Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland.

http://classicalartsireland.com/archive-project/

http://basilwalsh.wordpress.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Irish_classical_musicians

And here are two sound samples to help celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

The first is the Irish Rhapsody No.1 by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford:

And the second sound sample is the lovely Nocturne No. 2 in C minor for solo piano by John Field as performed by John O’Conor:

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!

And the chances are good that some of you readers know more about Irish classical music and classical music in Ireland than The Ear does.

So be sure to leave what you know in the COMMENTS section along with links to websites, blogs and YouTube videos that will illuminate me and other readers.

The Ear wants to hear.

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Classical music: The outstanding “Grace Presents” FREE concert series is seeking to hire a new coordinator. Here is all the information about the job and the application process.

May 5, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is no secret that Madison is filled with great classical music, much of it free for the attending and listening.

But individual smaller programs like the First Unitarian Society’s Friday Noon Musicales and the non-traditional, eclectic concerts by Classical Revolution Madison can still fly under the radar.

One of the most noteworthy is the monthly “Grace Presents” series on Saturdays at noon at the Grace Episcopal Church downtown on Capitol Square.

grace episcopal church ext

It sends out a newsletter via the Grace Episcopal Church, which does have a website, but “Grace Presents” has no website of its own that I can find, or even a complete, easy-to-find schedule on the regular Grace Episcopal website. And yet the attendance can be quite good and the performances quite impressive.

I can’t speak to other kinds of music, like Celtic or folk, though some of the performers’ names are familiar. But this past winter I heard two outstanding concerts.

One featured violinist Laura Burns and pianist Jess Salek (below) in sonatas by Brahms.

Laura Burns Jess Salek Brahms Grace Epis

The other (below is an YouTube video excerpt) featured four singers and two pianists in songs by Schubert, Schumann, Faure, Hahn, Verdi and Brahms.

And on May 18, I want to hear the season closer this spring with pianist Yana Groves (below), who was born in Ukraine and trained at the UW by Christopher Taylor. She will perform the lyrical Prelude Op. 23, No. 4, by Sergei Rachmaninoff; three “Estampes” or “Prints” by Claude Debussy; and the big, soulful Sonata in A Minor, D. 845, by Franz Schubert.

Yana Groves playing

Anyway, Grace Presents is looking for a new coordinator, and The Ear wants to help the series get the best one it can find. The organizers deserve no less, and so do the attentive and appreciative Madison public and Madison group of musicians.

Much of its success can no doubt be attributed to Bruce Croushore, a tireless, capable and affable man who recruits fine musicians, spreads the word and is a gracious host.

Here is the job posting that he forwarded to me to post:

Music Series Seeks Program Coordinator

“Grace Presents” is a series of concerts that began in the Spring of 2011. To date, two dozen diverse musical performances -– classical, folk, Celtic — have been enjoyed by audiences that range in size from 30 to as many as 300.

“Most concerts take place at Noon on Saturdays, so as to attract Dane County Farmers’ Market shoppers.

“Grace Presents’ mission is to open the doors of Madison’s historic landmark, Grace Episcopal Church (below is its acoustically resonant interior)), on the downtown Capitol Square, continuing the ancient tradition of music in the marketplace.

grace episcopal church inter

“To provide musicians and music-lovers from Dane County and beyond an outstanding acoustical performance venue that is attractive, peaceful, and in the heart of Madison.

“To offer free concerts of exceptional quality by local performers representing a wide variety of musical styles including classical, jazz, world, and folk.

“To attract and enrich a broad audience, including downtown neighborhood residents, secondary school and university students, farmers’ market shoppers, local business people, State workers, local visitors, tourists, and people who are homeless.

“Grace Church’s close proximity to the Overture Center (below), Monona Terrace and downtown shops, restaurants, museums, and offices encourages attendees to walk, ride bikes, or to use public transportation and reduces the carbon footprint of an excellent cultural event.

OvertureExteior-DelBrown_jpg_595x325_crop_upscale_q85

“Grace Presents seeks a Program Coordinator whose duties include:

“1. Engaging musicians to perform 8-12 concerts throughout the calendar year. This includes scheduling dates that work for the musicians, Grace Church, and the community at large. Dates should be far enough in advance to allow for promotion of each concert. At times program content may be specific to a given audience (i.e., children or shelter meal participants).

“2. Preparing and disseminating publicity through various media, including online and print listings and similar promotional opportunities.

“3. Arranging payment for musicians. (i.e. paperwork and coordinating checks with the church’s Finance Administrator)

“4. Preparing and printing programs, posters and flyers for the concerts.

“5. Acting as a liaison between performers and venue (Grace Church).

“6. Attending the concerts to assist with day-of logistics and taking care of musicians’ needs, except in special circumstances.

7. Attending periodic meetings of Grace Presents’ task force.

8. Completing and submitting grant applications with the assistance of task force members.

“QUALIFICATIONS: This is an excellent opportunity for someone interested in gaining experience in concert promotion and arts administration. Strong organizational and communication skills are necessary. Having knowledge of the Madison music scene, both commercial and educational, is a plus.

“COMPENSATION:
 Quarterly honoraria of $500.

“APPLICATION DEADLINE: Apply by email with resume attached not later than June 1, 2013

“Although the Grace Presents’ concert series is booked through December 2013, the task force intends to fill the position by June 30, 2013 so that the incumbent will be able to train her successor over the summer months.

