The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Choral Project gives a concert of new music focusing on the social and political theme of “Privilege” this Friday night and Sunday afternoon

April 20, 2017
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features David Miller, trumpet; Amy Harr, cello; and Jane Peckham, piano. They will play music by Bach, Schmidt, Piazzolla, Honegger and Cooman. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

By Jacob Stockinger

Call it activist beauty or beautiful activism.

It sure seems that political and social relevance is making a comeback in the arts during an era in which inequality in race, gender, ethnicity, wealth, education, health, employment, immigration status and other issues loom larger and larger.

For the Madison Choral Project (below), for example, singing is about more than making music. It can also be about social justice.

Writes the Project:

“The Madison Choral Project believes that too often the classical music concert is simply a museum of the beautiful. Yet the worlds of theater, art and literature can so brilliantly combine beauty with material that provokes contemplation and understanding.

“Our world is increasingly complicated, and we seek to provide voices exploring important emotional and social concerns of today.”

That means that, in its two concerts this weekend, the Madison Choral Project will explore the concept of privilege in two performances this weekend.

The repertoire is all new music or contemporary music by living composers.

The Madison Choral Project, under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault (below), who formerly taught at Edgewood College and is now at Northwestern University, presents their 10th Project – Privilege – on this Friday night, April 21, at  8:30 p.m. (NOT 7:30, as originally announced, because of noise from a nearby football game); and on Sunday afternoon, April 23, at 3 p.m.

Both performances are at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, near Camp Randall Stadium.

General admission is $24 in advance and online; $28 at the door; and $10 for students either in advance or at the door. A limited number of preferred seats are offered for $40.

The Privilege concerts feature the work Privilege by Ted Hearne (b. 1982), which Hearne (below) writes “are settings of little texts questioning a contemporary privileged life (mine).”

With texts that range from the inequality of educational experiences, to the unfair playing field brought through race, the work sets thought-provoking texts in a beautiful and musically accessible way. (NOTE: You can hear it in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The program also includes the world premiere of a new piece of music from Wisconsin composer and UW-Madison graduate D. Jasper Sussman (b. 1989, below), whose piece Work: “What choice?” is a contemplation of society’s confusing and hypocritical demands on women, their bodies and their appearance.

Sussman writes “I have never identified as a feminist. It’d be impossible, however, for me to remain ignorant of the clumsily uneven climate of our world, and certainly of this country. Work: “What Choice?” is an attempt at telling a common story shared by many.”

Included on the concert are two works of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang (b. 1957, below), whose new minimalism includes sonorities influenced by rock and popular music, but with layered repetition that gives the pieces a meditative and contemplative quality.

Also featured is When David Heard by Eric Whitacre (b. 1970, below), a gorgeous and devastating monologue contemplating the death of one’s child.

For more information and tickets, go to www.themcp.org

You can also go to a fine story in The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/with-privilege-madison-choral-project-sings-on-social-justice/article_1d4ecf46-3347-5950-a655-eb270449fb96.html

The Madison Choral Project is Wisconsin’s only fully professional choir. All the singers on stage are paid, professional musicians.


Classical music: Which political campaigns have used classical music?

August 14, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

In the past, the music that political campaigns used was often jingles that reminded one of Madison Avenue advertising, even when they were composed by Broadway song master Irving Berlin.

These days, it seems to The Ear that most political campaigns use rock, pop or country music.

Sometimes folk music.

Never jazz.

And, one supposes, you will never hear the blues since that would be a pretty downbeat message for politicians.

But leave it to our friends at WQXR-FM, the famed classical music radio station in New York City, to offer some samples of political campaign music, including some that used classical music.

Ike campaign political campaigns and classical music

Donald Trump (below), the current Republican nominee for president, has tried to use the famous opera aria “Nessum dorma” (None Shall Sleep) from “Turandot” by Giacomo Puccini.

Donald Trump thumbs up

Fittingly, in the opera the moving and beautiful aria is sung by a prince to woo a Chinese tyrant or despot.

The Ear especially loved the way it was used so appropriately during the carpet bombing of Cambodia by the U.S. in the movie “The Killing Fields.”

Trump used one of the best versions available – sung by Luciano Pavarotti, one of which has 38 million hits and which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.

But the Pavarotti estate refused to grant him permission to use it and asked him to cease and desist. Good for them.

Now Trump uses something in the public domain: the Overture to the opera “The Thieving Magpie” by Giachino Rossini.

Anyway, here is a link to the story:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/6-us-political-campaigns-set-to-classical-music/


Classical music: Fresco Opera Theatre and TAPIT/New Works are eastside neighbors and tonight premiere their inaugural collaboration about Urban Development of a convenience store on the streets of Madison. Plus, you can check in on Day 8 of the WYSO tour to Argentina.

July 31, 2014
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ALERT: The Youth Orchestra under University of Wisconsin-Madison conductor James Smith (below), of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), is into Day 8 of its 10-day tour to Argentina. Here is a link to the live blog:

wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following word from Jeff Turk of Fresco Opera Theatre, who is a loyal follower of and contributor to this blog:

“Good Day, Jake —

“Fresco Opera Theatre has teamed up with our next door neighbor, “TAPIT/New Works,” in developing a piece that incorporates music (specifically, opera), theater and history.

“Convenience” is a production that includes a walking tour of our neighborhood, the Schenk’s Corners neighborhood on Madison’s far east side.

Here is a description from our press release:

Summer’s here, and the time is right for singing and acting in the streets -– at least on Madison’s east side.

Next-door neighbor arts organizations TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater and Fresco Opera Theatre are teaming up to celebrate their shared neighborhood in Convenience, a new production opening at 1957 Winnebago St. at 7:30 p.m. on tomorrow night, Friday, Aug. 1.

FRESCO and TAPIT poster 1

Other performances at 1957 Winnebago Street, on the city’s east side, are at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2, Friday, Aug. 8; and Sunday, Aug. 9; and at 4 p.m. on Sundays, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

General admission is $20, $15  for students and seniors. Details are below.

Combining comedy, opera and a walking tour of Schenk’s Corners, “Convenience” tells the story of a fictionalized, east side convenience store and its eccentric customers, including a developer and an activist, as well as conspiracy theorists, musicians, know-it-alls and assorted neighborhood characters.

When the developer and the activist hatch competing plans for the store, the stage is set for conflict – and a most unlikely romance.

Here is the trailer for the production: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUPo07eKYc8

And here is the ticket information: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/763023

If you have the opportunity, we would love a mention in “The Ear.”

Thanks for your consideration, Jake!”

Jeff Turk

President, Board Of Directors, Fresco Opera Theatre

The Ear says the cooperative production sounds very intriguing, no? It seems like a  new kind of multi-media production, one worthy of Mad City for its social, economic, political and artistic relevance, all of which aspects — given the 1 Percent Movement and concerns about gentrification and urban development in general — sound like they may once again become important values in art, much like they were in the 1930s, 1960s and 1970s, to say nothing of earlier eras.

Here is a video preview — with tap dancing and singing to whet the appetite — of the new collaborative production that seems to combine Verdi and tap dancing:


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