The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Token Creek Festival celebrates Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker this Tuesday afternoon and evening with a forum, a picnic and a recital.

August 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

On this Tuesday, August 25, the Token Creek Festival shines a lens on one of Wisconsin’s most important artists: the American poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), whose recognition and appreciation have been delayed until recently.

Many poets of the 20th century have worked in what is broadly known as the Imagist mode: short lines, brief phrases, elusively stated thoughts. At its most eloquent it can give us the great range and imagination of William Carlos Williams, as well as decades of other very convincingly compressed writers from Emily Dickinson through Gary Snyder.

lorine niedecker

In Lorine Niedecker we feel the pressure of what has been left out, the hard journey to final shape. We infer a “story” behind it, and we marvel at the courage and art that set it down so briefly.

We can also admire the persistence that drove her to continue to write all through her life, when she received little support or recognition. Niedecker cleaned hospital rooms, and hung barely above the poverty level throughout her life, which she led mainly in a cottage on Blackhawk Island (below) near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. (You can hear a reading of her poem “My Life by Water” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Niedecker cottage Blackhawk Island

According to Ann Engelman, president of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, she “has been called the poet of place because her imagery is so grounded in the area where she lived. Basil Bunting called her “the Emily Dickinson of this century.”

As an objectivist poet, the simplicity of her images helps us sense our own experiences with the elements around us.” Niedecker (below, in a photo from her later years, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation) had a strange life that included a truncated college education and long stretches of isolation as well as an extended epistolary (and, briefly, physical) friendship with fellow poet Louis Zukofsky; her existence resonates in her verse.

lorine niedecker poetry foundation

Three years ago the Token Creek Festival began a concerted look at the land where the festival takes place (below, in a photo by Jess Anderson), exploring intersections between art and nature. The theme continues in the multi-part Niedecker-inspired event, “Paean to Place,” on this Tuesday.

Token Creek land:barn Jess Anderson

Here is a schedule:

  • 4 p.m. Forum. “Finding Lorine Niedecker” will introduce the poet through audio and video footage. A wide-ranging conversation between biographer Margot Peters and composer John Harbison will explore Niedecker’s work, and the event will conclude with performances of music inspired by, or settings of, her evocative texts.
  • 6 p.m. Picnic. Festival attendees are invited to a first -ever Token Creek picnic at the farm—an elegant feast of savory summer fare.
  • 7:30 p.m. Recital: “Longing for Place.” Pianist Ryan McCollough and soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon are two outstanding performers who represent their own youthful generation, searching for what is best and most characteristic in the work of their time. In 2015 our relationship to the natural world is even more fragile and elusive than it was to Lorine Niedecker. Still artists seek to frame that relationship, and render it with their new developing languages.

McCullough and Fitz Gibbon’s recital on themes of nature and place and longing includes works by Henry Purcell, Kaija Saariaho, Nicholas Vines and Robert Schumann, as well as new song cycles by John Harbison — a co-founder and co-director of the Token Creek Festival — and Niccolo Athens.

Harbison’s settings of Niedecker poems, commissioned by the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Music Festival and premiered there this summer, “let the words speak clearly, syllable by syllable, but he adds expressive space into the texts’ phrases and expands its melodic contours, heightening the sense of the poems being mediums of internal, very personal, monolog” (from the Tanglewood program booklet, July 2015).

Ryan McCullough with piano

Lucy Fitz Gibbon

“Paean to Place” is presented in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

Tickets are $15-$30 (students $10). Packages are available.

Tickets can be purchased by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

TokenCreekentrance

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The concert venue (below), indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: The Madison Chamber Choir will perform Menotti’s madrigal fable “The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore” this Friday night. On Tuesday night, The Empire Brass and organist Douglas Major perform at the Overture Center.

May 11, 2015
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A REMINDER: Tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m, in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, the Empire Brass (below left) will perform a mostly Baroque program with guest organist Douglas Major (below right). Composers on the program include Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, Henry Purcell and Michael Praetorius. Here is link to the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s website with the complete program and background information:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/empire

Empire BRrass with Douglas Major

By Jacob Stockinger

Larger groups and presenters such as the Madison Symphony Orchestra , the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater, Edgewood College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the University Opera have finished their concert seasons.

Soon the major summer events — the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival and  Opera in the Park — will take place.

But not before smaller groups, who are still winding up their season, have finished.

The Ear has received the follow announcement:

Dear Friends,

I’d like to make you aware of an upcoming concert by the Madison Chamber Choir (below).

The concert is this Friday night, May 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham Street, in downtown Madison.

Admission is a $10 suggested donation.

Madison Chamber Choir 1 BIGGER

The program features “The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore” by the Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti (below), most famous perhaps for establishing the Spoleto Festival and for his Christmas TV opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” You can hear excerpts from the “Unicorn” in a YouTube video at the bottom.

