The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The fifth annual Handel Aria Competition is this Friday night – and the event has grown into a major event with broad cross-cultural appeal

June 7, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

In a short time, it has become one of the year’s MUST-HEAR local events for fans of Baroque music, fine singing, and the music of composer George Frideric Handel.

This Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the fifth annual Handel Aria Competition will take place.

Handel Aria Competition tickets are $15 for general admission, and will be available at the door.

For the third year, the Madison Bach Musicians, led by the keyboardist founder and artistic director Trevor Stephenson, will accompany the seven finalists who were selected from over 100 applicants from China, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and 26 states including Hawaii.

Finalists in the 2017 Handel Aria Competition are pictured below (left to right): Gene Stenger, Clara Osowski, Nicole Heinen (who studied at the UW-Madison), Brian Giebler, Nian Wang, Andrew Rader and Johanna Bronk.

In addition to the professional judging for first, second and third prize, there will be a cash prize for Audience Favorite.

The Handel Aria Competition is an annual event held in Madison, Wisconsin to promote the performance of Handel’s extensive vocal repertoire.

Once connected to the Madison Early Music Festival in July, it has evolved into a separate event due to logistics and staffing.

Founders Dean and Orange Schroeder (below) are enthusiasts of George Frideric Handel’s music and lifelong supporters of the arts.

They write:

“In the spring of 2013, we started the Handel Aria Competition with no real experience, using only the Handel Singing Competition in London – the world’s only, at that time – as a model. We were inspired by the recent groundswell of interest in Handel’s operas and oratorios, most of which have been rarely performed for some 300 years!”

Since then, the competition has grown from 50 to 105 applicants and features orchestral accompaniment as well as large, enthusiastic and often partisan audiences.

You can follow the competition, with news and background stories on the Facebook page for the Handel Aria Competition at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=handel%20aria%20competition

For more information, including extensive biographies of the finalists and the results of past competitions as well as advice about how to apply for the competition and how to support it, go to the website HandelAriaCompetition.com

Countertenor Eric Jurenas, winner of the 2016 competition, can be heard in the YouTube video below:


Classical music: Con Vivo closes its 15th season this Thursday night with a guest appearance by Madison Symphony Orchestra maestro John DeMain in chamber music by Dvorak, Spohr and Martinu

May 22, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

Con Vivo (below, in a photo by Don Sylvester), or “Music With Life,” concludes its 15th season with a chamber music concert entitled “Czech Mix” on this Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. across from Camp Randall.

Convenient parking is only two blocks west at the University Foundation, 1848 University Ave.

Maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Madison Opera, will conduct the 14 musicians.

The program features large ensemble pieces by Czech composers Antonin Dvorak and Bohuslav Martinu, and by German composer Louis Spoor.

Specifically, the program includes two Nonets for winds and strings by Martinu (below top) and Spohr (below middle) and the Serenade for Winds and Strings, Op. 44, by Dvorak (below bottom).

NOTE: You can hear the opening movement of the Nonet by Spohr in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Tickets available in advance at Orange Tree Imports, 1721 Monroe St. or at the door: $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and students.

This concert marks Maestro DeMain’s third engagement with Con Vivo. Music critic John W. Barker observed during Maestro DeMain’s previous appearance “…this evening was my concert of the year…”(Isthmus 12/27/13)

Audience members are invited to join the musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss the concert.

In remarking about the concert, Con Vivo’s artistic director Robert Taylor said: “We are delighted and thrilled to have Maestro John DeMain return to conduct this seldom heard, but glorious music. This is a rare opportunity to hear and see Maestro DeMain work with a small ensemble. We are sure this will once again be a concert to remember.”

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.

For more information, go to: www.convivomusicwithlife.org or the group’s page on Facebook.


Classical music: New music and old music meet in a benefit concert this Saturday night for the Art+Literature Lab of Madison

March 23, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear received the following information from Eric Miller to pass along:

Thanks for sharing my recital at the First Unitarian Society of Madison last week. I really appreciate what you do.

I’m repeating the program of unaccompanied music for viola da gamba at the Arts+Literature Lab (below) on this Saturday, March 25, at 8 p.m.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

I’ll be playing the first suite by Le Sieur de Machy and the Sonata VI by Johannes Schenk from his collection “L’echo du Danube,” (Echo of the Danube), as well as a few other smaller pieces. (Below is Eric Miller, who also performs a Prelude to a suite by Le Seiur de Machy in the YouTube video at bottom.)

