The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The King’s Singers will mark 50 years when they perform Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater

April 9, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The acclaimed a cappella singing group The King’s Singers (below) will be marking its 50th anniversary when it performs the annual Fan Taylor Concert – named to honor the first director of the Wisconsin Union Theater – on this Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Shannon Hall.

Tickets are $25-$45 general admission, $20 for youths and $10 for UW students. For more information, including the complete program, background, audio-video samples and how to purchase tickets, go to  https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/the-kings-singers/. You can also phone 608-265-ARTS (2787) or go in person. See locations and hours here.

Celebrating their Golden Anniversary this year, The King’s Singers are widely acclaimed for the quality of their singing and diverse repertoire, which includes over 200 commissioned works from the world’s leading composers.

The commissioned arrangements come from a breadth of musical genres: jazz standards to pop chart hits, medieval motets to Renaissance madrigals, and new scores by young composers.

The upcoming concert is part of their 50th anniversary world tour, and the program showcases their signature blend, purity of tone, and diversity of repertoire, with selections ranging from Renaissance polyphony to brand new commissions celebrating the 50th anniversary.

This love of diversity has always fuelled The King’s Singers’ commitment to creating new music. A panoply of commissioned works by many of the greatest composers of our times – including Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, John Rutter, Toru Takemitsu, Sir John Tavener and Eric Whitacre – sits alongside countless bespoke arrangements in the group’s extensive repertoire.

One of these is called “To Stand in This House” by Nico Muhly (below), which sets various texts by scholars who originated at King’s College, Cambridge, where The Kings Singers were founded.

The program, GOLD, charts a journey through the music that has defined The King’s Singers so far, from Renaissance polyphony to art song to, naturally, close harmony favorites.

The group also looks toward the future with several commissions for the 50th season from composers and arrangers with who they have ties, including, in addition to Nico Muhly’s work, “We Are” by composer/conductor Bob Chilcott, himself a former member of The King’s Singers; and “Quintessentially” by Joanna and Alexander L’Estrange (below), which humorously tells the story of The King’s Singers’ past 50 years.

The King’s Singers was founded in 1968 at King’s College in Cambridge, England. They continually wow audiences across the globe in over 125 concerts a year. The group has won two Grammy awards and was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame for its vocal artistry and excellence. (You hear a sample from the group’s new anniversary album, “Gold,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Madison concert is presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Performing Arts Committee.

This concert is 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. WORT-FM 89.9 is the media sponsor.


Classical music: The Festival Choir opens its season Saturday night with a light and music project devoted to peace

October 27, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Festival Choir of Madison (below, in a photo by Stephanie Williams), singing under its director Sergei Pavlov, will open its new season with a mixed arts event devoted to peace.

Festival Choir of Madison Tchaikovsky Fall 2014 CR Stephanie Wiliams

The concert is this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Atrium Auditorium at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.

Da Pacem Domine” is a project of music and light dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

It will feature light design by Andrew Schmitz.

Tickets are $15 for general admission; $12 for seniors; and $9 for students.

For more information about this concert, tickets and the entire season with three more concerts, go to: http://festivalchoirmadison.org

festival-choir-of-madison-new-logo-2016

Says Pavlov (below), who teaches at Edgewood College:

“Tonight the Festival Choir of Madison presents a project that goes beyond the concept of a traditional concert. With the help of compositions from all around the world, we recreate a day in the life of a nation. Yes, this day is September 11, 2015. But in fact, it could be any day in history, when humanity has faced profound grief caused by hatred and destruction.

“The concert comprises six parts: “Morning,” “Cries and Whispers,” “A Prayer for Peace,” “Interlude,” “The Memory of our Heroes” and “On Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

“From the dream-like visions of Daniel Elder, through the biting dissonances of Hikaru Hayashi and the otherworldly sounds of Ēriks Ešenvalds, the Festival Choir of Madison and the light designer Andrew Schmitz will take you on a journey of compassion and hope.

“Experience the healing power of LIGHT AND MUSIC in a project inspired by choral works of Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, Ēriks Ešenvalds (heard below in a YouTube video), Hikaru Hayashi, Daniel Elder, Rene Clausen and James MacMillan.”

There will also be cello music by Johann Sebastian Bach and bagpipe music performed by Rhys O’Higgins.