The work is described as a “madrigal fable about an odd poet his strange pets and the shallow whims of his faddish neighbors.” Assorted guest chamber instrumentalists will join the choir for the cantata.

Gian Carlo Menotti

The artistic director of the Madison Chamber Choir is Albert Pinsonneault (below), who also teaches at Edgewood College and directs the Madison Choral Project.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Here is a link to the choir’s website about the concert:

http://www.madisonchamberchoir.net/performances/

And here is a link to a sample of the choir’s singing:

http://www.madisonchamberchoir.net/media/

Menotti poster


Classical music: Virtuoso trumpeter and Empire Brass founder Rolf Smedvig dies suddenly at 62. The Empire Brass plays with the Overture Center Concert Organ on Tuesday, May 12.

May 2, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Rolf Smedvig, the Norwegian-Icelandic trumpeter extraordinaire, died suddenly this past week at age 62, apparently of a heart attack.

Once the young principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony and renowned soloist, he also cofounded and played with the Empire Brass.

rolf smedvig

Passing along the news seems especially timely and appropriate since the Empire Brass will perform in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.

Tickets are $20. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Empire Brass

The brass ensemble will perform with organist Douglas Major (below top), former organist at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,  at the console of the Overture Center Concert Organ (below bottom).

Douglas Major

Overture Concert Organ overview

The program is a delightfully and largely Baroque one, which should highlight the brass sound. It features music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Tomaso Albinoni, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Pachelbel and Dietrich Buxtehude and Henry Purcell. (You can hear the Empire Brass, with Rolf Smedvig, performing Handel’s “Water Music” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

But one wonders: Is there a substitute for Rolf Smedvig? Or has the brass group changed its membership since the publicity photo? It sounds like the latter is the case, but The Ear doesn’t know for sure. Do you?

Here is a link for more information about the Madison concert:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/empire

Here is a link to a terrific obituary and feature profile done by Tm Huizenga for the Deceptive Cadence blog on National Public Radio (NPR).

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/28/402836867/dazzling-trumpeter-rolf-smedvig-dies-suddenly

 

 


Classical music: Classical-rock hybrid group Red Priest plays the music of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and Purcell in Edgerton this Saturday night.

November 6, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

To be honest, The Ear is not sure this event really belongs on this blog, which is devoted to classical music.

But it is a dilemma. After all, what do you say when the program includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Henry Purcell and other Baroque composers?

So I will let readers decide.

Here is a press release from our friends at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center where at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday night, there will be a performance by the crossover group Red Priest (below top) – which was the actual nickname of Antonio Vivaldi (below bottom), who had red hair and was a Roman Catholic priest in Venice as well as a composer famous for his string music and concertos.

Red Priest in 2011 w.harpsichord

vivaldi

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The concert will feature a double manual harpsichord that belongs to First Unitarian Society of Madison. It is a magnificent looking and sounding 18th-century style French double concert quality instrument.

Here is a link to the Edgerton Performing Arts Center’s website where can find information including directions.

http://www.edgerton.k12.wi.us/EPAC.cfm?subpage=1220658

And here is the PRESS RELEASE: “Red Priest is the only early music group in the world to have been compared by the press to the Rolling Stones, Jackson Pollock, the Marx Brothers, Spike Jones, and the Cirque du Soleil. “Rock-chamber concert approach to early music.” (A sample of Red Priest’s Vivaldi can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

“Red Priest will “rock” the stage performing early music works from great composers such as Bach and Vivaldi.

“Red Priest has redefined the art of period performance, creating a virtual orchestra through their creative arrangements and performance from memory with swashbuckling virtuosity, heart-on-sleeve emotion and compelling stagecraft.

Performers are: Piers Adams on recorders; David Greenberg on the violin;
 Angela East on the cello; and
 David Wright on the harpsichord.

Red_Priest_dancing (1)

For more information, visit the Website: www.redpriest.com

“Tickets are available at the Edgerton Pharmacy, Edgerton Piggly Wiggly, in Janesville at Knapton Musik Knotes and Voigt Music Center, and by calling (608) 561-6093.  Online at iTickets.com fees apply.

“All performances funded by the William and Joyce Wartmann Endowment for the Performing Arts.”

