The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: the Madison Symphony Orchestra recognizes local musicians with awards

June 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news:

Several local musicians received prestigious awards from the Board of Directors of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the board’s recent June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.

Margaret Rupp Cooper Award

The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season. The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship. This year’s awardees were Naha Greenholtz, MSO Concertmaster, and Josh Biere, MSO Principal Tuba.

Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Chris Hynes) has now completed her fifth season as concertmaster with the MSO. A graduate of the Juilliard School and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.

Naha Greenholtz 2014 CR Chris Hynes

Josh Biere (below) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as Principal Tuba in 2013. He also holds the principal tuba chair with the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Symphony and regularly performs with the Chicago Composers Orchestra. Mr. Biere holds degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University and Northwestern University.

Josh Biere tuba MSO

Marie Spec Award

The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926. The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus. MSO Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.

A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from UW-Madison. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for the Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.

Dan Lyons

Ann Stanke Award

The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service. This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bob Gentile.

Bob Gentile, a lifelong music educator, has sung in the bass section of the Madison Symphony Chorus for over 15 years, has served as President and Vice-President, and has shown valued leadership with his counsel, wisdom, good humor and kindness.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community engagement programs. Learn more at: www.madisonsymphony.org

 


Classical music Q&A: Scott MacPherson, founder and conductor of the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble and a UW-Madison alumnus, talks about the two performances of Mahler, Bach, Brahms and other composers coming up this weekend on Friday, Aug. 2, and Sunday, Aug. 4.

July 29, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Call it The Rite of Summer.

Every August for the past 11 years, University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus Scott MacPherson travels from his job and home in Ohio, where he teaches at Kent State University, to come to Madison to direct and conduct intensive rehearsals and two concerts by the virtuosic Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below in a photo by Jim Pippitt).

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble group concert dress

This summer’s concerts, mostly a cappella although some pieces have organ accompaniment, are coming up this weekend on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

Especially noteworthy is how the group emphasizes talent with local and regional ties -– the singers, the conductor, even the instrumentals and the composers. Many are alumni of the University of Wisconsin-School of Music.

For more information, visit the home website of the IVE:

http://www.isthmusvocalensemble.org

Scott MacPherson (below, in a photo by Beate Gersch; unless otherwise noted, photos of the choir are by Portrait Independence Photography) recently gave an email interview to The Ear:

Scott MacPherson older BW

What do you want to tell the public about the isthmus Vocal Ensemble in general? How has it evolved and changed over its history and since its founding?

The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble was founded in 2002 as a chamber choir of about 35 voices. It was originally intended to perform one concert in Madison each August, but our audience following has grown such that we now give two performances each year, both on the first weekend August.

The concerts this summer will take place at Luther Memorial Church (below top) at 1021 University Ave. on Friday night, August 2, at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday afternoon, August 4, at 3 p.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church (below bottom) on Segoe Road and Mineral Point Road.

luther memorial church madison

Covenant Presbyterian Church chancel

The choir grew over its first decade to about 55-60 singers and is made up singers from all walks of life, from career musicians and home makers, to professionals in various disciplines and everything in between; all with the same goal—to perform choral music at the highest level.

A community choir of great flexibility with singers from Madison and surrounding areas, the choir specializes in music of all epochs and genres, from Renaissance madrigals and motets, to cutting edge works by living composers.  We gather in Madison for a couple weeks of intense rehearsals and two concerts.

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble rehearsing with Scott MacPherson

What is the program this summer and what do you want to say about individual works and composers? I understand there is a special Mahler arrangement that is intriguing.

I have nicknamed this year’s program after the famous phrase by the late Ed Sullivan: “The Really Big Show!”  The focus of the program is on works for double choir.

At the center of the program is a transcription of one of the “Rueckert-Lieder” by Gustav Mahler (below) — “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” — written for 16 separate voice parts by Clytus Gottwald in 1982.  Originally for solo voice and orchestra, Gottwald’s transcription amazingly captures the ambience and color palette of Mahler’s piece.  The work splits each of the usual choral voices into four parts.  For this reason, I have enlarged the choir to 70 voices this summer.

Isthmus vocal Ensemble men

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble women

Preceding the Mahler are three sets of pieces for double choir:  Sweelinck’s epic setting of Psalm 150, “Or soit loué l’Eternel”; Johann Sebastoan Bach’s (attributed) motet, “Ich lasse dich nicht”; and Johannes Brahms’s Op. 109 motets, “Fest- und Gedenksprüche.”

The second half of the program features organist Kathrine Handford (below), from the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, in two English choral works for organ and chorus.  In honor of the centennial of Benjamin Britten’s centennial birthday, we will perform his “Hymn to St. Peter” for organ, choir, and soprano solo.  We will also sing Grayston Ives’ “Canticle of Brother Sun,”a setting of the poem by St. Francis of Assisi.

Kathrine Handford

Closing the concert will be a setting of “O Vos omnes” by UW-Madison alumna and member of the Minneapolis-based Rose Ensemble, Linda Kachelmeier (below top) and a contemporary piece by Haitian composer Sydney Guillaume (below bottom).  “Twa tanbou,” sung in the original Haitian Creole language, tells the story of three drums in a discussion of which one makes the best sound.

