ALERT: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its acclaimed music director Andrew Sewell are pretty busy these days playing the accompanying music for the Madison Ballet‘s multiple performances of Peter Tchaikovsky‘s holiday ballet “The Nutcracker.”
Then on this coming Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Blackhawk Church in Middleton, the WCO, the WCO Chorus, the Festival Choir of Madison and guest soloists, all under the baton of Sewell, also give their annual and usually sold-out performance of George Frideric Handel‘s oratorio “Messiah.” The Ear has been told that this year’s performance is also close to selling out to. For more information and tickets, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. this Saturday night, Dec. 10, the Madison Bach Musicians (below top) will give their sixth annual Baroque Holiday Concert.
The event will once again be held in the beautiful and sonorous sanctuary (below) of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue.
There is a free pre-concert lecture by the always witty, informative and entertaining MBM founder, artistic director and harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson (below) at 7:15 p.m. NOTE: Trevor Stephenson will also discuss the upcoming holiday concert and play excerpts from past ones TODAY AT NOON on The Midday program aired by Wisconsin Public Radio.
The program will feature: a cappella (solo vocal) masterworks by Orlando di Lassus and Josquin des Prez performed by a vocal quartet; a Christmas Cantata for soprano and strings by Alessandro Scarlatti—featuring soprano soloist Chelsea Morris (below top); a trio sonata by Johann Joseph Fux; an intriguing Partita for two scordatura violins (scordatura means the open strings are re-tuned into a new interval configuration!) by Heinrich Biber; the Sonatina in A minor for baroque bassoon and continuo by Georg Philipp Telemann ― with soloist and UW-Madison professor Marc Vallon (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill); one of the Christmas Cantatas, BWV 122, Das neugeborne Kindelein (The Newborn Baby) by Johann Sebastian Bach (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); and a bonus feature ― a preview of MBM’s upcoming April performance of Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion, the tenor aria Ach, mein Sinn.
Advance-sale discount tickets: $28 for general admission, $23 for students and seniors 65 and over. They are available at Orange Tree Imports, Farley’s House of Pianos, Room of One’s Own, and Willy Street Co-op (East and West) . You can also find online advance-sale tickets at madisonbachmusicians.org
Tickets at the door are: $30 for general admission; $25 for students and seniors 65 and over. Student Rush tickets are $10 at the door and go on sale 30 minutes before lecture (student ID is required)
Musicians will include: Chelsea Morris, soprano; Joseph Schlesinger, counter-tenor; Scott Brunscheen, tenor; Matthew Tintes, bass; Kangwon Kim and Brandi Berry, baroque violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, baroque viola; Martha Vallon, baroque cello; Marc Vallon, baroque bassoon; and Trevor Stephenson, harpsichord
By Jacob Stockinger
Our friends at the Madison Youth Choirs and the Madison Choral Project sent us the following announcement:
On this Saturday night, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., two generations of Madison’s talented vocalists will come together for an ambitious concert that will bring over 900 years of choral tradition to life.
The two most advanced ensembles of the Madison Youth Choirs — Ragazzi and Cantabile (below), composed of singers ages 15-18 and conducted by Michael Ross — will perform two early music selections: Hildegard von Bingen‘s 12th-century “Sed Diabolus” and Josquin’s 15th-century “Ave Maria.”
The Madison Choral Project, a professional chamber choir directed by Albert Pinsonneault (below), will bring the concert into the 19th and 20th centuries with Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem and James MacMillan‘s “Te Deum.”
Gabriel Faure‘s “Requiem” is gentle, yearning, sublime, and transcendent. We have worked so hard on crafting a fine sound and bringing nuanced phrasing to the fore. We are thrilled to present this work!
James MacMillan’s “Te Deum” is spacious, vibrant, at times meditative and at times intense. This virtuosic work demands the highest possible musicianship with its complex rhythms weaving together to form a larger tapestry of sound.
In the Faure and MacMillan, we join with guest organist Bruce Bengtson, who pulls amazing sounds from the great organ at First Congregational United Church of Christ.
