ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist Bill Lutes in a solo recital. The program includes the “Papillons” (Butterflies) by Robert Schumann and the final Sonata in B-Fat Major, D. 960, by Franz Schubert. The program runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
For more information about Bill Lutes and his series of recitals, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
This weekend, the Madison Choral Project (below top), Madison’s professional choir under the direction of Albert Pinnsoneault (below bottom), a former Edgewood College professor who now teaches at Northwestern University, will present two performances of its fourth annual Holiday-themed program “I Was Glad.”
The performances are on Friday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday Dec. 17, at 3 p.m. Both performances will be held at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, near Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Tickets are available in advance at www.themcp.org, or at the door.
(Preferred Seating is $40, General Admission is $24/$28 and Students are $10)
The concerts feature a carefully curated selection of vocal music and readings, with the intent to lead the listener along a sublime journey of music and text.
Madison Choral Project is will partner again with Wisconsin Public Radio’s news editor Noah Ovshinsky (below), who will perform readings from works of Tim O’Brien, Billy Collins, William Wordsworth and others.
The Madison Choral Project will sing an eclectic mix of holiday-themed music in four sets, ranging from the 17th century to brand new compositions.
The program features two exciting world premieres by Eric Barnum (below top), the choral director at UW-Oshkosh, and MCP’s Composer in Residence, Jasper Alice Kaye (below bottom).
The first set of pieces, “Welcome to the Holy Space,” includes A Child’s Prayer by James MacMillan, Sanctus from Mass in G by Francis Poulenc and Our Father by Alexandre Gretchaninoff.
The second set, “Winter Comforts,” features two new commissions written for Madison Choral Project. Winter by Eric William Barnum will be followed by The Invitation by Jasper Alice Kaye. Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre will finish the set.
The third set, “Glad Tidings,” includes the concert’s titular piece, I Was Glad by C.H.H. Parry (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom), as well as beautiful works by Matthew Culloton, William Dawson and Jan Sandstrøm.
The final set, “Gathering and Blessing,” contains joyous settings of familiar texts set by Francis Poulenc, Ludwig van Beethoven, and arranger John Ferguson.
For more information or tickets, go to www.themcp.org.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following news:
Several local musicians received prestigious awards from the Board of Directors of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the board’s recent June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.
Margaret Rupp Cooper Award
The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season. The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship. This year’s awardees were Naha Greenholtz, MSO Concertmaster, and Josh Biere, MSO Principal Tuba.
Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Chris Hynes) has now completed her fifth season as concertmaster with the MSO. A graduate of the Juilliard School and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.
Josh Biere (below) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as Principal Tuba in 2013. He also holds the principal tuba chair with the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Symphony and regularly performs with the Chicago Composers Orchestra. Mr. Biere holds degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University and Northwestern University.
Marie Spec Award
The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926. The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus. MSO Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.
A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from UW-Madison. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for the Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.
Ann Stanke Award
The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service. This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bob Gentile.
Bob Gentile, a lifelong music educator, has sung in the bass section of the Madison Symphony Chorus for over 15 years, has served as President and Vice-President, and has shown valued leadership with his counsel, wisdom, good humor and kindness.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra 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 engagement programs. Learn more at: www.madisonsymphony.org
By Jacob Stockinger
The Memorial Day holiday is over and now we start winding down the academic year in public and private K-12 schools.
That makes it a great time to catch up with news that reminds us how important music education and education in the arts, humanities and liberal arts, can be to the development of the whole child or young person and to lifelong learning.
It helps us to realize that, despite what many legislators say, education should never be a trade school that provides vocational education or career preparation, and that education is not always all about the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – deemed so useful to business, industry and individual wealth accumulation. (You can hear educator Richard Gill give a popular TED Talk about the value of music education in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
So here is open important reminder via a press release:
The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Ward-Brodt Music have awarded their 2016 Award for Excellence in Music Education to Whitewater music teacher Christine Hayes of Lincoln/LINCS Elementary School at a choir concert for grades 2-5.
The presentation was held on Tuesday, May 17, in the Whitewater High School Auditorium.
This annual award celebrates an educator who displays leadership, passion, dedication, and innovation within the music classroom, positively affecting the lives of his or her students and the community at large, and is designated for one outstanding music educator in southern Wisconsin.
The MSO and Ward-Brodt developed the award to recognize that cultivating the artistic growth of young students is one of the unique and challenging jobs for teachers in Wisconsin.
Christine Hayes (below) has dedicated her life to enriching young people and the communities around her through music education. In her 29 years of working in the Whitewater Unified School District and by contributing to music in her community in a variety of ways, she’s changed the lives of many students and her colleagues. She believes that “inspiring and challenging children today will lead to their embracing music for their lifetime.”
