The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Willy Street Chamber Players kick off their new FREE Community Connect concert series this coming Sunday afternoon at Warner Park. Plus, FREE oboe and piano concerts are this Friday at noon and Saturday night

February 16, 2017
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features oboist Laura Medisky and pianist Vincent Fuh in sonatas by Paul Hindemith, Henri Dutilleux and Malcolm Arnold. The concert runs from 12:125 to 1 p.m. On Saturday night at 7 p.m., the same performers will repeat the same program in a FREE concert at Oakwood Village West auditorium, 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Willy Street Chamber Players (below), which The Ear named as Musicians of the Year for 2016, write:

Willy Street Chamber Players 2016 outdoors

We wanted to let you know about the upcoming kickoff of the Willy Street Chamber Players’ “Community Connect” series. We are committed to our mission of making classical music accessible to all.

The Willy Street Chamber Players’ Northside Community Connect Concert is on this coming Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center.

Warner Park shelter

Enjoy hot coffee, exciting classical music and great conversation with the Willy Street Chamber Players. 

This program is FREE, family-friendly and will last about 60 minutes. All are welcome.

The program is: String Quartet in C Major, K. 157, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; String Quartet No. 5, “Rosa Parks” by Daniel Bernard Roumain; “Entr’acte” for String Quartet by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw (you can hear the piece, which The Ear loves for its pulsing and hypnotic rhythm plus unusual and interesting string textures, in the YouTube video at the bottom); and “Four, for Tango” by Astor Piazzolla.

There was an announcement about this series in the January string quartet program at A Place to Be (below, in a photo by John W. Barker), and it included a couple more concerts. But we have decided to make Community Connect a self-produced series.

willy-street-chamber-players-at-a-place-to-be-jan-2017-cr-jwb

We are planning a second Community Connect concert in July during our regular summer series, and have listed our other free appearances on our regular calendar.

The concert is made possible in part by Willy Street Co-Op and the North/Eastside Senior Coalition (NESCO).

For more information go to: www.willystreetchamberplayers.org

Willy Street Chamber Players logo

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Classical music: Let us praise musicians who played outdoors this summer and remember the challenges they faced.

September 8, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Apparently the composer Johannes Brahms was very fond of going to outdoors concerts in his native Vienna.

No surprise. There is something liberating and social, something relaxed and informal, for both players and listeners about hearing music outdoors. (Below is the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performing under its music director and conductor Andrew Sewell at the state Capitol.)

Concerts on Square WCO orchetsra

As summer comes to a close and fall approaches, it is good to recall that we in Madison are lucky to have so many outdoors musical events and so many of high quality.

During this past summer, for example, outdoor concerts were given by: the Madison Symphony Orchestra in its Concert in the Park; the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in its justly popular Concerts on the Square; the Madison Opera for its “Opera in the Park” (below); and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras in its Concert in the Park. And there are many others who could be named.

Opera in Park 2012 crowd 2 James Gill

Then too, I think of so much other kinds of music, usually non-classical and very often roots music such as folk and bluegrass, that gets performed at various outdoors venues from the Wisconsin Memorial Union’s Lakefront Terrace at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, La Fete de Marquette, the inaugural Make Music Madison Festival and the Orton Park Festival to little groups of musicians that play informally at the Dane County Farmers’ Market and various other farmers’ markets in the area.

Farmers Market music

Yet there are serious challenges to performing outdoors that non-musicians may not know about that are easy for the public to overlook. (Check out the YouTube video at the bottom and its advice from London about playing outdoors.)

Corinna da Fonsecca-Wollheim of the New York Times recently wrote about some of those challenges as an outdoors concert at the bandshell in Central Park by the acclaimed Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center was gearing up to perform its first-ever outdoor concert, of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonin Dvorak, for the Naumburg Orchestra Concerts.

It is a very well done story with sources including the concert veteran and former Emerson String Quartet cellist David Finckel (below) and others. And her reporting gets quite specific about the challenges from keeping instrument in tune and playing the music to taking care of instruments and securing music in the stand.

Here is a link to a story that should remind us of what we can be grateful for this past summer and what we can look forward to next summer:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/arts/music/chamber-music-society-gears-up-for-naumburg-bandshell.html

Do you play music outdoors?

What stories or anecdotes and experiences can you share with others about the challenges of playing music outdoors?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Madison Opera has a lot to celebrate at its 12th annual FREE “Opera in the Park” concert on this coming Saturday night.

July 11, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

By any account, The Madison Opera has had a great year and can rightfully celebrate a lot of things at this Saturday night’s 12th annual FREE outdoors concert Opera in the Park in Garner Park on the far west side of Madison.

Opera in Park 2012 stage

(The park will open at 7 a.m. with blankets, chairs, food and glass-less beverages alcoholic and non-alcoholic are allowed; free parking is provided; the concert, featuring the company’s artistic director John DeMain conducting soloists and the Madison Symphony Orchestra plus the Madison Opera Chorus and the Madison Youth Choirs, starts at 8 p.m.; the rain date in Sunday.)

John DeMain conducting 2

Here is a link to information about the Opera in the Park concert, which includes Broadway musical theater as well as opera. (For the program, click on “Synopsis” – which, since there is no plot, should really read “Program”:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2012-2013/park/

So, just what will the Madison Opera be celebrating?

Let’s start with the mammoth undertaking of putting together the Opera in the Park for a dozen years. It takes a lot of research, hard work planning, to say nothing of a lot of loudspeakers and porta-potties, to bring off an event that draws more than 10,000 people.

Then there is last season.

While there were few total sell-outs, attendance was very good and the Madison Opera scored both artistic and financial successes with Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Handel’s “Acis and Galatea” (the first Handel opera, or masque, the company has staged, below in a photo by James Gill) and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”

acis gill galatea set

Then, as usually happens with Opera in the Park, the group will be previewing and celebrating its upcoming season, which features Puccini’s famously melodic “Tosca”; Donizetti’s bel canto, tenor-busting work “La Fille du Regiment, ”known for its show-stopping nine high C’s (in a famous  YouTube video at bottom with tenor Juan Diego Florez); and Jake Heggie’s dramatic and timely “Dead Man Walking” (bel0w).

Here is a link to the brochure for next season:

http://issuu.com/madisonopera/docs/1314brochure/1

Dead Man Walking

After two seasons of programming, General Director Kathryn Smith (below) – who gives wonderfully witty, accessible and informative pre-concert talks — is finally getting to leave her own stamp on the opera season, and it is a recognizable stamp that announces she will be eclectic and mix the old and new, the classic and popular masterpieces with lesser known works.

Kathryn Smith Fly Rail Vertical Madison Opera

Here is a link to the next season:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2013-2014/

But there are other things you many not be aware of.

For one the Madison Opera received a $25,000 grant from OPERA America’s Building Audiences for Opera program. It was one of only 13 opera companies chosen out of 67 applications nationwide to receive such a grant.

And perhaps mostly invisibly but most importantly, the Madison Opera has moved its headquarters from the old Neckerman Insurance Building on Monroe Street to the new headquarters, the Madison Opera Center, near the Overture Center at 335 West Mifflin Street.

Madison Opera Center

This major project also has storage space for sets and costumes that is nearby to Overture Hall and The Playhouse where the Madison Opera stages its shows during the regular season. It is one more sign of the growth, maturity and success of the Madison Opera.

Here is a link that allow you take a virtual tour of the new facility and to learn about it:

http://www.madisonopera.org/about/opera_center/


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