The two choirs will also combine to sing Hans Leo Hassler‘s “Ach weh des Leiden” (you can hear them perform the work in a YouTube video at the bottom) and the American traditional “Down in the River to Pray,” used to memorable effect in the popular Coen brothers‘ film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?“
Tickets $20 in advance at http://themcp.org/tickets/ or $25 at the door
ABOUT THE MADISON CHORAL PROJECT
The Madison Choral Project is Wisconsin’s only professional chamber choir. Our Project is to enrich lives in our community by giving voice to the great music of our diverse world; to express, to inspire, to heal; to garner joy in the experience of live music; and to educate and strengthen the next generation of singers and listeners.
The Madison Choral Project is not just a choir; it’s a movement to improve our human experience through music.
ABOUT THE MADISON YOUTH CHOIRS (MYC)
Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 500 young people, ages 7-18, in 11 single-gender choirs.
The singers explore the history, context and heart of the music, becoming “expert noticers,” using music as a lens to discover the world.
Through a variety of high-quality community outreach programs and performance opportunities, MYC strives to make the benefits of arts participation accessible to all.
For further information: Madison Youth Choirs, see firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (608) 238-7464.
By Jacob Stockinger
Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor will be a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.
Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform the second concert of its fourth season on Friday, Aug. 22, at 7:30 p.m., in Music Hall. Utevsky is also the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has a website here (www.disso.org).
You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.
Utevsky offered The Ear a review of this weekend’s concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.
The Ear immediately took him up on the offer. After all, Utevsky is a discerning listener and a perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour three summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.
Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):
By Mikko Utevsky
The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below), now in its 13th season with founder Scott MacPherson, delivered a polished and professional concert Friday night at Christ Presbyterian Church.
The performance opened with a wrenching rendition of Imant Raminsh’s “Come, my Light,” followed by a pure and beautiful “Hear My Prayer” by Henry Purcell (below).
Two back-to-back settings of “Mille regretz,” the first by Josquin des Prez (below top) and the second by University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate Andrew Rindfleisch (below bottom), made for an interesting comparison — Rindfleisch produced an introspective, dark reading, while Josquin’s famous setting was ably rendered beside it as well.
The crown jewel of the first half was the final motet by Johannes Brahms (below), the anguished, searching “Warum ist das Licht gegeben?” (Why Is the Light Given to Those In Misery?, which can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom).
In four movements, this motet is, apart from the “German Requiem,” which the IVE has announced they will perform — with orchestra — for their 15th season in 2016, Brahms’ greatest choral work, with densely chromatic lines and twisting, intricate counterpoint. The chorus dug into this tremendously difficult music with gusto, singing with a complex and varied sound and excellent blend.
The second half began with a work by Anton Bruckner (below), “Virga Jesse floruit,” another German masterwork, again sung with a secure sound and attention to the drama of the composer’s setting.
“Tebe poyem” (from the Orthodox liturgy) by Sergei Rachmaninov (below top) was my favorite piece on the concert, displaying a depth and richness of sound surpassing anything else on the program. The solo line by Chelsea Propst (below middle) soared over the chorus, whose basses rose to the challenge of Rachmaninov’s tremendously low writing with aplomb. Another Russian work captured much of the same magic, “Ne riday Mene, Mati” by Alexander Gretchaninov (below bottom).
Lionel Daunais (below), a French-Canadian composer and singer, produced a comic treat in his “Figures de danse,” a suite of six hilarious settings of short, original poems about dancers and theater performers. The only work with piano on this program (with a difficult and prominent part performed excellently by Jane Peckham), these little vignettes had the audience in stitches.
The concert concluded with two spiritual settings by Moses Hogan. The first was a soulful solo rendition of “There’s a Man Goin’ Round,” sung by Kathleen Otterson (below), who teaches at Edgewood College, over the hummed accompaniment from the chorus.
The second was a rapid-fire, high-energy “Elijah Rock” to close out the evening. (A humorous encore will remain unidentified — go hear the repeat Sunday to find out what it was!)