“Here is the program for “Viva Baroque”:

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750): Preludio

GIOVANNI PAULO CIMA (c.1570-1622) / DARIO CASTELLO (c.1590-c.1630):  Two Sonatas in “Stile Moderno”

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH:  “Bach on A” — Arioso – Bourrée – Sarabande – Gigue

GEORGE FRIDERICK HANDEL (1685-1759):  Recorder Sonata in B Minor Largo – Vivace – Furioso – Adagio – Alla Breve

ANTONIO VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto in F major: “L’Autunno” (Autumn, from The Four Seasons)                   Allegro (Dancing Drunkards) – Adagio molto (Sleeping Drunkards) – Allegro (Autumn Hunt)

ANTONIO VIVALDI:  Concerto in F minor: “L’Inverno” (Winter, from The Four Seasons):                 Allegro non molto (Bitter Frostbite and Winds) – Largo (Peaceful by the Fire with Rain Outside) –  Allegro (Ice Skating and Freezing Wind)

GEORGE FRIDERICK HANDEL:  Aria in D major

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH/O’CAROLAN/DOW/TRAD (arr. GREENBERG):  “Bach on G” —                   Prelude – Allegro – Poppy Leaf Hornpipe – The Princess Royal Hornpipe I & II – Miss Charters’ Reel

HENRY PURCELL (1659-1695) / MAURIZIO CAZZATI (1620-1677) / DIEGO ORTIZ (1580):  A Suite of Grounds

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH:   Toccata and Fugue in D minor


Classical music education: The Madison Youth Choirs perform the 11th Annual Spring Concert Series this Sunday afternoon and night. They will premiere a new work about Shakespeare’s “Macbeth by UW-Madison alumnus Scott Gendel.

May 14, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

On this Sunday afternoon and evening, May 18, 2014, the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, below) will ends the celebration of their 10th anniversary and celebrate the return of spring with a lively concert series featuring several groups whose membership total over 300 talented young singers.

madison youth choirs

All concerts will take place in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison.

Tickets are $10-$20, and can be purchased in three ways:

1. online at www.overturecenter.com

2. By phone at (608) 258-4141

3. In person at the Overture Center box office, 201 State St., Madison, Wisconsin.

Throughout this season, focused on the theme “Arts & Minds,” MYC’s singers have discovered connections between visual and vocal expressions of human creativity, using both mediums as a lens to explore the world.

Concert selections will include works from a wide variety of musical eras and cultures, including classical pieces by Bach and Vivaldi, traditional folk songs in Hebrew and Japanese, and contemporary pieces by Cindy Lauper and Eric Whitacre (below), creator of the “Virtual Choir,” which has become a global phenomenon on YouTube.

Composer conductor Eric Whitacre, in rehearsal and concert at Union Chapel, Islington, London

MYC’s boychoirs will make history with the world premiere of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music alumnus Scott Gendel’s “Sound and Fury,” featuring text from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

This ambitious new work by Gendel  will be a fitting prelude to the boychoirs’ upcoming summer tour to Scotland, where they will perform in the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival (below).

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

For more information about Scott Gendel, visit:

http://scottgendel.com

Scott Gendel color headshot

Continuing its commitment to celebrating the work of outstanding local music teachers, MYC will also present the Music Educator of the Year Award to Jan Vidruk. Ms. Vidruk (below center ) is a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education who has inspired young people in music and movement classes for over 40 years.

Jan Vidruk (center)

Here is the Concert Information, Schedules and Programs for Sunday, May 18, 2014

1 p.m. – Choraliers (below in a photo by Cynthia McEahern

Hashivenu…Traditional Hebrew

Bee! I’m Expecting You… Emma Lou Diemer

Ae Fond Kiss… Traditional Scottish, arr. Kesselman

The Duel… Paul Bouman

Kojo no Tsuki… Traditional Japanese, arr. Snyder

Madison Youth Choirs Choraliers CR Cynthia McEahern

Con Gioia (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

For the Beauty of the Earth… John Rutter

The Jabberwocky… Jennings

Tres Cantos Nativos dos Indios Krao… Leite

Annie Laurie… arr. Rentz

Madison Youth Choirs Con Gioia Karen Holland

Capriccio (below in a photo by Mike Ross)

Hark! The Echoing Air… Henry Purcell

Hotaru Koi… Ro Ogura

The Seal Lullaby… Eric Whitacre

Niska Banja… Traditional Serbian, arr. Nick Page

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

4 p.m.: Purcell

Gloria Tibi (from Mass)… Leonard Bernstein

Simple Gifts… Traditional

Orpheus with his Lute… Ralph Vaughan Williams

Laudamus Te (from Gloria in D Major)… Antonio Vivaldi

Britten

The Lord Bless You and Keep You … John Rutter

Er Kennt die rechten Freudenstuden … Johann Sebastian Bach

Holst

The Bird…William Billings

The Cowboy Medley…arr. R. Swiggum

Anthem (from Chess)…Anderson/Ulveas, arr. R. Swiggum

Ragazzi  (below in a photo by Dan Sinclair)

dominic has a doll… Vincent Persichetti

Si, Tra i Ceppi… George Frideric Handel

Fair Phyllis… John Farmer

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi HS CR Dan Sinclair

Madison Boychoir (Purcell, Britten, Holst — below in a photo by Karen Holland — and Ragazzi combined)

Sound and Fury (world premiere)… Scott Gendel, text from Macbeth

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?… Traditional, arr. R. Swiggum

