The Well-Tempered Ear

Wisconsin Ensemble Project’s string quartet program to benefit the United Way of Dane County debuts online this Friday night

May 11, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, May 14, the Wisconsin Ensemble Project will present a recorded concert (below, in an image by Katrin Talbot) in partnership with United Way of Dane County (UWDC). 

This is their second in a series of performances to benefit local and international organizations.  

This production offers viewers a meaningful program that leads to direct impact with a focus on housing stability and family well-being.  You will hear the story and see the face of UWDC woven throughout a chamber music performance. 

The program of works for string quartet includes “Park”  by Daniel Bernard Roumain (below top); the “Heiliger Dankgesang” (Sacred Hymn of Thanksgiving, which you can hear played by the Alban Berg Quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom) from Beethoven’s Opus 132; and selections from Five Folksongs in Counterpoint by Florence Price (below bottom).

WE Project members and performers are local, professional musicians who work together in the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra: violinists Leanne League and Mary Theodore; violist Jen Paulson; and cellist Karl Lavine.

“The WE Project is rooted in the quartet’s desire not only to delve deeply into chamber music repertoire, but also to address some of the many pressing social justice issues of our time,” says member Mary Theodore.

When exploring organizations to partner with for their second project, the quartet was inspired by the work of United Way of Dane County. The WE Project approached United Way out of their concern over housing security, with the understanding that one of UWDC’s key goals is to help more individuals and families find pathways out of poverty through housing and employment initiatives.

The recorded production will be available by registering at from 6 p.m. this Friday, May 14, for 72 hours. Admission is free and contributions are strongly encouraged.

Contributions can be made through the website and will help to cover basic production costs and get funds directly into the hands of this very worthy organization which, most importantly, brings aid to the people they serve.

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Classical music: In this Saturday night’s concert, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin features music by Paul Schoenfield, Morton Gould and George Gershwin as well as the art of sampling music through “turntableism.” Plus, the UW Chamber Orchestra and Winds of Wisconsin perform this Sunday.

February 15, 2013

ALERT: In Sunday, there are two concerts worth noting and attending at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. On Sunday at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under guest conductor and UW alumnus Kevin McMahon (below). McMahon is the music director of the Sheboygan and Wheaton (Illinois) Symphony Orchestras  and was a Collins Fellow while studying at the UW. His program includes Vaughan Williams Overture to “The Wasps”; UW soprano Mimmi Fulmer in Joseph Cantaloube’s popular “Songs of the Auvergne“; and Mozart’s dramatic Symphony No. 40 G minor. Then at 5 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Winds of Wisconsin of Wisconsin perform a FREE concert (the program includes: “Lux Arumque” by Eric Whitacre; “La Fiesta Mexicana” by H. Owen Reed; and “Fanfare for the Third Planet” by Richard Saucedo ) under director Scott Teeple.

Kevin McMahon

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the most inventive and interesting chamber music groups in the area is the recently formed Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (below). It uses fine performers at different venues and offers different thematic programs, always with some unusual angle or logic in mind, and always with top quality performances.

SEW Sound Ensmble of Wisocnsin 2012

This Saturday is a prime example.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the new, crisply designed Atrium auditorium (below) of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin will present “American Patchwork” as its next concert, honoring the art
 of musical sampling of American genres.

Tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased in advance on SEW‘s website or by cash or
 check at the door.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

SEW will perform the classic and popular piano trio “Cafe
 Music” by American composer and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor teacher Paul Schoenfield, who was in Madison last spring when the Pro Arte String Quartet gave the world premiere of his “Three Rhapsodies for Piano Quintet” with pianist Christopher Taylor that the quartet had commissioned for its centennial celebration. In the often performed piano trio work (in a YouTube video at the bottom), the composer pays tribute to ragtime and Broadway, among other styles. Also on the program are 
Morton Gould‘s “Rag-Blues-Rag” for piano as well as several Gershwin songs.

Paul Schoenfield BW klezmerish

The stage will then be
turned over to SEW’s special guest turntablist, DJ Moppy (below, aka Christopher Thomopoulos), who will be joining them from Chicago to 
represent the craft of sampling, using Gershwin among other samples on his turntables.

Moppy for SEW Chris Thomopoulos

If you want to sample the sampler, DJ Moppy 
demonstrates turntablism in a short video which can be found on the “Events” page of SEW’s website:

Musicians for the concert include Vince Fuh, Mary Theodore, Maggie Townsend, Rachel
 Eve Holmes, and Chris Thomopoulos (DJ Moppy).

In keeping with the concert’s theme, SEW will be accepting fabric at the performance for their community quilt, sponsored by Stitcher’s 
Crossing and fabricated by volunteers, to be presented and auctioned at the last concert to benefit 
SEW’s future programming. All are welcome to bring 5″ square to 1/4 yard, 100% cotton fabric they’d
 like to share.

This event is sponsored in part by WORT 89.9 FM.

According to SEW’s founder and director, violinist Mary Theodore (below), SEW’s mission is to share great chamber music with more people through theme-based programming,
 collaboration, and education while encouraging participation in an authentic performance experience.

Mary Theodore violin

Theodore wanted to remind readers of the following: “As many are aware, ticket proceeds do not begin to cover the cost of expenses necessary to present concerts and sustain an organization.  SEW is actively seeking contributions to fund this event.  If you’re interested in hearing more about this SEW and their upcoming project, please visit 50 cents to every contributed dollar is matched.”

SEW has received excellent reviews: “SEW will certainly bring a new dimension to Madison’s cultural scene,” said John W. Barker on The Well-Tempered Ear about the group’s inaugural concert last season. “The performances were all splendid … and the command of technique and the precision of ensemble
throughout was of the highest artistic standards.”

For more information, visit the group’s website:


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