The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Superb music-making offset awkward acting and dancing in a concert that the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society gave last weekend. This summer’s last BDDS concerts are tonight, Saturday and Sunday 

June 22, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, published belatedly but in time for this weekend’s upcoming closing concerts – two performances each of two programs — of the current summer season by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

It is 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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

Performance photos were taken by Dick Ainsworth for BDDS.

By John W. Barker

One of the two programs of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society’s second weekend this season was held in the Overture Center’s Playhouse last Saturday night.

The associations of its three works with war were somewhat strained, most of all for Robert Schumann’s Three Romances, Op. 94. They were composed in 1849 for the options of oboe and violin or clarinet with piano.

On this occasion they were presented in a transcription for bassoon, made by the performer, Adrian Morejon (below). He played these brief and lovely pieces beautifully, but I confess I would have liked them more if one of the stipulated, higher-range instruments had been used.

The first major work was from the contemporary American composer Kevin Puts (below), called Einstein on Mercer Street. It is a kind of cantata, a half-hour in length, cast in five sections, each beginning with spoken words but moving to singing.

The text, whose origins were not made clear, purports to represent the thinking of Albert Einstein in his last years in Princeton, N.J., as he contemplates his place in science and in the creation of the atomic bomb.

The vocal part was written for baritone Timothy Jones (below center), who performed it this time, delivering it with confident eloquence. To tell the truth, though, a lot of his words, spoken and sung, did not come through clearly, at least for where I sat.

Though the vocal writing goes through one ear and out the other, there is a lot of very pleasant melodic music in the score, and it occurred to me that, with a little tightening, the work could nicely be left just to the instrumental ensemble (violin, cello, flute, clarinet, trumpet, percussion and piano), the vocal part dispensed with — heresy, of course.

The second half of the program was devoted to the classic work of 1918, L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), originally with a French text by the Swiss writer Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, and with brilliant music, in the style of blues, jazz and ragtime by Igor Stravinsky.

The spoken text, in a rhymed English translation, calls for three actors: a narrator, a Soldier and the Devil. Jones was quite good as the narrator, but well enough could not be left alone.

With utter arbitrariness, the character of the Soldier was turned into the soldierette “Josie,” so that the Prince he woos and wins becomes a “Princess.”

This absurdity was absolutely pointless, save, perhaps, to allow the two co-directors of the festival, Stephanie Jutt and Jeffrey Sykes (below) to play soldierette and the Devil against each other. In hilarious costumes, the two did well enough, Sykes especially, but the gender change grated all the way through the piece.

And there was another problem. The work was not only written for actors and musicians, but also with dancers in mind. No choreography survives, and the use of dancers in performances of the work is patchy.

Here we had hip-hop dancer Blake Washington introduced during the Three Dances movement as the recovering “Prince,” with a lot of spastic shivering and shaking that suggested more of painful decomposition than recovery.

The stars of the piece, however, were the seven outstanding instrumentalists: violinist Axel Strauss; David Scholl, double bass; Alan Kay, clarinet; Morejon, bassoon; Matt Onstad, trumpet; Dylan Chmura-Moore, trombone; and Anthony di Sanza, percussion. With truly superb playing, they upheld the high standards of the musicians that the BDDS brings us.

For more information about BDDS’ closing concerts this weekend – featuring guest soprano and critically acclaimed UW-Madison alumna Emily Birsan and music by Mozart, Schumann, Saint-Saens, Fauré, Ravel, Prokofiev, Barber and other composers in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green tonight, Saturday and Sunday, go to: http://bachdancing.org/concerts/festival-concerts/


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Classical music: Madison’s Ancora String Quartet will give FREE concerts at public libraries as part of the Green Lake Festival of Music.

June 10, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Green Lake Festival of Music sent the following news to The Ear:

ANCORA STRING QUARTET AT PUBLIC LIBRARIES THIS SUMMER

“Get Read, Set, Play!” is the theme of Green Lake Festival of Music’s 10th Thomas E. Caestecker Free Family Concert Series at the Ripon Public Library (Tuesday, June 14), Caestecker Public Library (Tuesday, June 21), and the Princeton Public Library (Tuesday, June 19).

These family-friendly concerts are appropriate for ages 5 to 95—virtually anyone who desires a lively introduction to fine music presented in an entertaining format by the Festival’s outstanding artists, the Ancora String Quartet (below top).

Members of the critically acclaimed string quartet are Robin Ryan and Leanne Kelso League, violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; and Benjamin Whitcomb, cello. Wes Luke (below bottom) is substituting for League, who is participating in an out-of-state festival. Some of the members teach at the UW-Whitewater and perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Willy Street Chamber Players and other ensembles. 

