The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Saturday and Sunday, the Madison Savoyards and Central Wisconsin Ballet team up in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pineapple Poll” and “Trial by Jury.” Plus, the first Stoughton Chamber Music Festival starts Saturday

August 15, 2019
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ALERT: The two concerts of the first Stoughton Chamber Music Festival will take place on this Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, at 3 p.m. and on Monday night, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Stoughton Opera House, 381 East Main Street. Admission is FREE with a suggested donation of $15.

Featured is music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Samuel Barber, Edvard Grieg, George Gershwin and Paul Schoenfield as well as Norwegian folk music. The Ear did not receive details, but here is more information from a story in Isthmus:

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend, the Madison Savoyards and Central Midwest Ballet Academy team up to present two of the less well-known works by Gilbert and Sullivan: the comic ballet Pineapple Poll and the operetta Trial by Jury (below, in a photo by Kat Stiennon).

The performances of the two one-acts are in the Mitby Theater at Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College), located at 1701 Wright Street on Madison’s east side, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, Aug. 17, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 18.

Tickets are $30 for adults; $28 for seniors; and $15 for young people and students. Children 3 and under get in for free.

For more information, call the Mitby Theater Box Office at (608) 243-4000 or got to:

The music director and conductor of the professional orchestra, who is making his debut with the Madison Savoyards, is Sergei Pavlov (below), who teaches at Edgewood College and directs the Festival Choir of Madison.

The “Pineapple Poll” choreography is by Marguerite Luksik (below) of the Central Midwest Ballet Academy.

The stage director of “Trial by Jury” is J. Adam Shelton (below).


Here are some program notes provided by The Madison Savoyards:

In an age of international copyright and patent tension, Pineapple Poll ballet suite is an intriguing story. The composer, Arthur Sullivan, had died in 1900. The 50-year copyright moratorium on his music expired in 1950, but his librettist partner, W.S. Gilbert, died in 1911. So in 1950, the leading 20th-century conductor, the late Sir Charles Mackerras (below), could only use the work of the former to create a new work in their honor.

From this legal oddity came the only ballet based on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan (below) and, according to The Times of London, one of the best loved of English ballets. It was first performed in the United States in 1970 by the Joffrey Ballet in New York City; and, most recently, in El Paso, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Livermore, Sarasota and Northampton, Mass.

The music for Pineapple Poll,as a suite, has been played in numerous venues in the U.S., including a performance with band director Mike Leckrone at the UW-Madison in 2008 and at the UW-La Crosse in 2015, thus indicating a strong Wisconsin interest in the music alone.

From its opening notes leaping off the pages of Mikado, Pineapple Poll is a vigorous listen and a visual delight. Clement Crisp of the Financial Times called it, “that rarest of delights, a true balletic comedy.” The National Association for Music Education had identified it as a model piece for elementary school children. In 2003, Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed that, in its pairing with Trial by Jury, “if there’s ever been a Gilbert and Sullivan show for people who don’t like Gilbert and Sullivan, this is it.”

Trial by Jury contrasts with the non-verbal Pineapple Poll, showcasing Gilbert’s lyric style in songs that tell the Victorian tale of marital promissory breach with the resulting farcical trial ending in marriage. It was Gilbert and Sullivan’s second collaboration and established their successful reputations. (In photos by Aimee Broman, below top shows Thore Dosdall playing the defendant Edwin (at left) getting the feeling that the jury is not on his side. Below bottom shows the plaintiff Angelina, played by Megan McCarthy).

The Central Midwest Ballet Academy’s Marguerite Luksik and Michael Knight have created original choreography for Pineapple Poll, and performances will feature students from the Academy’s pre-professional level.

In contrast to the tragic-dramatic plots of traditional ballets, the lighthearted nature of Pineapple Poll appeals to a broader audience. Pineapple Poll presents a combination of balanced spectacle and the challenge of experimental work.

Yoked to Trial by Jury, the two productions spark social and artistic novelty, critique and entertainment.

It is worth noting that the performances this weekend are a new collaboration between two homegrown Madison troupes. The Savoyards have been performing every summer since 1963, while Central Midwest Ballet has been active since 2015.

Here is an example of the Sullivan operetta tunes patched together in the Opening Dance of “Pineapple Poll.” (You can hear the Overture in the YouTube video at the bottom):

    1. The Mikado, Opening Act 1.
    2. Trial By Jury, “Hark, the hour of Ten is sounding.”
    3. The Mikado, “So please you, sir, we much regret” (“But youth, of course, must have its fling. . .”
    4. Patience, “The Soldiers of our Queen.”
    5. Trial by Jury, “He will treat us with awe” (“Trial-la- law”).
    6. The Gondoliers, “Good Morrow, Pretty Maids” (orchestral accompaniment).
    7. Trial By Jury, “Hark, the hour of Ten is sounding.”
    8. The Mikado, “So please you, sir, we much regret.”

