The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Sunday, Beverly Taylor retires as associate conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Kyle Knox will succeed Taylor starting this fall.

June 29, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has announced that Associate Conductor Beverly Taylor (below) will retire from her current position after 22 years, effective this Sunday, July 1.

Taylor will continue to serve as Director of the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a  photo by Greg Anderson).

She will also continue as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, where she conducts many groups including the Choral Union (below) and the Concert Choir.

Kyle Knox (below) will become the MSO’s new Associate Conductor, effective in the 2018–2019 season.

“I am delighted that Beverly will continue to work with the Madison Symphony Chorus. The chorus has improved steadily under her direction and will sing some very difficult music in the coming seasons,” said MSO music director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad). “I also want to thank Beverly for the outstanding help she has given me in the preparation of our concerts over the years.”

“I’ve loved my time as associate conductor of the symphony, and will continue as chorus director,” says Taylor. “But I’m looking forward to more time for guest conducting, visiting friends and family and finishing the two books I’m at work on. I also have a grant to write a basic conducting textbook, and I’m finishing a handbook on how to develop a musical interpretation.”

John DeMain says he looks forward to Knox joining the MSO. “I think Kyle Knox is a natural to step into the associate conductor position. He has distinguished himself in the past few years with his work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Opera and the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by John W. Barker). He also successfully led the MSO in last year’s Concert on the Green.

“His recent appointment as Music Director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) is a testament to his brilliant talent and will dovetail easily with his duties with the MSO. I so look forward to our working together and welcome him to our Madison Symphony Orchestra family.”

Knox is also very pleased with his appointment.

“My history with the MSO goes back a few years and I have long admired the work of Maestro DeMain and this wonderful group of musicians,” he says. “It is an honor to have been selected for this opportunity and I look forward to happy years of service and collaboration.”


Beverly Taylor has been the Associate Conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Madison Symphony Chorus since 1996 and Director of Choral Activities at UW-Madison since 1995.

Prior roles include conductor of the Boston Bar Association Orchestra, Music Director of the Back Bay Chorale, and Associate Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University.

Taylor has been a guest conductor at the Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, the Vermont Symphony, the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the U.S. Air Force Band and Orchestra, the Harvard Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, and the Wellesley Chamber Singers.

She graduated from the University of Delaware and Boston University School for the Arts and received a fellowship with Chorus America and an orchestral fellowship at Aspen.

Kyle Knox will take over the dual positions of Music Director of WYSO and Associate Conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra beginning in the 2018–2019 season.

Past and upcoming conducting credits include Mark Adamo’s Little Women with the Madison Opera; Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw, and Transformations; with UW-Madison’s University Opera; the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2017 Concert on the Green; Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers and H.M.S. Pinafore with the Madison Savoyards; as well as UW Music Clinic’s High School Honors Orchestra.

Other concerts include Carousel, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd (2018) with Middleton Players Theatre, Jon Deak’s The Passion of Scrooge with Oakwood Chamber Players, as well as regular appearances with the Middleton Community Orchestra.

He was formerly a clarinetist with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera and Philadelphia Orchestras, and was on the faculty at UW-Milwaukee. Festivals credits include Tanglewood, Spoleto (Italy), Santa Fe Chamber Music, and Bowdoin College, among others. His debut album, the first commercial recording of Conrad Susa’s chamber opera Transformations, will be released in the summer of 2018 on iTunes. He holds degrees from Juilliard School and the UW-Madison. He  is married to MSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz. 

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Classical music: Learn more about the waltz — and other forms of dance music — and why it endures in classical music. Then tell The Ear about your favorite waltz and waltz composer.

June 22, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear spent much of the past weekend listening to dance music.

To the tango, to be specific, the new tango or “nuevo tango.”

He heard eight or 10 sexy and bittersweet tangos that were played superbly by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which was certainly helped by the presence of pianist Pablo Zinger who played with New Tango master and Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. (You can still catch the two BDDS concerts with tangos — and much more — TODAY at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green. For details, visit,

I will have more to say about those concerts later this week.

But all that South American dance music brought to mind what is no doubt the most popular dance of Western European classical music: the waltz. (Below are people dancing the Viennese waltz.) Music is so tied to the dance.

viennese waltz

The great music blog “Deceptive Cadence” that is written by NPR recently featured an overview of the waltz with history and some very fine sound samples.

I thought the history was a little skewed or thin. Personally, I wish the blog had said how the waltz -– which by now we so identify with aristocratic nobility and with elegance – evolved out of rougher peasant dances, including the landler. You can hear the similarities especially in Landler movements by Franz Joseph Haydn (below) and even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.


I would also like to have heard a wider range of waltzes and waltz composers. Sure, there is the Strauss family. But some of my favorites are the smaller waltzes by Franz Schubert (below top) and Frederic Chopin (below bottom) to say nothing of Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich among others.

Franz Schubert big


But the waltz is a huge subject and the NPR essay is a fine starting point.