Sergei Pavlov


Classical music: Here is a year-end look back at the classical music performers and composers we lost in 2013, including pianist Van Cliburn and British composer John Tavener.

December 30, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Even as we look forward to a New Year, it is a traditional to look back at the various classical musicians -– performers and composers and even some prominent scholars or musicologists -– that we lost during 2013.

At the top of everyone’s list is probably the acclaimed but enigmatic American pianist Van Cliburn (below top) and the British composer John Tavener (below bottom, in a photo by Steve Forrest).

van cliburn old

John Tavener composing Steve Forrest Insight-Visual

The famed New York City City radio station WQXR-FM has put together a good “in memorium” slide show. Here is a link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/memoriam-classical-musicians-who-died-2013/

Something new, I think, is also an overview of classical music in 2013 that includes awards and works as well as deaths on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_in_classical_music

APOLOGY FOR A MISTAKE: As a reader alerted me, the Polish composer Krzysztof Pedereecki is NOT DEAD but is still living and recently turned 80. I mistakenly thought he had died at 80 and I apologize for the error. I changed the headline, but I am leaving in some material because it is so good. So here are fine appreciations, with audio clips, of Penderecki (below) by NPR weekend host Arun Rath and NPRDeceptive Cadence’ blog director Tom Huizenga:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246916733/a-sound-of-fear-forged-in-the-shadow-of-war

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/23/246309165/the-sound-of-struggle-tempered-with-terror-penderecki-at-80

krzysztof penderecki

Locally, of course, as well as regionally, nationally and even internationally, the most memorable death in music education was that of Marvin Rabin (below), the 97-year-old founder of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. His memorial service was yesterday. Here is a link to my appreciation of him:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/classical-music-let-us-now-praise-marvin-rabin-who-founded-the-wisconsin-youth-symphony-orchestra-wyso-who-excelled-as-a-music-educator-and-performer-who-was-the-leonard-bernstein-of-ma/

marvin rabin BW

Are there other “departures” — or deaths or passings or losses — pick your term — you know of?

Do you care to leave an appreciation or comment?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: British composer Sir John Tavener is dead at 69. He made being old-fashioned new again.

November 16, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

I know of two composers who seem like throwbacks to older time – very old times at that – and yet who stir passionate loyalty among lovers of contemporary classical music.

One is Sir John Tavener (below, in a photo by Simone Canetty-Clarke) and the other is Arvo Part.

john tavener Simone Canetty-Clarke,

Both seemed to draw inspiration from older forms of choral music, all the way to early chant and church music.

Both became quite popular, at least by the standards of contemporary classical music as compared to pop, rock, blues, and jazz. Tavener’s early work was even released on the Apple record label by the Beatles and by Sir Paul McCartney, who seems to have a good ear for whatever will catch on.)

But The Ear could never figure out why local groups, especially the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the UW Choral Union – to name a few prominent local music groups – never performed more of their choral and instrumental works since both composers seem to connect widely with and resonate deeply with the public.

True the composers were hardly avant-garde or cutting edge, especially in their pursuit of an apparently old-fashioned spirituality and devotional kind of music.

But a lot of beauty, maybe even most of it that passes the test of history, in art is not cutting edge.

All this comes by way of introducing the fact that this past week, the British composer Sir John Tavener (below, at home composing in a photo by Steve Forrest for Insight-Visual), who found his abiding musical and spiritual roots in the Russian Orthodox Church, died this past week at 69 after a long period of protected illnesses.

John Tavener composing Steve Forrest Insight-Visual

Here is a roundup of some of the best stories The Ear could find on the web:

Here is a comprehensive obituary from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/13/arts/music/john-tavener-dies-at-69-composer-with-eye-on-god.html?_r=0

Here is a wonderful story that was done by the outstanding NPR classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/11/12/244788638/remembering-holy-minimalist-composer-john-tavener

Here is an obituary from Gramophone, the well-respected British classical music magazine:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/the-composer-sir-john-tavener-has-died

And here is the story of one listener’s growing appreciation of Tavener’s music:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/10447276/John-Tavener-how-I-came-to-love-his-music.html

Did you know and like or dislike the music of Sir John Tavener?

Do you have a favorite piece of his? (Perhaps the “Funeral Canticle” that was used in the critically acclaimed 2011 film by Terrence Mallick “The Tree of Life” and  remains his most popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Ear wants to hear.


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