Madison Youth Choirs boychoirs Purcell, Britten and Holst CR Karen Holland

7:30 p.m. High School Ensembles

Cantilena

How Merrily We Live… Michael Este

Salut Printemps… Claude Debussy

Hope… Andrew Lippa

Hope is the Thing… Emma Lou Diemer

Ragazzi

dominic has a doll… Vincent Persichetti

Si Tra i Ceppi… George Frideric Handel

Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting…John Farmer

Cantabile

Cruel, You Pull Away Too Soon… Thomas Morley

Chiome d’Oro… Claudio Monteverdi

Mountain Nights… Zoltan Kodaly

Las Amarillas…Stephen Hatfield

Time After Time… Cyndi Lauper, arr. Michael Ross

Cantabile and Ragazzi

Come Thou Fount of Ever Blessing…arr. Mack Wilberg

A Hymn for St. Cecilia…Herbert Howells (heard at bottom in a YouTube video)

This project is supported by American Girl’s Fund for Children, the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, American Family Insurance, Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, charitable arm of The Capital Times, and BMO Harris Bank. This project is also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the state of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

ABOUT THE MADISON YOUTH CHOIRS (MYC)

Recognized as an innovator in youth choral education, MYC inspires enjoyment, learning, and social development through the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. The oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC welcomes singers of all ability levels, challenging them to learn more than just notes
and rhythms. Singers explore the history, context, and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world. MYC serves more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.

In addition to a public concert series, MYC conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers, performing for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Ballet, and Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.

In summer 2014, MYC boychoirs will travel to Scotland for their first appearance at the invitation-only Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

For further information about attending or joining, visit  http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org       contact the 
Madison Youth Choirs at info@madisonyouthchoirs.org, or call (608) 238-7464

 

 

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Classical music: The Madison Choral Project celebrates the holidays and the winter solstice with “A Light in the Darkness” concert this Saturday night.

December 19, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The recently formed Madison Choral Project (below) will perform “A Light in the Darkness” concert this Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the First Congregational Church, 1609 University Ave., that features traditional holiday music combined with secular pieces focusing on the theme of light and darkness to mark the winter solstice — which falls on the same Saturday.

Madison Choral Project color

Perhaps Madison’s newest choral ensemble, the Madison Choral Project, is a fully professional 17-voice ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Albert Pinsonneault (below), who teaches and conducts at Edgewood College. You can hear the new choral group performing a work from Felix Mendelssohn‘s oratorio “Elijah” live in a concert this past May in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

MCP is a professional chamber choir dedicated to bringing international-caliber choral performances to southern Wisconsin.

Along with spoken texts, narrated by Noah Ovshinsky (below), assistant news director of Wisconsin Public Radio, the evening weaves together an eclectic range of old and new designed to be both balm and hope, joy and inspiration, on the darkest day of the year, December 21, the Winter Solstice.

Noah Ovshinsky

A world premiere performance (of a work by David Evan Thomas, below (will be featured among favorite composers such as Herbert Howells, Henry Purcell, Charles Ives, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Moses Hogan. (Update: The world premiere of a new work by Madison composer Jerry Hui has been taken off the program.)

Tickets are $20 general admission and $5 for students (with valid ID), and can be purchased online at www.themcp.org or at the concert.

David Evan Thomas

The program, arranged into four groups, includes:

Long, Long Ago (Herbert Howells)
; Silent Night (arr. Malcolm Sargent); 
Angels We Have Heard on High (arr. Matthew Culloton)
; Hear My Prayer (Henry Purcell); 
The Celestial Country: Double Chorus A Cappella (Charles Ives)

Prepare the Way (arr. Margareta Jalkeus); A Christmas Carol (Charles Ives)
; In Dulci Jublio (arr. Matthew Culloton); Jingle Bells (arr. David Moore)

“From Light to Light: Earth” by J. Aaron McDermid; and the 
WORLD PREMIERE of “Confirmatum est” by David Evan Thomas.

Go and Tell John (arr. Carolyn Jennings)
; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Op. 31, No. 12 “We Hymn Thee” (Sergei Rachmaninoff); This Little Light of Mine (arr. Moses Hogan)
; Glory, Glory, Glory to the Newborn King (arr. Moses Hogan)

 


Classical music: Madison Youth Choirs presents its 11th Annual Winter Concert Series this coming Sunday afternoon and night.

December 11, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) will present a winter concert series featuring over 300 talented young singers in three performances during the afternoon and evening of Sunday, December 15, at Madison’s First Congregational Church.

madison youth choirs

The nine performing choirs will raise their voices in celebration of MYC’s 11th season theme, “Arts and Minds.” Singers have spent a semester studying the connection between visual art and music, using both mediums as a lens to discover the world.

Concert selections will include works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten (below top), Palestrina, Johannes Brahms, Vincent Persichetti and Pablo Casals (below bottom), as well as a few holiday favorites and folk songs.

Benjamin Britten

Casals

Cantabile, MYC’s choir for advanced high school women, will also sing a hauntingly beautiful version of U2’s “With or Without You,” which earned the choir a standing ovation during a preview concert at Hilldale Mall this month.