Here is a link to the NPR posting:

And here is a popular YouTube video, with more than 1.3 million hits, of the great pianist Arthur Rubinstein playing one of The Ear’s all-time favorite waltzes, which has just the right hint of bittersweetness, by one of the all-time great waltz composers, Frederic Chopin.

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra deserves to be taken seriously by local symphony fans. Plus, Edgewood College’s FREE Fall Choral Concert is tonight at 7.

October 18, 2013

ALERT: Tonight at 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, Edgewood College presents its FREE Fall Choral Concert. The program includes the Chamber Singers and Men’s Choir under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault (below), and the Women’s Choir under the direction of Kathleen Otterson.  This free concert will feature a diverse repertoire, including traditional Western, African and American Gospel works.

Albert Pissonneault 2

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 FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.


By John W. Barker

The Middleton Community Orchestra (below, in a photo by Margaret Barker) is trailblazing in a number of ways.

Middleton Community Orchestra Margaret Barker

For one thing, it regularly has its concerts on Wednesday evenings (though the one on December 23 will be on a Monday), thus avoiding contributing to the already impossible crush of weekend conflicts.

Second, like some other groups, it performs a program without intermission (and follows the concert with generous refreshments, below, and a chance to meet the musicians).  Under some circumstances, that kind of program could be hard on the performers, given no rest.  But it does make for a compact concert experience.

Middleton Community Orchestra reception

On Wednesday night, the MCO opened its 2013-14 season, its fourth season, at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, attached to Middleton High School. And it sounded better than ever.

Middleton Community Orchestra Steve Kurr conducting

After some shuffling, the program had settled down to a familiar symphony, framed by two familiar overtures.

Hector Berlioz (below) took material from his opera “Benvenuto Cellini for his “Roman Carnival” concert overture.


Maestro Steve Kurr (below, in a photo by Margaret Barker) tends to favor somewhat leisurely tempos, but not always just to make things easier for the players. In the slow opening material the strings delivered a degree of confidence and suavity beyond anything I have heard from them before. And the whole orchestra easily managed the brisker tempo of the overtures fast and flashy later sections.

Steve Kurr 10-13 Margaret Barker 2

The meat in the hamburger, as it were, was the Fourth or “Italian” Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn (below). Given the limited number of rehearsals the orchestra can manage, it works miracles. To be sure, it could use more, and the somewhat overtaxed sound of the strings, especially the violins, seemed not quite fully secure, at least in the first movement.  But that movement contains particularly difficult string writing, after all.


Conductor Kurr rightly included the movement’s repeat, too often ignored by many conductors (who thereby lose some lovely transitional moments). But the work went very well, overall, in an intelligently conceived and very handsomely played performance, a real pleasure to hear.

The final piece was by Richard Wagner (below), whose bicentennial is being marked this year: the overture to his opera “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.”  It is an absolute marvel of orchestral writing, and the Middleton players made it sound truly magnificent.  Particularly noticeable was progress in the brass section, which sounded more secure, better disciplined and balanced, than ever before, truly splendid.

Richard Wagner

Madisonians, listen up!  It can fairly be said that our area now has four orchestras to take seriously.

Not only the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, of course, but the UW Symphony Orchestra as the third, and the Middleton Community Orchestra as an honorable fourth. Madison’s concert-lovers who ignore their concerts are missing some very fine music-making!

Fore more information about attending, p;laying in and supporting the Middleton Community Orchestra, which is heard playing Johann Strauss Jr.’s famous “On the The Beautiful Blue Danube” waltz in a YouTube video at the bottom,  visit:

Classical music: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Orchestra will perform a FREE concert of classics this Wednesday night at 7 at the Gialamas Company’s 12th annual summer Concert in the Park at the Old Sauk Trails Business Park. Here are details and the background.

August 12, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Think of it as the Seventh Concert on the Square – except that the 12th annual Concert in the Park (below, in an aerial view) is from from downtown, located instead on Madison’s far west side in the Old Sauk Trails Business Park, 1200 John Q. Hammons Drive.

WYSO Concert in the Park Photo aeriel view

After all, it is OUTDOORS. And it is FREE. And it is on a Wednesday night – in fact this Wednesday night, Aug. 14, from 5-9 p.m., with the music starting at 7 p.m. sharp.

It is all very familiar friendly and features food and treats, including an ice cream social and a fireworks show.

But the annual Concert in the Park also has a few differences.

Here are some details about the event that is becoming increasingly popular as it becomes increasingly established as a showcase for young talent and a good time for the public.

For one, it is performed by the Youth Orchestra of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) rather than the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Any funds raised will benefit the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), which has taught more than 5,000 young musicians from over 100 communities in Southcentral Wisconsin since it was a founded in 1966.

For more information about WYSO, here is a link to WYSO:

Also, the guiding financial support comes from the Gialamas Company, a real estate development firm headed by husband George and wife Candy Gialamas (below) as well as from other sponsors.

