By Jacob Stockinger
The mostly amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (MCO, below), which has gotten better and better and rarely disappoints even in ambitious and difficult music, will wind up its fifth anniversary season this coming Wednesday night with a brass extravaganza.
The performance is at 7:30 p.m. in the modern, comfortable and spacious Middleton Performing Arts Center (below) that is attached to Middleton High School.
Tickets are $10; students get in for FREE.
Advance tickets are available at Willy Street Coop West. The Box office opens at 6:30 p.m. and the doors open at 7 p.m.
The program includes The “Capriccio Italienne” by Peter Tchaikovsky; the Carnival Overture by Antonin Dvorak; the Horn Concerto by Reinhold Glière with soloist Paul Litterio (below); and the world premiere of the Tuba Concerto by University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate Pat Doty, who will also be the soloist.
Steve Kurr (below) will conduct.
Here is a link with more information about the MCO and how to join it and support it:
Composer and tuba performer Pat Doty (below, in a photo by Steven Thompson) answered an email Q&A for The Ear:
Can you tell us briefly about your background, including your education and performance history?
I grew up in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. I hold a master’s degree in tuba performance from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where I was a member of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band for four years, including three trips to the Rose Bowl.
While at the UW-Madison, I performed with the Wind Ensemble (including a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City), Concert Band, Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble, the Middleton Community Orchestra, Low Brass Ensemble, 4BA Tuba Quartet, Madrigal Singers and the Lumberjack Brass Quintet.
My solo tuba performance credits range from solo recitals to guest appearances at schools across southern Wisconsin.
When and how did you start composing? What works have you written in the past?
I first started writing music when I was in high school and I was very interested in singer/songwriters like Elton John and Billy Joel. During my time at Mount Horeb High School, I wrote more than 500 songs, most of which never made it past the grand piano in the living room.
When I started graduate school, the tuba studio at UW-Madison was treated to a guest performance by Øystein Baadsvik, who really inspired me to start writing for tuba. I was also heavily influenced by my undergraduate professor, John Stevens (below).
My catalogue now includes dozens of works for solo tuba, chamber ensembles and large ensembles. It probably comes as no surprise that I compose rather frequently for tuba quartet and brass quintet.
Additionally, I write a great deal of music for my wife Brigid, who holds a degree in vocal performance from UW-Madison, to sing with me accompanying her on the piano.(You can hear them in a YouTube video at the bottom in a song by Pat Doty.)
How would you describe your compositional style — tonal or atonal, accessible, melodic and so forth?
My music is tonal, accessible, melodic and so forth. I jest, but I really do strive to write music that is very fun, beautiful and accessible to a wide-ranging audience.
My major influences are not famous classical composers, but rather those musicians who I listened to when I was growing up.
For example, I draw a lot from pop music and classic rock. I know that might seem like an odd connection — pop music and the tuba — but I have always fallen back on my vocal training to instruct my tuba playing, and I see no reason why the same connection shouldn’t exist in my compositions.
To put it simply, I approach writing for solo tuba (with any sort of accompaniment) in quite the same way that I approach writing a song at the piano. I always have a poem, an idea, something in mind that inspires me. For example, my tuba duet “Mendota” is based on a poem that I wrote for a pop song, but it works beautifully for an instrumental piece.
What would you like the public to know about your new Tuba Concerto, which you will perform and premiere with the Middleton Community Orchestra?
First and foremost, my Tuba Concerto doesn’t take itself too seriously. That is a recurring theme in my music. I am very excited for the premiere with the Middleton Community Orchestra, which is sounding great by the way, and I really hope that people have as much fun and find as much joy in listening as I do playing this music.
A couple of interesting quirks to note are that there is a large, essential euphonium part in this piece, and that there is a marimba solo in the third movement. These are both things that, I think it is safe to say, are not particularly common in orchestral music.
I used a euphonium (below) and no tuba in the orchestra because I want this to be a piece that an orchestra could use to feature their own tubist if they so choose. Also, I am friends with quite a few euphonium players.