All concerts will take place at First Congregational Church, 1609 University Ave., Madison

Tickets are available at the door. General admission is 
$12 general admission at the door, and free for children under 7.

HERE IS A MASTER SCHEDULE

1:30 P.M. – CANTILENA, CANTABILE, AND RAGAZZI (below, in a  photo by Dan Sinclair) (HIGH SCHOOL ENSEMBLES)

Selections from the 1:30 p.m. concert include:

“Turn Then Thine Eyes” (from “The Fairy-Queen”) by Henry Purcell

“Nigra Sum” by Pablo Casals

“Sicut Rosa” by Orlando di Lasso

“The Roadside Fire” (from “Songs of Travel”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams

“The Young Man’s Song” (premiere) by Eric William Barnum

“Ich weiss nicht” by Johannes Brahms

“Les Berceaux” (The Cradles) by Gabriel Faure

“Sam Was a Man” by Vincent Persichetti

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi by Dan Sinclair

4:30 P.M. – PURCELL, BRITTEN, HOLST, AND RAGAZZI (BOYCHOIRS)

Selections from 4:30 p.m. concert include:

“Bright is the Ring of Words” (from “Songs of Travel”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams

“Ich will den Herrn” by Georg Philipp Telemann

“Magno Gaudens: by Anonymous (12th century)

“All Things Bright and Beautiful” by John Rutter

“Sicut Rosa” by Orlando di Lasso

“The Roadside Fire” (from “Songs of Travel”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams

“The Young Man’s Song” (premiere) by Eric William Barnum

“Fancie” by Benjamin Britten

“Exultate Justi in Domino” by Lodovico Viadana

“All Ye Who Music Love” by Baldassare Donato (text from the 18th century, Thomas Oliphant)

7 P.M. – CHORALIERS (below, in a photo by Cynthia Hawkinson), CON GIOIA, AND CAPRICCIO (GIRLCHOIRS)

Selections from the 7 p.m. concert include:

Non Nobis Domine” by William Byrd

“Yet Gentle Will the Griffin Be” by Franciso Nuñez

“Fire” by Mary Goetze

“Dona Nobis Pacem,” attributed to Clemens non Papa

“Ich jauze, ich lache” (from BWV 15) by Johann Sebastian Bach

“Pavane” by Gabriel Fauré (at bottom in a popular YouTube video that features painting by Claude Monet and that has almost two million hits)

Madison Youth Choirs Choraliers by Cynthia Hawkinson

This project is supported by American Girl’s Fund for Children, by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, and by BMO Harris Bank.

ABOUT THE MADISON YOUTH CHOIRS (MYC)

Here is some additional impressive information from the Madison Youth Choirs:

Recognized as an innovator in youth choral education, Madison Youth Choirs inspires enjoyment, learning and social development through the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature.

The oldest youth choir organization in Wisconsin, MYC welcomes singers of all ability levels, challenging them to learn more than just notes and rhythms. Singers explore the history, context, and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world. MYC serves more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.

In addition to a public concert series, MYC conducts an annual spring tour of schools and retirement centers, performing for more than 7,000 students and senior citizens annually. MYC also collaborates with professional arts organizations including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Ballet and the Madison Opera, while continually supporting and recognizing the work of public schools and music educators throughout the area.

In summer 2014, MYC boychoirs will travel to Scotland for their first appearance at the prestigious “by invitation-only” Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

For more information – and to hear samples under the MEDIA section or find out about joining the group — visit: http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org


Classical music: The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival provides a thought-provoking and ear-delighting look into the intersection of Shakespeare’s plays and classical music.

August 29, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger 

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival has long-established a reputation for unusual programming, combining seemingly distinct genres, and exploring rare or unconventional material within them.

This season, the Festival seems to have become even more adventurous. There is the usual balancing of jazz and classical music, with more investigation of improvisatory techniques. The tiptoe into Shakespeare (below) made last year has this time has been expanded into a full and quite adventurous program, called “Shakespeare: The Bard in Songs and Scenes.”

shakespeare

The program opened with the premiere of a new composition by John Harbison (below), the co-director of the Festival who is also an award-winning composer. Called “Invention on a Theme by Shakespeare,” it takes as its “theme” a sequence of six solmization pitches (notes in a scale that are equated to syllables)  talked of by a comic character in “Love’s Labours Lost — a piece of music by the poet, if you will.  Written for solo cello with string quartet, it begins with a long solo monologue and then develops into a sequence of more animated ensemble episodes.

Thereafter, the program developed into a series of nine sets, each built around one of the plays.  In each case, a passage from the given play was recited by actor Allison Schaffer, while the songs around it were sung by soprano Mary Mackenzie), with pianist Molly Morkoski (below) accompanying stylishly.

molly morkoski

The pattern worked very well, with song composers ranging from Thomas Morley, a contemporary and friend of Shakespeare, to John Harbison himself, our contemporary and friend.