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Classical music: SUNDAY afternoon Edgewood College mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson will perform a recital of songs by Schubert, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Berlioz, Rossini, Gershwin, Alec Wilder, Andre Previn and others. Plus, Ilona Kombrink memorial is set for Oct. 20.

September 10, 2013

ALERT: Edgewood College teacher and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson, a loyal reader and friend of The Ear, writes: “There will be a memorial concert for the UW-Madison soprano and voice professor Ilona Kombrink (below), who died last month and with whom I was privileged to study, on Sunday, October 20, at 3 p.m., at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community’s Grand Hall. We are very early in the planning stages, but we hope that former students and colleagues will perform or speak on the program. More information will follow soon.”

Ilona Kombrink color

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College mezzo-soprano and voice professor Kathleen Otterson will perform a song recital this coming Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is $7 to benefit the music scholarship fund at Edgewood.

Otterson writes:

“I am dedicating this concert to my former teacher, the UW-Madison soprano Ilona Kombrink who died last month. But the program is a collage of things I performed on two concerts in Bayfield this summer — hence its title: “What I Did With My Summer Vacation.”

The pianist is Edgewood College coach and accompanist Susan Goeres (below top, on the right with Otterson on the left) . Flutist Elizabeth Marshall (below bottom), who performs in the Black Marigold wind quintet, teaches at Edgewood College, UW-Platteville and Madison Area Technical College and who is the second flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, will also participate.

Kathleen Otterson (l) and pianist Susan Goeres

Elizabeth Marshall flute

Describing the major works to be performed, Otterson continues: “Of particular interest, I think, is the Andre Previn piece: “Two Remembrances,” written for Sylvia McNair and first performed by her at the Tanglewood Festival in 1995. The intermingling of the alto flute and the voice is really remarkable, with the flute providing the second voice in the evocative dialogue. 

andre previn color


“Ilona had a special fondness for the “Rueckert-lieder” of Gustav Mahler (below top), and I was fortunate to work on these wonderful songs with her for my graduate recital.

“The poems of Friedrich Rueckert held deep personal meaning for Mahler, and these songs are very much more intimate than the better-known “Wunderhorn Songs.””Ich atmet einen Lindenduft” is included in the program, paired with a song by Alma Schindler Mahler (below bottom) composed at around the same time: “Laue Sommernacht” (performed in a YouTube video at the bottom with some good listener comments.)

Gustav Mahler big

Alma Mahler

“Rossini’s song cycle “La Regatta Veneziana” tells the story of the historical Venetian Regatta, which takes place each year on the waters of the Grand Canal (below) at the beginning of September (this year it was on Sunday, September 1).

“Along with a spectacular procession of elaborately carved boats and costumed participants, there is a race – the subject of the song cycle, as the young girl Anzoletta watches anxiously for her lover Momolo, offering scorn if he fails to win and kisses if he succeeds.

Grand Canal, Venice

“Three songs from the beautiful “Nuits d’été” (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz (below) round out the program. They are not specifically about “summer” but instead seem to be summertime musings, both sweet and bitter, settings of texts by Théophile Gautier. Musically, they are everything from playful to melancholy in character.


“Parking at Edgewood is free and the Chapel is accessible to all.”

Classical music: Community participation is vital to the arts. The Madison Symphony Orchestra elects new officers and directors. And it plans a special gala fundraising dinner for the public on Friday, Sept. 20, to mark the beginning of music director John DeMain’s 20th anniversary season with the MSO.

August 26, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

I have nothing really profound or subjective to share  today.

I just want to pass along to two pieces of news from the Madison Symphony Orchestra that I deem worthy of being covered.

The first is that the MSO has elected a new board of directors, including former UW-Chancellor, Provost and engineering professor John Wiley – an amateur pianist and avid classical music fan – as President of the MSO.

I share this press release in the belief that more members of the community need to know how such important cultural institutions depend on participation from the public it serves — from us. Indeed, many of the names, I suspect will be familiar to you from other contexts, whether commercial, educational, artistic, political, social or legal.

Here is the press release:


“The Madison Symphony Orchestra Board recently elected former University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor John Wiley as its Board president along with other officers and new directors to serve a three-year term. The Board consists of 39 elected directors plus several ex-officio directors, who also have voting privileges.

“The following are the newly-elected officers and directors for the 2013-2016 seasons:

President:  John Wiley (below), former chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

John Wiley

Vice President: Elliott Abramson, former law professor

Vice President: Mary Lang Sollinger (below), community leader, fundraiser and volunteer

mary lang sollinger

Vice President: Lynn Stathas, shareholder, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren

Secretary: Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill), music host, Wisconsin Public Radio

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

Treasurer: Jeffrey Ticknor, managing director, BMO Harris Bank

Directors, newly elected are:

Darrell Behnke, market leader, The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank

Rosemarie Blancke, vice president, Madison Symphony Orchestra League; life member, Max Kade Institute

Lorrie Keating-Heineman, director of development, University of Wisconsin Foundation; former secretary, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

Gary Mecklenburg, executive partner, Waud Capital Partners, L.L.C.