In the nominations by parents, teaching colleagues, church members, and school administrators, Hayes was described as “a power house of creative energy” who “encourages children to express their feelings through music.”
Her students at Lincoln/LINCS Elementary School, where she has spent the last 19 years, can take part in diverse musical experiences including world drumming, playing guitar and recorder, composing music, and singing in many languages. All of these experiences for children make her classroom “an exciting, musical adventure.”
She has also taught elementary and middle school band, middle school guitar, keyboards and general music.
A former colleague who nominated her wrote, “Mrs. Hayes leads by example by continuing to find ways to improve as an educator by constantly pursuing her own education. She recently completed a trip to Ghana in order to learn about their musical culture.”
In her own words, Hayes said, “My goal is for each student to imagine themselves in musical experiences, provide them authentic learning situations where they create, respond, perform and connect, then collaborate with those students to apply their knowledge and skills to discover their personal musical path.”
Outside the classroom, she founded an after-school orchestra where she volunteers her time as coordinator allowing children to enrich their music education. Currently in its eighth year, the Whitewater Unified School District Strings Program has touched the lives of many school children, with 72 students participating this past year, ranging from fourth grade to high school.
She is also a music leader in her community. Hayes has been serving as the Choir Director for the First United Methodist Church in Whitewater for the past 20 years and served on the board of directors of the Whitewater Arts Alliance for five years.
In her free time she plays clarinet with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Community Band.
Hayes has also been deeply involved with developing Wisconsin state standards for music education by serving on the writing committee for the National Common Core Music Standards from 2012 to 2014.
In 2015, she was asked to join the Steering Committee for the Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA), continuing her work to improve music education in Wisconsin. Hayes has served as the Chair of the NAfME National Council for General Music Education and as a President of the WMEA.
In 2007 she won the Wal-Mart Wisconsin Teacher of the Year award and in 2008 the Herb Kohl Fellowship Award.
Hayes will be awarded a commemorative plaque and a $500 prize. These prizes have been made possible through the generosity of Ward-Brodt Music of Madison, Wisconsin. To be qualified for the award, a nominee must have taught within a 75-mile radius of Madison in a public or private K-12 school and instructed a band, orchestra, choir or general music course.
Colleagues, current or former students, parents of students, or friends were eligible to nominate a music educator for the award.
The review panel consisted of representatives from public and private school administration, veteran teachers, university staff and knowledgeable community members. (For the sake of full disclosure, The Ear sat on the committee that reviewed the many impressive nominations and decided the winner of the award.)
For more information regarding the Award for Excellence in Music Education, visit http://madisonsymphony.org/award.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also provided the performance photos for this review.
By John W. Barker
Two of the city’s important choral groups joined forces for a program presented at the First Congregational United Church of Christ last Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
Albert Pinsonneault (below), who used to teach at Edgewood College and now teaches at Northwestern University, and who is the director of both groups, conducted.
Each group had its own showcase in the program’s first half.
The Madison Chamber Choir (below) led off with the “Serenade to Music,” a setting of lines from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, which Ralph Vaughan Williams composed in 1938 for 16 of his favorite singers, with orchestra. He adapted this for full chorus, but that transition did not quite produce a work truly choral in character.
The choir sang the beautiful work very handsomely, but the substitution for the orchestra of a piano accompaniment was uncomfortable and, indeed, a disruption of diction. (You can hear the original version for chorus and orchestra in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Madison Choral Project (below top) came next with a performance of “Images, Shadows, Dreams: Five Vignettes” by the late David Baker (1931-2016, below middle).
Baker was a noted scholar and promoter of jazz, and his goal was a “fusion” of jazz with classical forms. To the five composed poems, Pinsonneault added readings of poems written by five young participants (below bottom) in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Odyssey Project activities in cultural and educational support.
All this represents noble and praiseworthy efforts on behalf of disadvantaged African-Americans. But high ideals do not necessarily guarantee artistic achievement. Baker uses a combo of five instrumentalists, which bangs away behind the choir, hardly “fusing” anything in styles—neither honest jazz nor multicultural synthesis.
The choir, in its turn, sings mightily at music of generally simplistic technique — mostly unisons and chordal declamations. There is little to remember or admire, once the “messages” have worn off.
Fortunately, the intermission yielded to the one work of substance on the program, the Mass for Double Choir, by the Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974, below), a combination of neo-classical and modernist styles that is better appreciated in Europe than here.
For this, the two choirs (below) merged, then divided into the requisite two components.