Linda Kachelmeier

Sydney Guillaume

What kind of shape in the IVE in right now and what are its future plans? Concerts? Recordings? Other events?

IVE is proud to have made two CD recordings in its history.  “The Choral Music of Andrew Rindfleisch” was recorded in 2004 and released in 2006 and features approximately half of the choral output of this amazing composer (below), a UW-Madison alumnus who now serves as Professor of Composition at Cleveland State University.

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

In 2011, IVE released a live recording of their 2010 summer concert: “An Isthmus Christmas.”

Our highest achievement came in February 2012 when we sang a coveted performance at the North Central American Choral Directors Conference, held in Madison.  Hundreds of choral conductors and singers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas attended our concert, which really put IVE “on the map” outside of Madison.

Here is a sample of our singing, a YouTube video of the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble performing Josef Rheinberger’s “Evening Song” at Luther Memorial Church on Aug. 3, 2012:


Classical music: NEWS FLASH — Here are the winners of the Madison Early Music Festival’s first annual Handel Aria Competition. The Madison Symphony Orchestra bestows awards on several of its outstanding musician members.

July 9, 2013
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NEWS FLASH: On Monday night, the first FREE annual Handel Aria Competition was held in Mills Hall as part of the 14th annual Madison Early Music Festival. I will blog about the contest more on Wednesday. But here are the results as decided by the three judges (guest singers soprano Ellen Hargis and tenor William Hudson, plus local music critic and UW Emeritus Profess of Medieval History John W. Barker) and also by the audience. There were eight contestants (below top) and all acquitted themselves very well. First Prize went to mezzo-soprano Elisa Sutherland (third from the right); Second Prize went to soprano Alison Wahl (far left); and Third Prize went to soprano Winnie Nieh (second from the right) who also took home the Audience Prize. (An early version of this mistakenly reversed the second-place and third-place winners. I apologize for the error.)

Handel aria contestants MEMF 14

The festival continues tonight with a pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room L-160 of the Elvehjem Building of the nearby Chazen Museum of Art with a concert  at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall by The Dark Horse consort (below) joined by UW baritone Paul Rowe and soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe, who are co-artistic directors of the festival. For more information, visit: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/lsa/memf/

Dark Horse Early Brass Consort CR  Tatiana Daubek

By Jacob Stockinger

We read, see and hear a lot about the turmoil that many American symphony orchestras are unfortunate;y going through right now – especially labor strife, growing debt and attendance problems.

So positive word about the internal affairs of a specific orchestra is all the more welcome. It is refreshing to hear news about the musicians as well as the maestro.

In that spirit, the Madison Symphony Orchestra last month recognized some of its own outstanding musician members, both paid and volunteer,  for their contributions to the ensemble. Some or even all of  them will no doubt be performing at the Madison Opera’s 12th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” (below) this Saturday night at 8 p.m. (Sunday is the rain date) in Garner Park on Madison’s far west side.

Here is a link to information about that event, from dates and times to performers and the program and even to  arrangements and rules for sitting outdoors in the park and eating:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2012-2013/park/

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 2 James Gill

And here is a link to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and its next season, which will marks music director John DeMain’s 20th year with the MSO. You can also find biographies of the players, including those who are honored below:

http://madisonsymphony.org

Here is the MSO press release:

Madison Symphony Orchestra Recognizes Local Musicians

Local musicians received prestigious awards from the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) Board of Directors at its June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.

Margaret Rupp Cooper Award

The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season.  The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship.  This year’s awardees were Stephanie Jutt, MSO principal flute, and Bill Muir, MSO fourth horn.

Stephanie Jutt (below) is an accomplished international flute performer, recording artist, and educator.  She is currently on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-produces the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society summer music festival each summer in which she performs. Jutt has received numerous awards and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music.

StephanieJuttNoCredit

In addition to fourth horn duties with the MSO, Bill Muir is also a member of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Artemis Horn Quartet.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from St. Olaf College and a master of music degree in horn performance from the UW-Madison.

MSO Brass Bill Muir

Marie Spec Award

The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926.  The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus.  MSO Concertmaster violinist Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist pianist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.

Naha Greenholtz (below) has now completed her second season as concertmaster with the MSO.  A graduate of Juilliard and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.

Naha Greenholtz profile

A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied with Howard Karp. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.

Dan Lyons

Ann Stanke Award

The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service.  This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bennette Harris.

Bennette Harris (below) has been singing with the Madison Symphony Chorus for five years, along with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Emily.  Bennette retired from UW-Whitewater in 2011 after 29 years on the faculty in the mathematical and computer sciences department.  He is currently working as a UNIX engineer with EPIC in Verona.

bennetteharris

The MSO will mark its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating the 20th anniversary of John DeMain (below) as music director. The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages a wide range of audiences in classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community outreach activities.

Find more information at www.madisonsymphony.org

John DeMain full face by Prasad


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