What else would you like to say?
First, I would like to say thank you to the Middleton Community Orchestra for premiering my Tuba Concerto. I am very much looking forward to the performance for many reasons, not the least of which is that this will be my first chance to present my compositions to a broad classical music audience.
I would also like to mention my new record label, Merp Entertainment, which I co-founded with my wife Brigid last year. Our debut CD “Dare to Entertain” has found national success, particularly on the internet streaming service Spotify, where it has amassed more than 3 million song streams to date.
By Jacob Stockinger
So now the question becomes: Who should succeed Levine?
Several names stand out.
But the smartest money seems to be on the relatively young conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin (below). The French-Canadian and openly gay conductor now leads the Philadelphia Orchestra and is closely attached to the Rotterdam Philharmonic in the Netherlands.
A comprehensive profile of the charismatic and energetic conductor – who is known for his unique, subtle and powerful interpretations – with the pros and cons of an appointment to The Met was recently written by New York Times music critic Zachary Woolfe.
Woolfe raves about his conducting but then goes on to raise several important points about the difference between being a conductor and a music director. (You can hear a lot of recorded performances of his conducting on YouTube. At bottom is the beginning of an insightful two-part interview with Nézet-Séguin.)
The Ear found the criticism relevant, if a little lopsided, and was impressed overall with the story.
So read it for yourself and decide:
Then leave word in the COMMENTS section and let The Ear and his readers know whether you think Nézet-Séguin should be the next music director of The Met?
Or would you suggest another name?
By Jacob Stockinger
It’s no secret that a lot of classical music organizations in the U.S. are looking for new ways to attract bigger audiences and especially younger audiences.
Even some of the world’s most prestigious organizations are feeling the pain and sensing the scare.
Apparently, attendance at the world-famous opera company is dangerously low, putting the Met in financial and, eventually perhaps, artistic trouble.
So this past week, several of the music critics for The New York Times offered their suggestions about how to improve attendance at the Met. The suggestions include cheaper tickets, different repertoire and special events.
The story has relevance to the Madison scene, especially as many arts groups face similar challenges even at they are announcing their new seasons and seeking new subscribers.
It is also relevant to Madison both because of what yet remains to be done but also because of some of the things—like Sunday afternoon performances – that are already being done.
The Ear found it a good read, loaded with food for thought. (Below is an illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey). He hopes you agree. Here it a link:
The Ear also thinks for some groups that shorter concerts, more informal concerts and lower prices would be helpful.
Do you have ideas you care to share?
Just put them in the COMMENTS section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following timely and important announcement:
The Festival Choir of Madison (below) and its new artistic director Sergei Pavlov – who teaches at Edgewood College — will close the current season with a special concert this Saturday night, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.
The performance features one of the legendary American choral conductors, Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt (below right, with Sergei Pavlov). You can hear a long Q&A interview with Joseph Flummerfelt in the YouTube video at the bottom.
The program with the Festival Choir includes music by German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, British composer Herbert Howells, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki and Scottish composer James MacMillan. Sorry, no word on individual works to be performed.
Tickets for the evening concert are available at the door and cost between $9 and $15.
Since 1971, Joseph Flummerfelt (below) has been responsible for most of the choral work of the New York Philharmonic, working closely with its music directors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert. Until 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities in the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
Joseph Flummerfelt (below) with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists has been featured in 45 recordings, including a Grammy Award-winning CD of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with Leonard Bernstein. His collaboration with the great American composer Samuel Barber includes the Grammy Award-winning recording of Barber’s opera “Anthony and Cleopatra.”
