The Well-Tempered Ear

Online playlists return to Wisconsin Public Radio

April 29, 2023

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By Jacob Stockinger

Good news!

News that deserve a big shout-out!

Online playlists for classical music programming have returned to Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR).

The user-friendly move comes after more than a year of absent playlists and, fortuitously, as WPR is conducting a spring membership drive seeking financial support from the public.

There is one major drawback: You still can’t check on pieces and performances in real time — that is, on the same day or even the same moment as you are listening. Now you have to wait until the next day to see the posting.

That is an unfortunate change from the past. And one hopes it will be fixed soon. Maybe WPR will even let listeners know if and when real-time postings will return.

The current one-day delay seems especially odd, given that the pieces played overnight on WPR — from Minnesota Public Radio, I believe  — are posted right as they begin to air.

But at least now we don’t have to wait weeks or months to find out information about something you have probably already forgotten about.

The new format seems less straightforward and less user-friendly than the old one, which put the information right in front of you when you went to the home website and clicked on playlists for News and Music Network.

But now you just go to the date bar and choose the day you are looking for. Once you find the piece, you will notice the name of the show on which it aired such as “Morning Classics” or “The Midday.” You also find the time with the composer, title and performer.

If you also click on “More,” you will see additional details such as the record label and catalogue number. Here a link to try it out:

The return of the playlists is especially useful now that WPR is programming so many neglected composers and so much unfamiliar music — something the current pledge drive seems to be explaining and emphasizing.

So let’s offer hearty congratulations and sincere thanks to WPR and its engineers for the move.

What do you think of the return of WPR playlists?

Have you used the new playlists?

What do you think about their usefulness and online display?

Should WPR playlists be posted in real time?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s “Messiah” marks 10 years with another sold-out performance and two new soloists this Friday night. Then starting Saturday, it’s on to “The Nutcracker”

December 6, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

There is no more iconic piece of classical music for the holiday season than the oratorio “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel. (You can hear the famous “Hallelujah” Chorus in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

For 10 years, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the WCO Chorus, the Festival Choir and four guest soloists (all forces from a previous performance are in the photo below) have been bringing the masterwork to Madison. And it usually plays to a full house.

This year’s performance once again takes place at 7 p.m. this Friday night, Dec. 7, at the Blackhawk Church, 8629 Brader Way in Middleton. And once again, all 800 seats are sold out.

For more information, go to:

“It is very successful and has become a real tradition,” says WCO’s Chief Operating Officer Sue Ellen McGuire. “We have people and families who come year after year.”

But that does not mean each year’s performance, both acclaimed by critics and popular with the public, is a repetition of the previous year’s.

True, some things carry over, such as the longtime soprano soloist Sarah Lawrence and bass soloist Peter Van de Graaff (below), who is also the overnight resonant voice of classical music on Wisconsin Public Radio via The Beethoven Satellite Network.

“It is such a great masterpiece that I feel I can play around with it somewhat and make each year’s performance distinctive and different,” says WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell (below). Some years, he says, he cuts out or adds certain choruses; or changes the intermission break; or alters the makeup of the instruments or choruses; or uses different soloists, or continues to adapt to and adopt early music practices.

Take this year. For the first time, the performance will include two singers who competed in the annual Handel Aria Competition held in Madison: mezzo-soprano Johanna Bronk (a finalist in 2017), and tenor Gene Stenger (bottom left, the second prize winner and audience favorite in 2017).

“It’s a no-brainer and a natural fit to use the world-class talent that takes part in a local event,” says Sewell, who is also the music director of the symphony orchestra in San Luis Obispo in California.

And for those of you who wonder what the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra does after Concerts on the Square end in the summer and before its Masterworks series starts in January, the answer is marking the holidays.

In addition to “Messiah,” the WCO will accompany the Madison Ballet’s performances of Peter Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” that take place between Dec. 8 and Dec. 26 in the Overture Center. For details and tickets, go to:

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