In addition to my set, my idea was to juxtapose this music I love with music that is equally intricate and beautiful, but from different sound worlds and traditions.

Milwaukee cellist Patrick Reinholz (below top) will be playing modern pieces by Italian composer Luciano Berio (below middle) and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (below bottom) as well as one of his own compositions from a solo recording he is releasing.

Finally, cellist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm (below) will be presenting some of his own compositions and improvisations.

The Facebook event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1384611978280528/

Advanced tickets are available here: http://ericmiller.bpt.me/

The Arts+Literature Lab (A+LL) is at 2021 Winnebago Street, on the east side of Madison. It is really doing exciting things for the community.


Classical music: Newspapers and media continue to cut back on arts writers and critics. What is the effect on the arts?

January 14, 2017
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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.)

MSO playing

Here is a link to the article from the Columbia Journalism Review:

http://www.cjr.org/the_feature/arts_music_critics.php

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.”

Anne Midgette BIG

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.


Classical music: Fresco Opera Theatre opens its new season, starting this Sunday afternoon, with five FREE garage performances of “Snow White” in Madison, Waunakee and Sun Prairie

August 10, 2016
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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.

Fresco Opera Theatre opens its new season with FREE garage performances of “Snow White” in Madison, Waunakee and Sun Prairie.

Fresco Opera Snow White poster 2016

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…

IT’S MUSIC!

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:

http://www.frescooperatheatre.com


Classical music: The wind quintet Black Marigold performs a FREE concert of “Beer Music” on Monday night at Taliesin in Spring Green

August 3, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news:

The Rural Musicians Forum welcomes the Madison-based wind quintet Black Marigold to the Hillside Theater at Taliesin, south of Spring Green, on this coming Monday evening, Aug. 8.

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.

taliesin_hillside2

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 2016 CR Vincent Fuh

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).

Brian DuFord

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.”

beer

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.”


Classical music: The Ear offers a big shout-out and good luck to three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs. They are headed this week to a major world youth festival in Aberdeen, Scotland and give a FREE send-off concert this Tuesday night

July 25, 2016
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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.

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

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.

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

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.)

Scott Gendel color headshot

The Ear heard the girls sing live last week on the Midday program with Norman Gilliland on Wisconsin Public Radio. And they sounded great.

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.

madison youth choirs logo

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:

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org/aberdeen

And here is a link to the festival itself:

http://www.aiyf.org

And finally here is a link to the Facebook page for the Madison Youth Choirs, with face photos of participants:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/448022498728594/


Classical music: The weekend is a good time to catch up on the current tour of Italy by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

July 9, 2016
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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.

WYSO Youth Orchestra

Using social media, WYSO has posted a page devoted to the tour on its website. The itinerary includes traveling, sightseeing and performing.

http://www.wysomusic.org/italytour/

And here is a link, with commentary and photos, directly to the blog that is being written from the tour:

http://wysoitalytour.tumblr.com

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.

https://www.facebook.com/WYSOrchestras/

You can catch up and then keep up day to day.

Enjoy!

And be proud!

WYSO Logo blue


Classical music: Spend a week in the Age of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I when the 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival is held, starting this Saturday. Part 1 of 2.

July 5, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Starting this Saturday, the 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival will take place on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

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:

Paul Rowe and Cheryl Bensman Rowe 2016 CR KATRIN TALBOT

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.

shakespeare BW

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/

new york polyphony

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/

Newberry Violin Band

ellen hargis 2016

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.

Watch the YouTube video “From Treasures from the Age of Shakespeare” by the Baltimore Consort.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soqw5oSdkVs

Baltimore Consort

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.

Michael Herold

Tomorrow: Part 2 of 2 — What makes Elizabethan English music special and what will the All-Festival wrap-up concert include?

 


Classical music: It’s now official – David Ronis is the new director of University Opera at the UW-Madison. And here are the two operas he will stage for next season.

June 8, 2016
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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.

David Ronis color CR Luke DeLalio

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:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/classical-music-con-vivo-concludes-its-14th-season-this-saturday-night-with-septets-and-quintets-by-beethoven-dvorak-max-reger-and-carl-nielsen/

But now comes the full UW-Madison press release with lots of background about Ronis, who hails from New York City and was chosen after a nationwide search:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/2016/05/26/david-ronis-appointed-as-university-operas-permanent-director/

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.) 

Then on April 3, 5 and 7 the University Opera will stage “The Turn of the Screw,” by Benjamin Britten, based on the ghost story-like  novella by Henry James.


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