Martin’s writing is subtle, and his juxtaposition of the two choirs is not just antiphonal but artfully varied in their interaction—to which is added a great deal of harmonic experimentation. This is one of the choral masterpieces of the 20th century.
Pinsonneault and his 57 choristers gave it a glorious performance, showing what this conductor can do to make great choral sound out of great choral music.
The final programmed piece was a somewhat pretentious setting by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan (below) of a ballad by poet Robert Burns. As an encore, the singers perpetrated a glitzy, but uncredited, arrangement of “Loch Lomond”—the only piece that brought the audience to its feet.
This concert was an undeniable testimony to the splendid choral groups we have here, and to what Pinsonneault is accomplishing with these groups. But I kept returning to the dichotomy at which I hinted earlier.
Choral singing is a wonderful activity both to listen to and to participate in, and I share some of the enthusiasm for that. But I wonder how many in the audience were there seeking great CHORAL singing. I was there seeking great choral MUSIC.
Our choirs can give us the former, no question, and audiences can justly admire it. But has all this musical talent been applied responsibly to the latter? How much do our choral programs deal with trivia and little sweetmeats, rather than digging into the vast literature of magnificent choral art?
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following notice, which is noteworthy on several counts artistic, educational and social:
On Friday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, May 22, at 2:30 p.m., two Madison choirs join forces on a unique pair of fantastic concerts.
The two performances will take place at the First Congregational Church of Madison, 1609 University Ave., near Camp Randall.
Tickets are available in advance at www.themcp.org as well as at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, $20 in advance; students are$10 student with student I.D)
The Madison Choral Project (below top) and the Madison Chamber Choir (below bottom) will team up for the first time to present the transcendentally beautiful “Mass for Double Choir” by Frank Martin.
The Mass for Double Choir (1926) by Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974, below) is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century choral music. Lush and gorgeous, with sweeping melodies, it is brilliant vocal writing on a grand scale. The 25-minute Martin Mass is truly a symphony for voices. (You can hear the “Agnus Dei” movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The two choirs will also present “The Gallant Weaver” for three soprano soloists and a cappella (unaccompanied) choir by Scottish composer James MacMillan (below) and Jonathan Quick‘s arrangement of the Scottish folk tune “Loch Lomond.”
The choirs will additionally perform separately, with the Madison Chamber Choir singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Serenade to Music,” and the Madison Choral Project performing David Baker’s “Images, Shadows, Dreams: Five Vignettes.”
Jazz icon David Baker (1931-2016, below) set text of poet Mari Evans (b. 1923) in “Images, Shadows, Dreams: Five Vignettes.” The poetry describes five tableaux or scenes from the perspective of the underprivileged in America.
The music is jazz-derived, with voices joined by a full rhythm section of string bass, drums, and piano as well as flute and guitar.
During the performance of the Baker piece, students from UW-Odyssey Project (below) will recite original works, giving a local voice to complement the poems of Mari Evans. The UW-Odyssey Project serves adults near the poverty level.
Odyssey students have gone from homelessness to become college graduates, and from incarceration to doing meaningful work in the community. We are especially excited to share their voices in our concert.
By Jacob Stockinger
The acclaimed Madison Choral Project (below top), under the direction of its founder and conductor Albert Pinsonneault (below bottom) — who used to teach at Edgewood College and now teaches at Northwestern University — will present two performances of its third annual holiday concert, “A Procession of Angels,” this weekend.
The popular Holiday program will be performed twice in Madison; this Friday night, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 1609 University Ave. and again on Sunday night, Dec. 20, at 2:30 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Living Christ, 110 N. Gammon Rd.
The concerts feature Christmas music, as well as music from other traditions, and TWO WORLD PREMIERES of new compositions: “My Brilliant Image” by Madison composer and MCP singer Jasper Alice Kay (below top); and a new arrangement of “Deck the Hall” by the award-winning composer Jocelyn Hagen (below bottom). Other guests artists are also featured.
Wisconsin Public Radio‘s news director Noah Ovshinsky (below) again joins the MCP to read selected texts that relate to the theme of the concert. There will also be a chance for the audience to join in on some holiday sing-alongs.
Music by composers such as Dominick Argento (below top), Felix Mendelssohn (below bottom), Alexander Sheremetev, William Billings, Ola Gjeilo and Kenneth Jennings, among others, will represent many of the points of view that unite the public in reflection upon the season.
Also featured is John Aley (below), a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of music and the virtuoso principal trumpet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and the reading of texts by William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Hildegard von Bingen as well as from the Bible and from the mystic Sufi Arabic and Persian poets Ibn Arabi and Rumi.