My only programming regrets were the absence of any works between Purcell and Brahms — surely that two-century gap must have yielded some works worthy of inclusion! — and the preponderance of Christian sacred music.
Certainly it forms the backbone of the choral literature, but on a program of 11 works (if “Mille regretz” is to be counted twice), to have only three (again, including the above twice) works that were not both sacred and Christian seems striking, especially for a chorus with no religious affiliation. A little more diversity in selection would be welcome on both counts.
Throughout the performance, the chorus (below top) sung with clear diction and strong sound, rising to the technical challenges of every work with apparent ease. IVE founder and conductor Scott MacPherson (below bottom, conducting a rehearsal), who teaches at Kent State University and is a UW-Madison graduate, directed with energy and excitement, and the chorus clearly responded.
Despite its once-a-year schedule, this group is clearly a Madison fixture, and thoroughly earned their full house and standing ovation Friday night.
The performance will be repeated this afternoon, Sunday, August 3, at 3 p.m. in the Covenant Presbyterian Church (below) on 326 South Segoe Road. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 students and seniors. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
ALERT: For the latest news from the 10-day tour to Argentina by the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), here is a link to Day 6:
By Jacob Stockinger
One of the many summer musical events that have become institutions to look forward to are the two concerts by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.
Here are the details, from a press release, for this weekend’s sets of two concerts:
ISTHMUS VOCAL ENSEMBLE RETURNS FOR ITS LUCKY 13TH SEASON
MADISON – When conductor Scott MacPherson –- a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — convened some of Madison’s top singers in 2002, he had no way of knowing that the newly formed Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below) would begin one of Madison’s most anticipated summer musical traditions. (You can hear a stirring sample at the bottom in a YouTube video of a live performance by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.)
Now in its 13th year, the ensemble -– a professional-level choir of approximately 60 singers –- brings new life to over 500 years of choral music. Amazingly, the choir continues to do it all within a brief two-week rehearsal period.
This intense spirit of camaraderie produces a singular and remarkable experience, year after year.
Madison-area audiences have two opportunities to hear the 2014 program.
The traditional Friday night concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on this Friday, August 1, at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham Street. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors; children 12 or under get in for free. Tickets can be bought at the door or on-line at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/802712
The program will be repeated at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, August 3, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road. General admission tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for students and seniors. Children under 13 get in free. Tickets can be bought at the door or on-line at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/802714
This year, the singers will tackle texts in Latin, French (medieval and modern), Russian, German, English and even a form of nonsense language, notated loosely in Finnish, inspired by both Scandinavian folk dance and the Muppets’ Swedish Chef (below).
This year’s performance includes introspective choral masterworks by Henry Purcell, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner and others, exploring the labyrinth of emotions begat by LOSS.
The French chanson “Mille regretz” by the 15th century composer Josquin des Prez (below top) is matched by a modern setting by Andrew Rindfleisch (below bottom). Here is a link top the home website for the Prix de Rome-winning composer Andrew Rindfliesch, who did his bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison:
The choir’s renowned low basses will be on display in Russian works including Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Tebé poyém (We Hymn Thee)” and Alexander Gretchaninoff’s stunning “Ñe rïdáy Meñé, Máti (Do not lament me, O Mother).”
From the German tradition, Johannes Brahms’ Two Motets, Op. 74 (beginning with “Warum ist das Licht gegeben”), join Anton Bruckner’s classic “Virga Jesse.”
Other composers represented include Jaako Mäntyjärvi, Lionel Daunais, Henry Purcell (below), Imant Raminsh and the great spiritual arranger Moses Hogan.
The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble is led by Scott MacPherson (below), director of choral activities at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, who trained at the UW-Madison.
The IVE’s members include professional singers and choral directors, professors, lawyers, students and passionate advocates for the arts. The choir has performed by invitation at the North Central Conference of the American Choral Directors Association, commissioned several world premieres and released two albums.
For more information, visit www.isthmusvocalensemble.org or the choir’s page on Facebook.