“CONTACT:
 Bruce Croushore at croushoreb@gmail.com

Grace Presents sign


Classical music review: If you want to hear the difference between talent and genius, compare the music of John Field and Frederic Chopin — and thank the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

March 19, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

On Friday night, I went to the penultimate concert of this season by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in the Overture Center‘s Capitol Theater. (This season’s last Masterworks concert is at 8 p.m. on Friday April 13, and features Beethoven’s iconic Ninth Symphony.) In so many ways, it was an enjoyable event with an appropriate sense of occasion for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Under the baton of Andrew Sewell, the WCO (below) just keeps sounding better and better. And the audiences just seem to grow bigger and bigger, and more and more enthusiastic.

Clearly, the WCO is on the march, as its expanded next season shows:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/future-season/

I was particularly impressed with the performances of two well-known and frequently perform classics: Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture and Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony. These are great works that received great performances.

The overture by the transitional Mendelssohn (below) had precise Classical-era part playing and a clarity of texture. Yet the evocative reading also had Romantic color. You could feel the ocean swells and the Scottish mystery, the dark, almost Gothic atmosphere of the seashore cave that the work was meant to convey.

In the “Haffner,” I was impressed by the muscularity of the Mozart (below). The very opening bars had sharp and strong attacks, and that sense of energy kept up right to the closing measures. I like grace and elegance, but not when it descends into music-box Mozart and preciousness. This reading was decidedly NOT music-box Mozart. It was hearty and robust as well as refined.

The WCO is clearly mastering the playing of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and they should include more of those masters on each program. Lord knows there are enough pieces by each to choose from given overtures, symphonies and concertos.

In between came other pieces on the “Celtic Celebration” theme chosen to mark St. Patrick’s Day and to bring us neglected works.

Granville Bantock’s “Celtic” Symphony for string orchestra and six – yep, six harps a harping — was a gratifying piece with some lively moments. But like Vaughan Williams, to whom Sewell aptly compared Bantock (below), it lacked depth and had major moments of lateral drift. The plainsong aspect of the harmony and the Celtic dance rhythms proved particularly captivating. All in all, it proved a rarity worth well unearthing and hearing.

That kind of creative and original programming has become typical of WCO music director Sewell (below).

The major work of the first half was a performance of Irish composer John Field’s rarely heard Piano Concerto No. 4 in E-Flat Major. One of seven concertos by Field (below), it was performed to perfection by the remarkable UW pianist Christopher Taylor, who was superbly accompanied by the orchestra.

On the radio, in a Q&A for this blog and in his playing, Taylor made a convincing case for reviving this curiosity. And it does have a certain period charm, especially in a kind of proto-Chopin way that is looser in form and feeling than the powerful and stricter, less lyrical Beethovenian and Germanic traditions.

After all, you may recall it was Field who pioneered the form of the piano nocturne that Chopin, 11 years his junior, later perfected.

But if you ever want to take the measure of the difference between someone who is talented and someone who is a genius, then just listen to Field and compare him to Chopin (below) — either nocturne-to-nocturne (at bottom), or concerto-to-concerto.

Chopin gives you heart-breaking and memorable melodies and harmonies that you carry with you out of the concert hall. Field’s music seems, sad to say, forgettable as soon as the playing is over. You are glad you heard it, but would you hear it again right away, would you go home and put on a recording of it? I suspect not.

Like Chopin’s writing, Field’s score uses a lot of notes in the passagework. And how they sparkled under virtuosic fingers of Taylor (below). But overall the concerto lacks substance and that bel canto sense of singing or vocal line that makes Chopin so irresistible and seductive.

In a museum or gallery, I find that looking at a great painting or photography makes me wish I could paint like that or use a camera tike that. I want to go out and make a painting or a photograph of my own.

Chopin does the same. His music makes me want to go home and play the piano, and especially his works.

Field, however, does not leave with the listener with that desire. I find myself, saying: OK, I’m glad I heard it, but once every 10 or 20 years is enough.

Chopin’s music simply has, and deserves, a much longer shelf life.

So I guess what I am saying is that I hope the WCO books Taylor again — this time in one of the two Chopin concertos, and probably No. 2, which is more suited to the chamber ensemble than No. 1, the concerto that actually was composed later on a bigger scale. But either would do the job nicely.

Now that would be something memorable indeed.

Anyway, here are links to the other reviews since you may wonder: What did the other critics in town have to say?

We pretty much agree, but we differ in what we make of our minor disagreements.

Here is the review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=36238

Here is Mike and Jean Muckian’s review for the magazine Brava and their blog Culturosity:

http://culturosity.wordpress.com/

Here is the review by Lindsay Christians of the Wisconsin State Journal and 77 Square:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/reviews/wco-s-celtic-night-offers-delightful-mix/article_4f71f520-702b-11e1-8e78-0019bb2963f4.html

Here is Bill Wineke’s review for WISC-TV’s Channel 3000.com:

http://www.channel3000.com/entertainment/30700799/detail.html

And here is Greg Hettmansberger’s review for Madison Magazine and the blog Classically Speaking:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/March-2012/Wisconsin-Chamber-Orchestra-Proves-All-of-Us-Are-Lucky-This-St-Patricks-Day/

But every listener is his or her own critic.

So, what did you make of the works by John Field and Bantock?

What part of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s “Celtic Celebration” pleased you the most and why?

The Ear wants to hear.


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