By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear got a message from an old friend who gave him a link to a story about the decline of arts criticism in the mainstream media.
“This is not big news to you, but an interesting update that puts the value of your blog in context,” the friend said.
The Ear thinks that the cutback in arts critics hurts local performing artists and also hurts readers who consume the arts as audiences. That is especially important in a city as rich in the arts for its size as Madison. (Below is the Madison Symphony Orchestra playing for a full house.)
Here is a link to the article from the Columbia Journalism Review:
The story earned an interesting response, sort of a constructive dissent from most judgments, from Anne Midgette (below), an arts writer and arts critic who used to work for The New York Times and now works for The Washington Post. Here is a response she posted on Facebook:
“There’s one thing missing from this thoughtful valedictory on newspaper arts writing – the outrage about cutting critics is all very well, but one reason they get cut is that they don’t always have the readership papers want/need (which can be quantified now better than it used to be).
“I think newspapers could help remedy that by putting in more resources and figuring out a strategy for raising the profile of arts writing (and I think arts writers need to focus on thinking about fresh innovative ways to write about their fields, but that’s another story).
“In any case, I think those of us who love the arts need to recognize this as a big factor in the cuts, rather than simply wringing our hands about living in a world of Philistine editors.”
What do you think of Anne Midgette’s response? How would you like arts coverage changed and improved?
How good a job do you think the local media do in covering the arts?
What do you think about the overall reduction in arts coverage?
Have you found alternative sources for news and for information, and what are they?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Fresco Opera Theatre has justifiably developed a reputation for quality quirkiness.
Little wonder, then, that it has also developed a loyal following.
There will be five afternoon performances, at 2 p.m., starting this Sunday afternoon and running through Aug. 28. All performances take place at different addresses.
You are advised to bring lawn chairs and blankets.
Here is what was Fresco Opera Theatre posted on Facebook:
COMING THIS SUMMER…
TO A NEIGHBORHOOD GARAGE NEAR YOU…
NO! IT’S THEATER!
NO – IT’S GARAGE OPERA!
Our 16/17 season starts with a BANG! by bringing Garage Opera out to the suburbs again!
This year, Snow White will be the story set to some of the most beautiful music the world has ever heard.
BUT WAIT! There is a twist in this tale…
While this is the story of Snow White you are familiar with, in true Fresco fashion we have added a few twists, including a mild-mannered “dwarf” of a man who befriends Snow White. And who will save her after the Evil Queen has poisoned her?
Come to Fresco’s GARAGE OPERA – SNOW WHITE to find out!
NOTE: You can hear Melanie Cain and Jeff Turk discuss with the local NBC affiliate Channel 15 Fresco’ s past production of Smackdown – which mixed high-brow opera with low-brow professional wrestling — in the YouTube video at the bottom.
For more information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following news:
The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in the Hillside Theater, which is part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound and is located at 6604 Hwy 23, Spring Green.
The concert is not ticketed and is open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken to support the concert series.
For additional information and driving directions, see www.ruralmusiciansforum.org.
Black Marigold is a dynamic wind quintet that has dazzled audiences throughout Wisconsin since 2012. As advocates of new music and living composers, they present captivating concerts introducing new music, while also highlighting the classic woodwind quintet repertoire.
Members of Black Marigold are (below left to right, in a photo by Vincent Fuh) Carl Wilder, Elizabeth Marshall, Bethany Schultz, Laura Medisky and Kia Karlen.
Black Marigold fosters fresh perceptions of new music by showcasing pieces that are equally enjoyable for performers and audiences alike. (You can hear a sample of Black Marigold performing in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The ensemble is comprised of five members who play the flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn. They present thoughtful verbal program notes to engage the audience and enliven the concert experience.
In addition to an exciting program of American music, for the August concert Black Marigold will introduce a composition by the acclaimed composer Brian DuFord (below).
Commissioned by the ensemble just this year, “Beer Music” in its entirety is a suite of 18 short pieces, each inspired by a local craft brew, plus a finale movement.
“There are so many reasons to make this music about beer,” says DuFord. “Beer has such a long history, especially in Wisconsin and the Madison area in particular. It’s social and music is social. It just makes sense.”
According to Kia Karlen of Black Marigold, “The idea originated from a Facebook message from Brian a couple of years ago, jokingly suggesting he compose a piece about Wisconsin’s beer heritage for us.
“What started as a joke two years ago is now a reality. We will be premiering the piece in full this September, but will include a sneak preview of select movements (a “flight” or a “6-pack”) at the Rural Musicians Forum concert.”
“Beer Music” is the first commission for the group, just four years old. The piece will be like a narrative of the Madison area blended to the sound of music, but it will also incorporate the personalities of each of the musicians.