What was most engaging was the frequent pairing of settings by different composers of the same texts. This practice was brought to a peak by the presentation of three of the song texts from “The Tempest,” first as set by Henry Purcell (2) and Pelham Humfrey (1), and then all by Michael Tippett. It provided fascinating insights into the varied possibilities and aesthetics of musical word treatment.

For me, though, at least as fascinating was the unit devoted to “Hamlet,” and to the sad character Ophelia. Framing Queen Gertrude’s famous description of Ophelia’s death were two complete song cycles, each setting the words of the demented songs that the poor girl sings in her madness.

One cycle, using five of those song cycles was a rarely heard and posthumously published set by Johannes Brahms (below top). The other, using only three of the texts, was a set published as his Op. 67 by Richard Strauss (below bottom).  (And not by Johann Strauss, as the program erroneously claimed, and as carefully corrected by Harbison in his astute spoken commentary.)

brahms3

richard strauss

These texts were set by each composer in German translations, which itself highlighted the Bard’s important cultural outreach beyond the English language.  (And that point was furthered by inclusion of two Shakespeare songs by Schubert, in German; as well as one by Haydn, if in English.) The Brahms settings were in a direct and rather simple style, perhaps reflecting his extensive activity in treating German folksong.

By contrast, Strauss used them to venture into almost experimental writing, in treatments that emphasized dramatic and powerfully tragic sensibilities. I wondered when anyone else would have the enterprise to put these two cycles together for comparison.

It was a measure of their total commitment that both actress and singer delivered their work totally from memory.

Allison Schaffer (below) is just beginning a career in theater, but she demonstrates a firm sense of textual integrity, vocal clarity, and stage instincts.  She will be a local product to watch for.

Allison Schaffer

Mary Mackenzie (below) has a full, ripe soprano voice of great power and beauty. She put it to use, with effective utilization of facial expression, body movement, and even gestures, to make each song an individual piece, with its own distinct mood.  This is a superb artist of whom I want to hear more.

Mackenzie

The usual printed program was supplemented this time by a set of notes by Harbison himself, giving a concise and helpful roadmap through the plays and the selections offered.

There was, alas, one fly in the ointment. Each of the spoken selections was “accompanied” by improvisations for violin and cello devised by guest composer and violinist Andrew Waggoner (below).

Everyone I spoke to afterwards agreed with me that these improvisations were intrusive, distracting, and often downright unpleasant–certainly a serious injustice to Ms. Schaffer’s work.  I know that Harbison himself is most interested in the art of improvisation, and it deserves its space; but this was not the space into which to impose it.

Andrew WaggonerThat was the one miscalculation in an otherwise splendidly artistic and thought-provoking presentation.

The Festival concludes on this Saturday, Aug. 31, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 1, at 4 p.m. with a program called ‘The Old and the Unfamiliar,” which features unfinished Mozart works completed by Harvard University scholar and pianist Robert Levin and by festival co-director and composer John Harbison. As always, it will take place in “The Barn” (below) off Highway 19.

For more information and tickets, call (608) 241-2525 or visit: http://tokencreekfestival.org

TokenCreekbarn interior


Classical music: The Token Creek Chamber Music Festival opens this Wednesday and runs through Sept. 1. It will feature members of Boston’s Open End Ensemble as artists-in-residence; the music of Andrew Waggoner and John Harbison; music about and readings of Shakespeare; and the world premiere of completed versions of unfinished works by Mozart. Plus, retired UW-Madison singer and teacher Ilona Kombrink has died.

August 19, 2013
1 Comment

ALERT: Singer and Edgewood College voice teacher Kathleen Otterson writes: “It is with sadness that I announce the death of Emeritus Professor Ilona Kombrink (below) on Friday, August 9, in Stoughton, Wisconsin.  She passed away after being in poor health for the last several years. There has been no obituary posted yet, and no plans for a service that I am aware of. She was my teacher and one of my primary vocal and musical influences. Ilona was a longtime member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison voice faculty, and counted among her students hundreds of singers and teachers – many of us in Wisconsin — working all over the world today.  A native of St. Louis, Missouri, her natural vocal gifts were evident at an early age, and she entered the Curtis Institute at age 17, where among her classmates were Samuel Barber and Giancarlo Menotti. She loved to retell stories of her arrival in the big city of Phildelphia – “just a country girl from ‘St. Louie‘” – and the establishment there of friendships which would last through her life.  She came to the UW in the late 1960s, seeking a more stable life than that of a touring singer for herself and daughter, Nancy, retiring in 2003. She performed frequently with the Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and UW ensembles as well as in recital alone or with her UW faculty colleagues. As an artist, she was uncompromising in her search for vocal artistry and honesty. In her teaching, she never stopped encouraging her students to seek and find the same.