George and Candy Gialamas

For the fifth year in a row, the performers are extremely talented young students, WYSO’s premiere performing group (below) and who will perform under the baton of conductor James Smith, director of orchestras at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. And the repertoire is all classical music, drawn from the concert WYSO performances during its regular past season.

WYSO Concert in the Park, playing under Jim Smith 3


Here is the generous, varied and very accessible program, with the timing in minutes included in parentheses:

Overture to “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss Jr.  (9); Suite from the opera “Carmen” by Georges Bizet featuring “Les Toréadors,” “Prelude et Aragonaise,” “Intermezzo,” “Les dragons d’Alcala,” the famous “Habanera” and the “Bohemian Dance” (15); First movement from the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra by Franz Joseph Haydn with oboist Lauren McNeel (10); the Allegro resolute, alla Marcia from Symphony No. 2, “Antar” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (5); INTERMISSION The second movement from Symphony No. 2, “Romantic” by Howard Hanson (14); Allegro Appassionato from the Concerto No. 2 in D Minor for Piano by Felix Mendelssohn with pianist Vivian Wilhelms (10); Music for Symphony Orchestra by Yasushi Akutgawa (12).

By way of introduction, conductor James Smith (below) writes:

“The concert is a wonderful exposure for the WYSO program, and the concert is presented with the utmost professionalism because of the financial support from the Gialamas Company.

“We perform for an audience that finds the orchestra far exceeds their expectations, and it gives the members of the orchestra another chance to feel appreciated for their musical talent.

“Naturally, our traditional audience is primarily family and friends of the musicians.  The Concert in the Park gives the orchestra a feeling of accomplishment and artistic validation.”



You can arrive around 5 p.m. to enjoy pre-concert activities, to socialize and to picnic. You can set up lawn chairs and blankets at that time.

Schoep’s Ice Cream and The Gialamas Company, Inc. will once again be partnering with the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund for the 5th Annual “Ultimate Ice Cream Social. All-you-can-eat ice cream is sold for $5 for adults, $3 for children, and $3 for a super scoop. Free face painting and coloring sheets are available for the kids. All the proceeds of this event go to keep the Heat and Power on for those most in need.

WYSO Concert in the Park kids eating ice cream 2


Appetizers, a picnic dinner and beverages are available from the concert caterers, Benvenuto’s Italian Grill or Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub. Food and drinks must be pre-ordered and placed with the restaurant of your choice prior to tomorrow, TUESDAY, August 13. Food is delivered to sponsor tables between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

If you do not have a reserved sponsor table but still wish to order food, you may pick up your order at the event. Menus and ordering information can be found online at

Sponsorships:  Are still available.  Contact for more information!

WYSO Concert  the Park Tent 4


Here is the history of the WYSO Concert in the Park as told by Candy Gialamas to Gialamas Company employee Erica Wiley:

How was the event started?  Whose idea was it?  How did the first year go?

It all began over 12 years ago. George and I went golfing with friends. The Clubhouse was closed by the time we were done, so one of our friends suggested a local restaurant that had an outdoor patio.

A group of musicians from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra was playing and after they were finished, Andrew Sewell, the conductor, came over and chatted with our table.  After Mr. Sewell’s departure from the conversation, one of our friends suggested that we should put on a classical Concert in Old Sauk Trails Park.

Shortly thereafter, George asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary … and I said an outdoor concert!

The first year, we only had one month to plan and orchestrate the entire event.  Our Construction Manager, Andy and I took care of everything and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performed.  We invited friends, family and our tenant and the first year, 800 people showed up.

The last few years, we’ve had audiences of 5,000.  The event continues to grow and flourish each year!

Do you or your children have a musical background or play an instrument?

Our entire family is very involved with numerous art and music organizations. George sang his way through college while attending Marquette University. Aris enjoys singing as well; Lana and Gina both took piano lessons as children.  All of the Gialamas children have followed in our footsteps and are involved with various art and music boards and fundraising.

What about symphonic music inspires you?  Why do you think everyone should experience a Symphony Concert?

The whole reason I wanted to start Concert in the Park was that music is a universal language and inspires feelings that everyone from any background and culture can relate to.

Symphony music can bring joy, sadness, excite or sooth and can inspire a range of emotions depending on the piece.  Since the beginning of time people have used musical expression to tell stories, document events, etc. Music is an integral part of history.

What do you think of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra performance as compared to a typical Symphony performance? (Editor’s note: You can hear WYSO perform the dramatic last movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s famous Fifth Symphony in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The last five years, we have asked the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra to perform at the event and could not be more pleased with their performance each and every year.

The talent that the youth musicians possess is absolutely amazing and inspiring.  They give such an exceptional performance and you can feel their excitement at playing an outdoor venue in front of such a large crowd.  The audience can truly see how much they enjoy performing.  They are a wonderful group of musicians and we are proud to support them.

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