RMF’s Artistic Director Kent Mayfield promises “Black Marigold breathes new life into the woodwind quintet setting, and you will leave their concert smarter, happier and more inspired than when you arrived.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Two years ago, it was the boy choirs of the Madison Youth Choirs that were invited to sing at the prestigious international festival in Aberdeen, Scotland.
It is, after all, the oldest youth arts festival in the world, about 40 years old and features performers form around the world.
This week, on Thursday, 68 members of three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs – the Capriccio (below top, in a photo by MYC director Michael Ross), Cantilena and Cantabile (below bottom) choirs — along with three conductors, are headed to the same festival.
NOTE: You can hear a FREE send-off sampler concert on this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road.
It is a BIG DEAL.
The repertoire the girls will sing covers classical music (Franz Schubert); folk music from Canada, Serbia, Bulgaria and Peru; and more popular music. Plus, they will sing in several languages. They will also sing a song composed in the Terezin concentration camp, or death camp, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II.
They will also give the world premiere of a piece – based on two Scottish melodies including a traditional walking song and the beautiful “The Water Is Wide” — that they commissioned from composer Scott Gendel, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (You can hear James Taylor sing a heart-breaking version of “The Water Is Wide” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
What an honor, especially in the wake of the concert tour to Italy two weeks ago by the Youth Orchestra of the Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras.
Madison sure seems to be doing a fine job providing music education to its young people while many other areas of the state and country are cutting back on arts education and where many politicians and businesspeople are mistakenly trying to turn public support to the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math — at the expense of the arts. But the arts and the sciences really feed each other, and success in one field often helps to assure success in the other.
Here is a link so you can learn more about the tour and how to support or join the Madison Youth Choirs, which serves young people in grades 5-12:
And here is a link to the festival itself:
And finally here is a link to the Facebook page for the Madison Youth Choirs, with face photos of participants:
By Jacob Stockinger
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, which has done so much to educate thousands of area young people and ensure future audience members as well as players for classical music.
As part of the celebration, the senior performing group — the Youth Orchestra (below) under the baton of UW-Madison conducting professor and WYSO music director James Smith — is on a tour of Italy from July 6 through July 16.
Using social media, WYSO has posted a page devoted to the tour on its website. The itinerary includes traveling, sightseeing and performing.
And here is a link, with commentary and photos, directly to the blog that is being written from the tour:
And here is a li k to the WYSO page on Facebook where you can also see lots of photos and gets a lot of information.
You can catch up and then keep up day to day.
And be proud!
By Jacob Stockinger
The theme this year focuses on music in the work of William Shakespeare and the Age of Queen Elizabeth I.
You can check out all the details of the festival at: http://www.madisonearlymusic.org
The co-directors of the festival – the wife-and-husband team of singers Cheryl Bensman Rowe and Paul Rowe (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot and signaled in the answers by the initials CBR and PR) took time out from the hectic preparations to answer an email Q&A with The Ear:
How successful is this year’s 17th annual weeklong festival (July 9-16) compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? How well established is MEMF now nationally or even internationally?
CBR: Enrollment is up this year, with over 100 people enrolled in the workshop. Shakespeare (below) and the Elizabethan era is a great draw.
Other exciting news it that MEMF is one of five organizations that was chosen to be part of the “Shakespeare in Wisconsin” celebration, which includes the touring copy of the first Folio of Shakespeare’s plays from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. It is The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, and it will be at the Chazen Museum of Art this fall. https://shakespeare.library.wisc.edu/
MEMF is definitely on the map in the early music world due to our great faculty and our concert series that features musicians from all over the country, Canada and Europe.
We are also excited to be a part of the Arts Institute on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The institute is bringing us into the modern world of Facebook, e-letters, Twitter and so much more. We also have a new program director, Sarah Marty, who is full of fresh ideas and has many new contacts in the UW and the Madison community.
What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?
CBR: Our format has stayed the same because, after 17 seasons, it seems to be working. We are excited about everything that will be happening during the week. https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/concerts.htm
New to MEMF this year is the ensemble New York Polyphony (below). They will be performing their program “Tudor City,” featuring the music of the Church, including the sacred music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, Christopher Tye and Walter Lambe. Their recording of this program, Tudor City, spent three weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard classical album chart. You can read more about them on their website: http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com/
To get a preview of what you will hear please visit: http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com/media2/
MEMF goes to the Movies! The Newberry Violin Band (below top) will be performing as a live accompaniment to the silent film, Elizabeth I, made in 1912. Sarah Bernhardt is the star, even though she was 68 years old when the movie was made. The music is a great sampler of many of the most famous Elizabethan composers. Ellen Hargis (below bottom) will also be singing some classic John Dowland songs. An early movie with early music! http://newberryconsort.org/watch-listen-2/
Also, we have several unique programs that have been created just for this 400th “deathaversary” year.