The Madison Choral Project, founded in 2012, is Madison’s professional choir. Its 22 voices are made up of professional singers, teachers and graduate students from the Madison Area.
The MCP says it “is committed in its mission 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.”
Tickets are available in advance at www.themcp.org as well as at the door of each performance venue. ($25 at the door, $20 advance tickets and $10 student tickets with student I.D.)
For more information, visit: http://themcp.org
ALERT: The will be NO free Friday Noon Musicale this week at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. The musicales will resume on Dec. 4.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
Trevor Stephenson (below left), the versatile founder, director and keyboard player of the Madison Bach Musicians, ventured another early music novelty last Saturday evening at the Madison Christian Community Hall on Old Sauk Road. (All performance photos are by John W. Barker.)
He and a colleague, Stephen Alltop (below right) from Northwestern University, braved our football traffic and our first snowstorm to bring their respective harpsichords for a joint program.
It was called “Music for Two Harpsichords,” but a better title would have been “Music for Two Harpsichordists.”
The fact is, only one item on the program was actually written for two harpsichords playing together. This was the Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major (BWV 1061), for which the string-ensemble parts are purely optional — and which were dispensed with in this case. (For the harpsichord-only version, see the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The two artists did play otherwise together, but in transcriptions.
They took several selections from Pièces de clavecin en concert by Jean-Philippe Rameau, which Rameau (below) himself adapted from purely harpsichord pieces into trios for harpsichord and two other instruments. But these were played in adaptations that turned the other instrument parts into a second harpsichord.
And there was a transcription for two harpsichords of the Fandango finale from the Quintet No. 4 in D Major by Luigi Boccherini (below) for guitar and string quartet.
In between these works there were solo keyboard segments. Alltop played three of the Preludes and Fugues from Book I of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and Stephenson played three of Domenico Scarlatti’s 555 harpsichord sonatas.
For some extra spice, Tania Tandias (below), of local Flamenco dance activities, contributed some tambourine rhythms to a pair of the Rameau pieces, and she worked up a lot of castanet excitement in the Boccherini.
The two keyboard artists are each wonderful musicians, and obviously are compatible partners as well as gifted individual soloists. Alltop (below) matches Stephenson’s witty commentaries with wonderfully articulate and informed discussion.
Their two harpsichords are, inevitably, quite distinct in tone, so that it is possible to discern each player’s role. Fortunately, too, the Christian Community’s hall is moderate in size and intimate, a perfect acoustical setting for such keyboard playing.
The Stephenson-Alltop partnership deserves to continue. There is a lot of actual two-harpsichord literature out there. Francois Couperin wrote a good deal of music for the combination, as did a number of Elizabethan composers. It would be wonderful if such material could be explored in further ventures like this one, and by these two splendid artists.
Do remember the Madison Bach Musicians’ annual Baroque Holiday Concert, which features cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and music by Georg Philipp Telemann and Arcangelo Corelli. It will take place at 8 p.n. on Saturday, Dec. 12, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, near Camp Randall. For more information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following news release:
The Festival Choir of Madison is delighted to announce the appointment of Sergei Pavlov (below) as its new artistic director beginning with the 2015-16 season.
Pavlov will also join the faculty of Edgewood College this fall as their new Director of Choral Activities after serving as adjunct choral director during the 2014-15 school year. He succeeds Albert Pinsonneault, who has taken a position with Northwestern University in Illinois.
Pavlov’s past professional experience includes conducting positions, among others, with the opera program at the University of Illinois in Urbana; Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina; the Théatre du Châtelet in Paris; the Classic FM Radio Symphony and Choir in Sofia, Bulgaria; National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.; and the Teatro Nacional Sucre and Coro Mixto Ciudad de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. (In a YouTube video at the bottom you can hear Sergei Pavlov discussing in fluent Spanish Charles Gounod’s opera “Faust” when it was produced in Quito, Ecuador.)
A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Sergei Pavlov moved to the United States in 2004 and completed a Master of Music in 2007 and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting in 2011 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
About his new position with the Festival Choir of Madison (below), Pavlov says: “I am excited to become part of a community with wonderful musical and choral traditions. Madison is a vibrant, modern city with great culture, and the Festival Choir has a unique place in the cultural scene of Wisconsin’s capital.”
The Festival Choir of Madison is a mixed-voice choir of singers from all walks of life. Established in 1973, the choir has commissioned works from outstanding living composers while also performing many favorites of the choral repertoire.
Rehearsals are held Monday evenings from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave. For information about the Festival Choir and about joining the choir for the 2015-16 season, please see the choir’s website at http://festivalchoirmadison.org/