In 2004 Flummerfelt was awarded a Grammy for the New York Choral Artists’ recording of “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition written by John Adams in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the world. Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below) — the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, who, as a teenager, studied with Dr. Flummerfelt in two advanced conducting summer workshops — cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”
Flummerfelt has a special connection with Madison as well. As an undergraduate student in De Pauw University in Indiana, he was deeply inspired by a performance of a visiting choir, and the conductor of this group was Robert Fountain, the legendary Director of Choral Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Also on Saturday, May 7 at 11 a.m. there will be a question/answer session for all who would like to meet the Maestro Flummerfelt. The host is Edgewood College, and the session will be at the Washburn Heritage Room in the Regina Building. This is a FREE event.
By Jacob Stockinger
If you suffer from stage fright when you perform in public, you are not alone.
Some of the biggest names in the performing arts share that same fate.
And there seem to be many ways to deal with stage nerves, from eating potassium-rich bananas just prior to performing to taking beta-blocking drugs to doing all sorts of meditation and adopting new attitudes.
But here is an essay form the Internet by professional cellist Miranda Wilson (below) with a point of view and helpful hints that might prove useful:
Do you have tips abut dealing with stage fight?
Please leave your suggestions in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present “Songs In a New Land” on this Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave., in Madison and on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at Cargill United Methodist Church, 2000 Wesley Ave., in Janesville.
Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students.
Advance tickets are available from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org. They are also available at the door.
The WCC’s concert will celebrate composers who were immigrants from the 15th century to the present, including emigres to the United States from China, Russia, Syria, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
At a time when immigration has become a burning issue in national politics, the WCC’s program highlights composers who emigrated from the country of their birth to make new homes elsewhere. They imported traditions from their homelands and enriched the cultural life of their adopted countries in innumerable ways.
Their reasons for leaving home were varied-some moved voluntarily but many were forced to emigrate for political, economic or religious reasons or, often, a combination of all of these.
While the experience of leaving behind all that is familiar and making a new life in a foreign country was rarely easy, the interaction of old and new influences resulted in some of the most lasting and unique artistic creations in history.
Most of the featured composers were or are immigrants to the United States, but the program opens with a set of Renaissance motets—“Stabat Mater” by Josquin des Prez (below top) and “Domine, Convertere” by Orlando di Lasso (below bottom) — demonstrating that migrant composers have played a major role throughout history.
Some of the more recent composers represented are: Kurt Weill, whose Kiddush was composed for Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City; Chen Yi (below top), represented by “A Set of Chinese Folksongs”; Osvaldo Golijov (below bottom), with an excerpt from his “Pasion segun San Marcos” (Passion According to St. Mark); and 20th-century giants Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
Although Schoenberg and Stravinsky were known for their dissonant, modernist works, much of the music they composed in the U.S. was tempered by an effort to communicate with audiences here. During the 1940s, both men ended up settling in Hollywood, along with countless other exiled European artists fleeing totalitarian regimes and persecution at home.
In the case of Schoenberg (below), even though he is known as “the father of atonality,” and the originator of “12-tone” music, he continued to compose tonal music throughout his life, and often wrote in a more accessible style for amateur musicians. The WCC will present two such tonal works by Schoenberg: “Verbundenheit” (Solidarity) for male chorus, and the folksong arrangement, “Mein Herz in steten treuen” (My Heart, Forever Faithful).
In the American works of Stravinsky (below), the Credo movement of his 1947 Mass was subtly influenced by American Jazz.
Joining the WCC will be Madison organist Mark Brampton Smith, who will accompany several pieces at the organ as well as perform solo organ works by Paul Hindemith and Joaquin Nin-Culmell (two additional mid-century immigrants to the U.S.).
The movements from Stravinsky’s Mass will be performed with Brampton Smith at organ and guest trombonist Michael Dugan (below), who will also enhance Josquin des Prez’s “Stabat Mater” by playing sackbut, the Renaissance ancestor of the trombone.
Guest percussionist Stephen Cherek will enliven several of the Latin American selections, playing a variety of instruments.