The Baltimore Consort (below) is returning to MEMF with a program created especially for this anniversary year, The Food of Love: Songs, Dances and Fancies for Shakespeare, which has musical selections chosen from the hundreds of references to music in the works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare had directions in his plays for incidental music used for dancing, interludes and ceremony.
Specific songs are included in the text of the plays, and these texts were set to the popular songs of the day. Very few of these were published, but there are some early survivors which were published and from manuscripts.
On Friday night we have a very unique program, Sonnets 400, a program that actor Peter Hamilton Dyer, from the Globe Theatre, conceived to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
The program is a pairing of Shakespeare’s words with Anthony Holborne’s music. Holborne was one of the most respected lutenists of his and Shakespeare’s time. Madison actor Michael Herold (below) will be reciting the narrative arc of the selected sonnets, and the music of Holborne will be played as interludes, or softly under the narration.
Recorder player and MEMF favorite, Priscilla Herreid, brought this program to our attention. Several years ago she performed with Peter in the Broadway production of “Twelfth Night,” and he told her about this pairing of music and sonnets from the Elizabethan era. Lutenists Grant Herreid and Charles Weaver will be joining Priscilla on Friday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. The pre-concert lecture –“Repackaging Shakespeare’s Sonnets” — will be given by UW-Madison Professor of English Joshua Calhoun.
Tomorrow: Part 2 of 2 — What makes Elizabethan English music special and what will the All-Festival wrap-up concert include?
By Jacob Stockinger
With the long-awaited publication of a press release, it is finally official: Guest interim director David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio) has been named the permanent director of the University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Initially, frustrated with the slow pace of the final paperwork announcing a decision that was made in March, Ronis announced his own appointment in an informal posting on Facebook in mid-May.
Here was The Ear’s post about that:
The Ear has also learned the first two productions that Ronis will stage during the 2016-17 season:
In honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the University Opera will stage “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi on Nov. 11, 13 and 15. (That is also the focus of this year’s Madison Early Music Festival in July; and the Chazen Museum of Art will host a touring copy of the First Folio in the fall.)
NEWS ALERT: David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio) — who has been an interim director for two years — is the new director of University Opera. He was chosen from a nationwide search, and has posted the following news on his Facebook page:
“For some reason, I’ve been resisting posting my big news, now a couple of months old. But perhaps it’s time. I’ve been appointed the inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera at University of Wisconsin-Madison! It’s truly humbling to be going into an endowed chair established in memory of such a dear, wonderful, talented, and dedicated soul. This endowment will enable us to continue to develop the exemplary opera program at UW-Madison in all kinds of directions. Stay tuned!”
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following note to pass along:
Con Vivo!…music with life (below) presents a chamber music concert entitled “Five by Seven” on this Saturday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.
Con Vivo!’s spring concert “Five by Seven” features septets and quintets for winds, strings and organ.
The program includes the Septet, Op. 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, and the folk-like Bagatelles, Op. 47, for strings and organ by Antonin Dvorak. (You can sample Dvorak’s tuneful Bagatelles in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Additional pieces include the story of a lover’s unrequited love in the quintet “Serenata in vano” by Danish composer Carl Nielsen below top) and the miniature “Lyrical Andante” by the German composer Max Reger (below bottom), whose centennial was just marked.
Audience members are invited to join Con Vivo! musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss the music.
Artistic Director Robert Taylor said: “With Con Vivo!’s spring concert, we conclude our 14th season with exceptional music that combines the wonderful sounds of winds, strings and organ. Our Madison audience will be able to hear our musicians up close and personal playing music of extreme delight and depth.”
Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear thinks of it as a kind of holiday gift request.
He received an inquiry from a really nice person who, as an amateur musician, is looking to connect with other people so that he can make music.
So he asked the sender if it is all right to post the request, and the sender agreed. Here it is -– with the wish that anyone who can help or who knows someone else who can help will answer and pass along a suggestion.
The Ear — who is a fierce advocate of amateur music-making — has already passed along some names. But he is sure that some readers will have even better suggestions.
You don’t know me, but I figured if anyone knows the answer to my question, you do.
Do you know how an amateur player of early music can best find opportunities to play around Madison?
Occasionally I play (on bassoon) duets with a cellist friend, but that’s about it. For years, I played dulcians and other Renaissance wind instruments with a group called the Milwaukee Renaissance Band, but it’s sadly defunct now.
Surely there are players around. Some of them attend the Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF), which I’ve also done before. But where do they play the rest of the year?
I’ve looked at your interesting blog and at the MEMF Facebook page. So far, no success.
It would be great if there were some kind of online discussion group where players could find each other, but I haven’t found one. (NOTE: At bottom is a YouTube video of a sonata for bassoon, recorder and basso continuo by the Baroque Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.)
If you have any ideas, I’d sure be glad to hear them!
2622 Van Hise Ave
Madison, WI 53705