Ilona Kombrink

By Jacob Stockinger

The rustic yet sophisticated Token Creek Chamber Festival, which is now about 25 years old, has become the traditional closing of the local summer concert season that offers the last major events before the new fall season gets underway after Labor Day.

The festival -– which is co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of composer-violist John Harbison and violinist Rose Mary Harbison (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) -– features talented local artists and imported guest artists, and the programs are more unusual than the typical concert fare.

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

This year is no exception.

Here is a list of events. More information can be found by calling (608) 241-2525 or visiting www.tokencreekfestival.org

Program I: Jazz – Music of Harry Warren (below) with the Vocal Jazz Ensemble on Wednesday August 21, at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Thursday, August 22, at 5 p.m. (sold out) and 8:30 p.m.

This summer the Festival’s jazz program surveys composer Harry Warren, an especially appropriate choice for a 10th anniversary celebration.  The program includes some of his best-known hits (“I Only Have Eyes for You,” “At Last,” “Lulu’s Back In Town”), while also – as always – offering some choice little-known treasures like “I Want to be a Dancing Man,” “You’re Gettin’ to be a Habit” and “This Heart of Mine.”

harry warren

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble (below) was formed at MIT in the spring of 2011, and has been coached since its inception by Institute Professor John Harbison. The 10 singers, each of whom passes a rigorous audition process by peers, have quickly risen to notoriety not only on campus but throughout Boston.

Recent performances include an appearance in May with the Boston Pops at Boston’s Symphony Hall, and a professional recording with the Festival Jazz Ensemble. Five members of the VJE will perform at Token Creek with the house band, made up of John Harbison (piano), John Schaffer (bass), Todd Steward (drums), Tom Artin (trombone), and Rose Mary Harbison (violin).

MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble

Performances take place at the Festival Barn (below), on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek, with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small, and early reservations are recommended. For the jazz program the barn is transformed into an authentic jazz club, complete with small tables, candles, dim lighting, and refreshments served during sets.

TokenCreekbarn interior

The jazz concert is offered on Wednesday, August 21 at 8:30 p.m. (a waiting list is being compiled for a possible added performance that day at 5 p.m.), and on Thursday August 22 at 5 p.m. (sold-out) and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 for café seating, and $35 for balcony seats. A limited number of student tickets are available for $10.

More information about the Token Creek Festival and this event can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org.  Tickets can be reserved by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 55142, Madison WI, 53705.  

TokenCreekentrance

Program II: Open End Ensemble – New Works & Improvisations on Sunday, August 25, at 4 p.m.

“Improvisations on a Theme” is the watchword that shapes the 2013 Token Creek Festival:  in the opening jazz program; in incidental music to accompany Shakespeare scenes; and in the completions of unfinished works of Mozart.

But perhaps nowhere is it more baldly and boldy evident than in the concert presented by guest ensemble from New York, Open End (below and in a YouTube video at the bottom), three of whose members will be in residence for a week at this summer’s Token Creek Festival.

Open End Ensemble BW

Essential to the Open End mission is the reclaiming of improvisation as the birthright of all musicians. Audiences at Open End concerts come to think of spontaneous creation as being part of a natural, ongoing dialogue between performers creating in the moment and a written body of work that continues to expand, to transform. At home in venues from galleries and living rooms to concert halls, Open End seeks nothing less than to engage audiences in an experience that is wonderful, intimate, challenging and beautiful.

On Sunday August 25 at 4 p.m. Open End members Andrew Waggoner (violin), Caroline Stinson, (cello) and Molly Morkoski (piano) will present a program of recent works and improvisations in a program including music of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Anna Weesner, Andrew Waggoner, and Johann Sebastian Bach, concluding with the premiere of a new work by Waggoner (below).

Waggoner has been characterized by The New Yorker  as “the gifted practitioner of a complex but dramatic and vividly colored style” His new piano quintet, inspired by the acclaimed Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, was written this summer for the 2013 Token Creek Festival and is  dedicated to Artistic Directors John and Rose Mary Harbison.

Andrew Waggoner

Program III: Shakespeare – The Bard in Songs and Scenes will be presented on Tuesday, August 27, at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, August 28, at 8 p.m.

Open End members (see Program 2) participate in one of the Festival’s most unusual programs ever offered: William Shakespeare (below) in scenes and songs. The program opens with the premiere of John Harbison’s “Invention on a Theme of Shakespeare” (solo cello and small ensemble), followed by scenes from Shakespeare plays accompanied by new incidental music, and songs and arias on texts from the same plays set by to music by composers from the Renaissance to the present day. The plays include “As You Like It,” “Hamlet,” “Cymbeline,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “The Tempest.”

shakespeare BW

The two principal performers for the evening both were born and raised in Madison and return for this Token Creek Event: Guthrie Theatre-trained actor, Allison Schaffer (below) will dramatize the play excerpts, and New York soprano Mary Mackenzie (below), together with pianists Molly Morkoski, will offer songs by composers including Morley, Arne, and Purcell; Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf; and Poulenc, Bridge, Tippett and Harbison.