Here are some YouTube links to sample performances:
Josquin des Prez, “Stabat Mater”
Orlando di Lasso, “Domine Convertere”
Kurt Weill, “Kiddush”
Chen Yi, “Mo Li Hwa” (“Jasmine Flower” from A Set of Chinese Folksongs)
Osvaldo Golijov, “Demos Gracias” (from La Pasion segun San Marcos)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Verbundenheit” (from Six Pieces for Male Chorus)
Arnold Schoenberg, “Mein Herz in steten Treuen”
Igor Stravinsky, Credo (from Mass)
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is some news of personnel changes of local interest:
Principal Bass Fredrick Schrank and Principal Clarinet Joseph Morris will not be returning to the Madison Symphony Orchestra next season.
Schrank (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is retiring after 39 years of service to the orchestra, joining the bass section in 1977 and becoming Principal in 1982.
For a biography and more about Schrank, visit:
Joe Morris (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a more recent addition, but has certainly made a positive impact in his three years as Principal and he has chosen to not return. He married last summer and has been based out of Salt Lake City since that time. He also performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra.
For more about Morris, visit:
Principal Clarinet auditions will be held May 31 and June 1. More details will be posted on our website soon at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/employment
Principal Bass and other string auditions will be held Sept. 6-11, exact schedule to be announced in mid-April.
UW-MADISON GRADUATE JOINS THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Daniel Kim (below), a prize-winning UW-Madison graduate, has been named among four new string players (one violinist and three violists) for the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra, which just won a Grammy Award for a recording of a Shostakovich symphony.
Here is his impressive bio:
Violist Danny Kim, a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, earned his master of music degree in viola performance from The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Samuel Rhodes, longtime violist of the Juilliard String Quartet and a frequent quest artist with the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet.
He began his musical studies at a young age on the violin with his mother, Ellen Kim, and then transitioned to the viola in high school under Sabina Thatcher.
Kim completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he studied with professor and Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm (below), and received a BA in viola performance and a certificate in East Asian Studies. He also won several prizes and performed on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Kim was a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, where he won the Maurice Schwartz Prize, and has participated in such festivals as Marlboro, Pacific Music Festival, and Aspen, and as a teacher was in residence with El Sistema in Caracas and Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute in Ely, Minn.
Kim has performed with distinguished ensembles and artists including the Metropolis Ensemble in collaboration with Questlove and The Roots, New York Classical Players, Camerata Virtuosi New Jersey, and Symphony in C and appeared on Sesame Street with conductor Alan Gilbert.
As a chamber musician, Kim has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Pro Arte Quartet, and collaborated with artists including Joseph Silverstein, Peter Wiley, Marcy Rosen, Richard O’Neill, Charles Neidich, Anthony McGill, Nathan Hughes and others.
Kim toured South Korea in 2014 with his string quartet, Quartet Senza Misura, and violist Richard O’Neill. He also was a tenured member of Madison Symphony Orchestra.
See more at:
ALERT 1: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, is your last chance to hear pianist Garrick Ohlsson and the Madison Symphony Orchestra under conductor John DeMain in a program of the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Johannes Brahms; the tone poem “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss; and the Symphony No. 1 by Steven Stucky. Critics have loved the performances.
Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:
Here is a link to a review by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:
ALERT 2: UW-Madison clarinetist Wesley Warnhoff will perform a FREE recital, with renowned UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. They perform a sonata by Johannes Brahms and a rhapsody by Claude Debussy among others. Here is a link to more information and the compete program:
By Jacob Stockinger
In recent years, since 1942, there have been only three. There was Luciano Pavarotti and Juan Diego Florez, who astonished the audience by repeating the nine high C’s in Gaetano Donizetti’s “La Fille du regiment” (The Daughter of the Regiment).
But just recently there was a third.
His name is Mexican tenor Javier Camarena (below in a photo by Marty Sohl for The Met). He was singing in Don Pasquale,” also by Donizetti, one of the masters of the show-offy and impressively embellished “bel canto” or “beautiful singing” style.
Camarena wowed the crowd with a high D-flat, a half-step higher than the high C that his predecessors sang.
