The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble will take Madison listeners on a FREE concert of ‘Imaginary Journeys’ TONIGHT at 7 p.m.

October 27, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement for a concert that sounds in keeping with the spirit of Halloween:

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble (below, in a photo by Thomas Mohr) will lead listeners on aural adventures through space, time and fantasy at its “Imaginary Journeys” concert TONIGHT, Oct. 27.

The concert is FREE and open to the public, and will take place at 7 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 5701 Raymond Road, in Madison.

For more information, call (608) 271-6633 or visit or

The professional ensemble of brass quintet and pipe organ, with percussion, will perform the Madison premieres of new works and arrangements it recently commissioned for its novel array of instruments.

The concert’s namesake work, “Imaginary Journeys,” was written for the ensemble by Chicago-area composer Mark Lathan. It takes listeners on a rocket-powered interstellar adventure, inspired by recent astronomical discoveries.

“For this piece,” Lathan says, “I wanted to bring in some drama, somewhat in the manner of a film score.” Lathan earned a doctorate in music from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received the Henry Mancini Award in Film Composition and studied film scoring with Jerry Goldsmith.

Another Madison premiere is Craig Garner’s brass-and-organ arrangement of Igor Stravinsky’s ever-popular Suite from “The Firebird,” a ballet based on Russian fairy tales. “The audience will hear an all-time favorite orchestral work like it’s never been heard before,” says Rodney Holmes, founder and artistic director of the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble.

Concertgoers will also hear the first local performances of “Short Fuse” for brass, organ and percussion by Chris Reyman (below), a jazz performance specialist teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso. Holmes says, “This piece shows off a very different face of what a pipe organ and brass can do.”

Other first hearings include Garner’s two-part instrumental suite from English Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s “Come Ye Sons of Art.”

The concert’s journey into the Baroque era includes brass and organ arrangements of movements from Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale cantata “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), BWV 80.

The concert’s imaginative works include “Earthscape” by David Marlatt (below, and heard in the YouTube video at the bottom) as well as pipe-organ versions of “Clair de lune” (Moonlight) by Claude Debussy and Louis Vierne.

Performers will include Madison-based organist Jared Stellmacher (below), an award-winning musician heard on the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble’s critically acclaimed 2015 debut CD “Flourishes, Tales and Symphonies.” He holds a master’s degree in music from Yale University.

Gargoyle ensemble players are trumpeters Lev Garbar and Andrew Hunter, horn player Amy Krueger, trombonist Ian Fitzwater, tuba player Jason Lyons, and percussionist Logan Fox. Conductor will be Jakob Noestvik.

About the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble

“The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble plays with warmth, elegance, and panache,” said U.S. music magazine Fanfare in a review of the ensemble’s debut CD. “[They] are perfect companions for the music lover in need of calming nourishment.”

The group takes its whimsical name from the stone figures atop gothic buildings at the University of the Chicago, where the now-professional ensemble got its start in 1992 as a brass quintet of faculty and students.

Under its founder and artistic director Rodney Holmes, it has evolved over the decades into an independent organization of classically trained musicians that focuses on commissioning and performing groundbreaking new works and arrangements for brass and pipe organ. More information can be found at

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Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s series of three FREE organ concerts on Farmers’ Market Saturdays starts this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall with Ripon native Jared Stellmacher and Chicago’s Gargoyle Brass. Plus, The Ear will publish mini-reviews you send me of classical concerts held during today’s citywide Make Music Madison festival.

June 21, 2013

ALERT: Today, Friday, June 21, is the Summer Solstice. That means it is also the inaugural FREE Make Music Madison festival. Live music will be made citywide outdoors and indoors by individuals and groups. The Ear can’t be everywhere. So send me your mini-reviews of classical music performances, and of the festival in general, and I will publish them together in a separate posting. Just leave your remarks in the COMMENT section. If you want to know more, here is a link to the festival’s website where you will find listings for performers and times:

Make Music Madison logo square

By Jacob Stockinger

FREE performances of the Overture Concert Organ will be hosted by the Madison Symphony Orchestra during Dane County Farmers’ Market on three Saturdays this summer – this Saturday, June 22, plus July 20 and August 17. Concerts last 45 minutes and are held at 11 a.m. at Overture Hall in the Overture Center, 201 State Street.

Overture Concert Organ overview

No tickets or reservations are needed for these 45-minute concerts that feature Jared Stellmacher, the Gargoyle Brass, Wyatt Smith, Sam Hutchison and 14-year-old newcomer Adrian Binkley.

A complete list of Overture Concert Organ performances, with complete program of works to be performed, is at

Here is a schedule of specific concerts:

This Saturday, June 22:  A native of Ripon, Wis., organist Jared Stellmacher (below) returns with the Gargoyle Brass at 11 a.m. to solo in three pieces for organ by Marcel Dupré, Carlyle Sharpe and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Jared Stellmacher 2

Stellmacher will be joined by the Gargoyle Brass (below) — an ensemble from Chicago named after the many gargoyles on the campus of the University of Illinois — in special arrangements for organ and brass of a polka and fugue by Jaromir Weinberger, two movements from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and the “Drinking Song” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

You can hear brief audio samples of both Jared Stellmacher and the Gargoyle Brass in YouTube videos at the bottom.