Allison Schaffer

Mackenzie

All performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the village of Token Creek, with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small, and early reservations are recommended.

Concert tickets ($30, and $10 for students) can be reserved by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or  by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 55142, Madison WI, 53705.

More information about the Token Creek Festival can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org.

Program IV: Finale – “The Old and Unfamiliar” will be performed on Saturday, August 31, at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, September 1, at 4 p.m.

It’s not a contradiction. In a program titled “The Old and Unfamiliar,” the Token Creek Festival will offer world premieres, both of a new work and of completions of old works never heard before.

What composer is more beloved and performed than Mozart (below)? Yet he was in the habit of leaving pieces unfinished, to be taken up later. He was above all practical and pragmatic — if he was working on a violin sonata when a commission for a wind piece came in, he’d suspend work on the sonata, planning to return to it later.

mozart big

There is now conclusive evidence that some of his pieces lay unfinished for 10 years.  His early death prevented the completion of many of them.  Can they be recovered, “new” Mozart works that add to our sense of his prolific variety?  The Token Creek musicians think so.

Three Mozart completions anchor the last concerts of the Festival:

• The violin sonata in C, K. 403 (1784-85), in which Mozart composed the first two movements and the first 20 measures of the last; the final movement was completed by John Harbison (below) in 1968.

• The Allegro in A major (K. Anh. 48), the opening 35 measures of this violin sonata first movement written by Mozart, the remainder completed in 2012 by Harvard University scholar and classical period keyboard expert and improviser Robert Levin (below), who is a frequent guest at Token Creek.

• The Allegro in G Major (K. Anh. 47), another sonata first movement begun by Mozart (the first 31 measures), also completed by Levin last year.

“Revisiting these pieces I think is interesting,” says Levin. “The idea of course is not to suggest to people whom you’re going to write something which is as audacious, as inspired, as pleasurable to listen to as what Mozart would surely have done had he lived to complete these pieces but it gives you an idea. It’s like an artist’s conception of an idea before the building is actually constructed.”

“And of course there is this combustible attitude of improvisation in which one realizes that no text that Mozart wrote was really sacrosanct,” Levin adds. “He did not write pieces down so that people would play exactly what he wrote and nothing else. This was not the way music was done in the 18th century, and in the early 19th century it wasn’t done that way either. That is, just the way every performance invited improvisation so, in a sense, the score was a blueprint.”

Levin with piano

In addition to the completion premieres, the program also includes the premiere of John Harbison’s Violin Sonata No. 2 (2013), some rare old things — Purcell sonatas for two violins – and Mozart’s infrequently heard and bizarrely scored Horn Quintet (for two violas, one violin, and cello.

All performances take place at the  Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the town of Token Creek, with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small, and early reservations are recommended. Arrive early and tour the beautiful setting and farm fields (below in a photo by Jess Anderson).

Token Creek Land 1 Jess Anderson

More information about the  Token Creek Festival can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org.

Concert tickets are $30, and a limited number of student tickets are available for $10. Tickets can be reserved by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 55142, Madison WI, 53705.

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: You can help produce a local concert production of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” with a small or large donation.

November 4, 2012
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Some loyal fans of this blog, longtime local businesspeople who are also loyal concert-goers and loyal supporters of local music, have informed The Ear about a very worthwhile project.

So The Ear gives a hearty Shout-Out and Thank You to Carol “Orange” Schroeder and Dean Schroeder (both below), the owners of Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street who put their money where their ears are.

The project involves local soprano Jennifer Sams, who is using a public funding website – akin to Kickstarter, but called IndieGoGo — to launch a local early music project: A concert product (without sets and costumes) of the opera “Dido and Aeneas” by Henry Purcell (below). And if you wonder what it might look and sound like, listen to Jessye Norman singing “Dido’s Lament” at the bottom.

Here is a link to the contribution site:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/256868

Sams (below), who graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Music with a doctorate and who sang with the University Opera, has established a fine reputation for herself.

Here is a link to Sams’ website, which also a current biography and lists her upcoming concerts in Madison and Wisconsin:

http://www.jennifersams.com/jennifersams/Welcome.html

It looks like all she wants or needs to raise is $1,000 to get the project a green light, and has so far raised about half of that.

My guess with such a small sum is that she will have no problem raising what she needs.

I recall local performer and composer Jerry Hui using Kickstarter to raise enough money — $6,000, if I recall correctly — to stage his Internet opera, done for his UW doctoral thesis, “called “Wired for Love.”

Here’s hoping that Jennifer Sams has as much success.

Don’t be shy.

Giving a large amount would be great – she can always exceed the target – but lots of small amounts could help too. After all, that is how President Obama, raised a lot of money for his first successful run in 2008.

 


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