Here is a story, with an interview, on NPR or National Public Radio, that gets you excited about the man and the event just by reading about them:
And here in a YouTube video is the aria he sang — and then sang again:
ALERT 1: Tomorrow, starting at 12:30 p.m., this month’s Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen will feature the Madison-based percussion group Clocks in Motion. The FREE concert in Brittingham Gallery 3 will also be streamed live. Here is a link with information about the complete program and a link to the streaming web site:
ALERT 2: Tomorrow night, on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the UW-Madison‘s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of modern and contemporary French music. For more information, here is a link:
By Jacob Stockinger
Ahreum Han Congdon (below), a critically acclaimed organist, will mark the end of the current Overture Concert Organ season with a recital on this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street.
Now she returns for a full solo recital on the colossal Klais concert organ in a program of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jacques Offenbach, Louis Vierne, Max Reger and others.
Here is the complete program, which concludes the current season of organ concerts sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra:
Charles-Marie Widor. Symphony V in F Minor, Op. 42, No. 1. I. Allegro Vivace
Johann Sebastian Bach. Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593 I. Untitled II. Adagio III. Allegro
Sigfrid Karg-Elert. Valse Mignonne, Op. 142, No. 2
Louis Vierne. Clair de Lune, Op. 53, No. 5
Jacques Offenbach. Orpheus in the Underworld. Transcribed by Ahreum Han Congdon
Johannes Matthias Michel. Organ, Timbrel and Dance: Three Jazz Organ Preludes I. Swing Five (Erhalt uns, Herr) II. Bossa Nova (Wunderbarer König) III. Afro-Cuban (In dir ist Freude)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Andante in F Major, K. 616
Max Reger. Chorale Fantasy on J.S. Bach’s Sleepers Awake, A Voice is Calling, Op. 52, No. 2 (You can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Han Congdon has appeared in recital on many of the world’s major organs in addition to solo performances at national and regional conventions for the American Guild of Organists.
General admission for the concert is $20 and tickets can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/han, the Overture Box Office or (608) 258-4141.
Student rush tickets are $10 day of show with a valid student ID (see http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).
Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.
With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned from famous Klais Organ Works in Germany the Overture Concert Organ (below), which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.
For more Overture Concert Organ information, visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason
By Jacob Stockinger
A musician in the Madison Symphony Orchestra, whom The Ear holds in very high regard, says that the four-section, continuous movement Symphony No. 1 by contemporary American composer Steven Stuckey (below) is “beautiful.”
This is a discerning man and musician, and The Ear – who has never heard works by Stucky — trusts his judgment.
Even so, the work will be The Big Unknown on the MSO program this weekend. It also features pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Johannes Brahms and the tone poem “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss. Both works are major standards of the Romantic and Late Romantic repertoire.
Here is a link with more information about the performances, which will be held tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
John DeMain, the longtime music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, recently told The Ear about how he had wanted to program a work by a living composer. After all, DeMain has championed other new music, including the world premiere of John Adams’ famous opera “Nixon in China.”
But a very aggressive form of brain cancer took away that chance when Stucky, who composed chamber music and choral music as well as symphonic music, taught at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, died just two months ago at 66.
So The Ear thought that it might be good to have more background about Stucky.
Here is Stucky himself talking about his 2012 Symphony that will be performed by the MSO and its emotional journey. It includes a performance by superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which commissioned the work:
And here is a lengthy and detailed obituary about Stucky that appeared in The New York Times. It also includes excerpts of reviews of his works and gives readers a context by which to judge Stucky’s achievement.
The Ear is looking forward to hearing the work. (Another sample, in a YouTube video at the bottom, is his 2011 work “Silent Spring,” composed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark book about DDT and pollution in the environment and nature.
He is also looking forward to hearing from others about the work.
So if you go to the MSO concert and hear Steven Stucky’s Symphony No. 1, why not leave your opinion or assessment in the COMMENTS section?
The Ear wants to hear.