Gargoyle Brass

Saturday, July 20: Award-winning organist Wyatt Smith (below) returns to the stage at 11 a.m. with J. S. Bach’s Toccata in F and an intriguing selection of virtuosic movements from Kurt Knecht’s Missouri Sonata and Louis Vierne’s popular work, the Symphony in D.

Wyatt Smith

Saturday, Aug. 17: Audiences will receive a special treat at 11 a.m. with the debut of a young rising star from Waunakee, Wis. Fourteen-year-old organist Adrian Binkley (below top) is a student of MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison (below bottom).

Adrian is already an experienced recital artist and plans to study organ performance at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan next fall. Both he and Samuel Hutchison will perform at this concert.

Adrian Binkley


The Free Farmers’ Market Concerts are generously sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and are presented in partnership with Overture Center for the Arts and 77 Square. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund with additional support from Friends of the Overture Concert Organ.

With a gift from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts. MSO Principal Organist, Samuel Hutchison, programs and curates it. In addition to the Free Farmers’ Market Concerts, the instrument is featured in the MSO Christmas and April 2014 concerts along with three Free Community Hymn Sings and a Christmas Carol Sing. See details for all organ performances at

Learn more at

Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra announces the new 2013-14 season of the Overture Concert Organ series, featuring sister violinists Alice and Eleanor Bartsch of Madison as well as local and imported talent in appealing and varied programs.

May 23, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The news about new seasons continues to come in.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has just announced the 2013-14 season of concerts with the Overture Concert Organ (below) that will feature the internationally renowned organist Janette Fishell, MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison, MSO sister violinists Alice Bartsch and Eleanor Bartsch, and the Madison Youth Choirs.

Overture Concert Organ overview

Now the acclaimed Twin Sister duo of pianists Michelle and Christina Naughton can be joined by their violinist counterparts from Madison.

Program highlights include Julius Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm and double violin concertos by J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.

Subscriptions are available for $63 to the four-concert series, which has quietly become one of the best-attended organ seasons around.

The subscription deadline is June 28. Subscribers save 25 percent off the cost of single tickets and get the best seats before they go on sale to the general public on August 17.

Subscriptions, full details and concert programs are now available at

Here is an overview of the season with artists and programs:

Samuel Hutchison (below) opens the season on Friday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Overture Center‘s Overture Hall with a program of works by J. S. Bach, Gabriel Pierné, Marco Enrico Bossi and a special transcription of the waltz from Peter Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. The highlight of the program will be Hutchison’s interpretation of Julius Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm, which is considered one of the pinnacles of Romantic organ composition.

Hutchison has received rave reviews from the local press for his playing: The Capital Times said, “Simply ‘fantastique’! Hutchison delivered a seamless performance.” And John W. Barker, writing for Isthmus, said, “Hutchison took full measure of the work in the strongest performance of it I can recall hearing.”


MSO first violinists and sisters Alice Bartsch (below top) and Eleanor Bartsch (below bottom) join Hutchison on Friday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall with the Double Concerto by J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi’s Double Concerto in D Minor.

Both sisters have distinguished themselves as stellar violinists and have won competitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Hutchison will round out the program with works by Marcel Dupré, Herbert Howells, Josef Rheinberger and Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Alice Bartsch

Eleanor Bartsch

Organist Janette Fishell (below) has performed in many of the world’s great concert venues and has just completed a 21-concert cycle of the complete works of J. S. Bach, which she talks about in the YouTube video at the bottom. Her program on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. includes works by J. S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Miloš Sokola, Robert Schumann, Lionel Rogg and others.

Fishell serves as Professor of Music and Chair of the Organ Department at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. She has been described as “a tour de force” in The Diapason, and her colleagues of the American Guild of Organists call her “fabulous…flawless!”

Janette Fishell CR Forrest Croce

The highly popular Madison Youth Choirs (Michael Ross, Artistic Director) bring the season to a close with Hutchison on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall with a refreshing program of music for soprano, alto, tenor and bass mixed voices with treble singers.

The program includes works by John Rutter, J. S. Bach, Lili Boulanger, Herbert Howells and others. MSO Music Director John DeMain has said, “I can never say enough about the good work that Michael Ross does with the Madison Youth Choirs; they are an essential and beloved part of our Christmas concerts.”

madison youth choirs

The Overture Concert Organ is owned by the MSO. It is programmed and curated by MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison. In addition to the subscription season, the instrument is featured in the MSO Christmas concerts and in the April, 2014 program, as well as the Free Farmers’ Market Concert series with three summer events and Free Community Hymn Sings, which take place four times per season.

Details can be found on the Web at

The Overture Concert Organ series is made possible by major funding from Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. Additional sponsorships come from Friends of the Overture Concert Organ and John and Christine Gauder.

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