Fred Mohs (below), past president, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Inc.; partner, Mohs, MacDonald, Widder, Paradise and Van Note

Fred Mohs 2008

Beverly Simone (below), president emeritus, Madison Area Technical College

Beverly Simone

Mary Alice Wimmer, former professor of art, University of Wisconsin System; community volunteer

mary alice wimmer

For more information about the Madison Symphony Orchestra Board, its other directors and advisors, visit:

The MSO will mark its 88th concert season in 2013-2014 by celebrating the 20th anniversary of John DeMain as music director.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below in Overture Hall) engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community programs. Learn more at:

mso from above

Also important to announce is that a special gala fundraising dinner will be held a week before the opening concert of the season to mark music director and maestro John DeMain’s 20th season with the MSO. (DeMain, who trained at the Juilliard School, came to Madison from the Houston Grand Opera after the retirement of Roland Johnson, who died last year.)

Here is that announcement:


Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Gala on Friday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. at the Overture Center will honor its Music Director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) and his 20 years of musical contributions to the Madison arts scene.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

An elegant evening of gourmet food, music by world-renowned University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below) and members of the Symphony, and a video tribute will celebrate Grammy and Tony Award-winning maestro John DeMain.


The Madison Symphony Orchestra League and the Madison Symphony Orchestra Board are hosting the Gala, which is open to the public.

Limited seats are available and reservations are due Sept. 9. To learn more and to register, visit:


Classical music: Less than two weeks remain to see the world-class Pro Arte String Quartet exhibit in Madison at the Dane County Regional Airport. It is a must-see and must-hear.

August 25, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

If your spring or summer travels haven’t taken you to Dane County Regional Airport, be sure to make a stop out there during the next two weeks.

That is where – through Sept. 3 — you will find an absolutely first-rate  and fabulous exhibit marking the centennial of the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) , which played four new commissions and recorded them last season to mark the occasion that made the Pro Arte the oldest continuing string quartet in history.

The exhibit (below) was painstakingly planned and put together by Paula Panczenko and her team from the UW Tandem Press, with special and outstanding help from artist and designer Andree Valley, who teaches at Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College.)

The exhibit has high-tech videos and podcasts (below) and low-tech scores and instruments. It is chock full of information about the quartet: its history in Belgium and then here in Madison where it was exiled after World War II interrupted its American tour; its many members over 100 years; its music, including manuscripts of new works; its recordings on LPs, tapes and CDs; its American, European and global tours as traced on maps; and much more. It really is a treat that surpasses even the highest expectations.

Here are some more photos I took of the exhibit that you will find in the main entry. I hope they entice you to go in person and spend some time looking closely and interacting with it. You won’t be sorry you did.


For more information about the Pro Arte Quartet, including photos, reviews and audio clips, visit the many samples on YouTube and the quartet’s home page at:

Classical music news: Roland Johnson, co-founder of the Madison Opera and longtime conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has died at 91.

June 3, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Roland Johnson (below), a longtime pioneer of classical music in Madison who paved for the way for the current artistic and financial successes of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera, died Wednesday at the age of 91.

He was also active as the head of the music department at Madison Area Technical College and cultivated local talent at MATC and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music as well as working with the many stars and guest soloists of the classical music world he brought to the city. During his retirement, he also guest conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

So far, no cause of death has been given.

Here is a link to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal (whose archives also provided the photo below) and The Capital Times/77 Square.

And here is a link to the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s website entry on Johnson and Music Director Laureate, which has a lot of background:

I have not yet seen a full obituary published, but I expect one soon. I also so far do not know about plans for a memorial service. When I know details, I will pass them along.

PLEASE NOTE: I just heard details of the Memorial Service,  Here they are: Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 11 a.m. at MIDVALE COMMUNITY LUTHERAN CHURCH, 4329 Tokay Boulevard, Madison. A visitation will start at the church at 10 a.m. and a reception will follow. Memorials may be made to the Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra or the Midvale Community Lutheran Church.

Johnson died just a year after the death of his very close friend Ann Stanke, who, along with Johnson’s late wife Arline, co-founded the Madison Opera and led the Madison Symphony Chorus.

I personally knew Johnson to be a generous and amiable man, one who took great pride in his fidelity to a composer’s intention and who also prided himself on studying with the great German conductor Hermann Scherchen.

Johnson, a dedicated violinist, also played in a string quartet at the University of Alabama, prior to coming to Madison in 1961. He retired in 1994 and was succeeded by John DeMain.

Johnson was not a temperamental artist but a forgiving man. When I once criticized in print the tempo at which he took a Beethoven symphony, he later explained in the most friendly of terms why he chose that tempo but at the same respected my right to disagree with his choice.

For me, Roland Johnson was a great man and a great musician. He embodied the idea of the artistic humanist who is more than a performing perfectionist. I and many other will miss him.

Please leave your tributes and observations in the Comments section.

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