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: Here is an outline of this summer’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. More details will follow soon. Plus, Wednesday night is the opening classical program of the FREE Concerts on the Square.

June 23, 2015
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REMINDER: Wednesday night at 7 p.m. is the opening concert of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s six FREE Concerts on the Square this summer. The program is classical and features Julian Rhee (below), the amazing 14-year-old violinist who has won several major concerto competitions, including those with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The program includes music by Alexander Glazunov, Piotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms. Members of the Madison Ballet will also be featured.

Here is a link to general information about Concerts on the Square:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performance-listing/category/concerts-on-the-square

And here is a link to more information about Wednesday night’s program and soloist:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square-1/

Julian Rhee with violin

By Jacob Stockinger

A reader recently wrote in and asked if the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will take place this year.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

The question is understandable. So far, there has been no news.

But the Token Creek Festival will indeed take place this summer.

The Ear just received information about some of the basic events that will happen. More details will follow and fill in the programs.

Here is the official press release:

“With its 2015 season somewhat uncertain after a difficult winter, the Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce this summer’s programs, running August 22-30 this year.

August 22 and 23: “Founders’ Recital — Beginnings Revisited.” 
The concert centers on works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by festival co-founders and co-artistic directors John and Rose Mary Harbison (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

August 25: “Paean to Place: Music and Nature and the Poetry of Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker.” The concert will feature
 pianist Ryan McCullough (below top) and soprano Lucy FitzGibbons. The program is done in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, below bottom)

Ryan McCullough with piano

lorine niedecker

August 27: The Lydian String Quartet (below top) in works of Felix Mendelssohn, Lee Hyla (below bottom) and John Harbison.

Lydian String Quartet

Lee Hyla

August 29 and 30: Grand Finale featuring 
orchestral highlights of the high Baroque, including the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (below). (You can hear the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Bach1

More information about the festival will be forthcoming soon.

 


Classical Music: Isthmus Vocal Ensemble performs a world premiere by Madison composer Jerry Hui plus music by Mendelssohn, Brahms and other composers Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

July 31, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Over the past decade, the annual concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below, in a photo by Jim Pippitt) has become a mid-summer landmark in Madison’s rich classical music scene.

The group does amazing things, especially given that it pulls its annual summer program together in only about two weeks. Its conductor is University of Wisconsin School of Music alumnus Scott MacPherson (below), who flies into town and gets the group rehearsing difficult old and especially new music.

In that short two weeks, the group prepares and presents an interesting and unusual program that typically combines well-known masterpieces with unknown or neglected works as well as world premieres.

The concerts always garner critical acclaim as well as a devoted following, and the part-time even manages to record outstanding and unusual CDs, including a compilation of works by contemporary composer Andrew Rindfleisch and an eclectic, unusual holiday CD called “An Isthmus Christmas.”

For more about the group in general, visit: http://www.isthmusvocalensemble.org/

This year marks the 11th annual concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble. The event is especially noteworthy because it is a send-off of sorts: It marks the end of the Andrew Taylor’s tenure as president of the group. (He is not singing this summer because of his upcoming career change, but says he hopes to return next summer to sing. You can say hi and thank him at the ticket table, which he will be manning at the two performances.)

Taylor (below), who for 20 years has headed the renowned Arts Administration program at the UW Business School – the first program is its kind in the country — is leaving in August to take up a tenure-track faculty post at American University, which wisely recruited him, in Washington, D.C. For three years in a row, Taylor was named on the national list of the “The 25 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Non-Profit Arts World.”

How the UW-Madison let a teacher and researcher of this caliber and prominence get away is beyond me, but there it is – a subject of regret and a topic for another time.

A typical offering by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, this summer’s program spans five centuries of choral masterworks, and includes a world premiere by Madison local performer Jerry Hui), who is equally at home in early music (he founded and directs the ensemble Eliza’s Toyes) and contemporary music (he is a co-founder and co-director of NEW MUSE or New Music Everywhere).

For this concert, Hui, who just received his doctoral degree at the UW School of Music and composed and staged an Internet opera “Wired for Love” as his thesis, has sets poems by Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker (below in a photo by Bonnie Roub), an “Objectivist” poet who graduated from Beloit College and lived and worked in Fort Atkinson, to music.

The first performance is this Friday, Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the resonant, cathedral-like acoustics of Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue in Madison, where the group promises the air conditioning will be working.

A repeat performance is on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m. in the more intimate space of Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road, on Madison’s near west side.

General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door, or online at:

http://www.isthmusvocalensemble.org/

Here is the impressively varied program, subject to change:

“Richte mich, Gott,” Op. 78, No. 2, by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847); “Parce mihi Domine,” by Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553); Three poems by Lorine Niedecker (world premiere), by Jerry Hui (b. 1981)’ “The Drowned Lovers” (1998, rev. 2009), by Judith Bingham (b. 1952); “The Bluebird”by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924); “Der Abend” (Evening), Op. 62, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897); “Lux caelestis” (Heavenly Light) (2004/2011), by Timothy Kramer (b. 1959)

And for more specifics about the two upcoming performances of this summer’s concert, visit:

http://www.isthmusvocalensemble.org/concert.html


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