For more information about the Ancora, visit: http://ancoraquartet.com/about-us/

Ancora CR Barry Lewis

Wes Luke 2015

A special feature of this series is the coordinated programs that the libraries of Green Lake, Princeton and Ripon are offering in conjunction with the concerts.  These three free 45-minute concerts start at 2 p.m. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No tickets are required, and seating begins at 1:30 p.m.

The 45-minute program includes short works and excerpts by Franz Schubert (the Quartettsatz or Quartet Movement); Felix Mendelssohn; Peter Tchaikovsky (Andante Cantabile); Dmitri Shostakovich; Sir Arthur Sullivan (Romance); Joaquin Turina (“Bullfighter’s Prayer”); and Joachim Raff.

The Ancora String Quartet will perform on Ripon College’s quartet of stringed instruments built by Madison Luthier Lawrence LaMay in the 1960’s. The late Ripon College conductor Ray Stahura acquired these notable instruments in the late 1990’s.

Teaming up with the National Library theme, “Wholeness, fitness, sports,” the Ancora String Quartet will talk about the physicality, discipline, and sheer fun of playing a stringed instrument. And we will share stories about Lawrence LaMay from people who knew him and play his instruments. The audience is encouraged to bring their own stringed instruments to show the quartet.”

This series is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Tom Caestecker (below) as a free service to the community.  The concerts and related library programs are designed to reach out to parents, kids and seniors.  They offer a brief, lighthearted introduction to music with an up close and personal experience with the performers.  Tom Caestecker said, “I can’t think of a better pairing than music and books.”

Thomas Caestecker

Other free sponsored community concerts include the Ancora String Quartet at the Berlin Public Library (Tuesday, June 28), Oshkosh Public Library (Tuesday, July 12), and the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac (Tuesday, July 26).

Green Lake Festival of Music logo

The Green Lake Chamber Music Camp and concert series is funded in part by the Arts Midwest Touring Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Crane Group and General Mills Foundations. Other funding comes from the Horicon Bank, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, and private/corporate donations. Wisconsin Public Radio provides promotional support.

Please visit www.greenlakefestival.org for the most current calendar of events or to purchase tickets.  Tickets to other Festival concerts are also available by calling the office at 920-748-9398.  You can also stop by one of the following ticket outlets: Green Lake Bank (Green Lake) and Ripon Drug (Ripon).

Discount packages and single tickets can also be purchased in person at the new Green Lake Festival of Music office in the Thrasher Opera House (below) at 506 Mill St. in Green Lake.  The Festival entrance is the left door off the parking lot, and the reception area is down the hall.  Tickets bought in advance will save the $5 surcharge added to a ticket bought at the concert.

thrasher opera house


Classical music: The Green Lake Festival of Music announces this summer’s FREE family concerts in various area libraries.

June 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Green Lake Festival of Music have sent the following announcement:

Green Lake Festival of Music logo

FREE FAMILY CONCERT SERIES

Come and enjoy our free family and community concerts! These family-friendly concerts are appropriate for ages 5-95 — virtually anyone who desires a lively introduction to fine music presented in an entertaining format by the Festival’s outstanding artists.

A special feature of this series is the coordinated programs the libraries of Berlin, Green Lake, Kingston, Markesan, Princeton and Ripon (below) are offering in conjunction with the concerts.

Ripon public library

These three free 45-minute concerts start at 2 p.m. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No tickets are required, and seating begins at 1:30 p.m.

This year each child who attends will be given a “passport,” and when it is returned to his/her library there will be a special treat in store.

This is the ninth year of the series, made possible by the generous sponsorship of Tom Caestecker as a free service to the community.

The concerts and related library programs are designed to reach out to parents, kids and seniors. They offer a brief, lighthearted introduction to music with an up close and personal experience with the performers. Tom Caestecker said, “I can’t think of a better pairing than music and books. Encouraging kids and adults alike to visit their libraries and experience high quality, live music will build a foundation for lifelong rewards.”

Here is a schedule:

Music of Our Heroes: The Akropolis Reed Quintet

Saturday, June 20, Ripon Public Library, Ripon

The nationally acclaimed Akropolis Reed Quintet (below) presents a concert of stories and music, sharing the untold story behind five of their musical heroes.

Akropolis Reed Quintet

Peter and the Wolf: The Bergonzi String Quartet (below)

Friday, July 17, Caestecker Public Library, Green Lake

A heroic tale of a boy who seeks justice for his friends and faces his fears head on.

bergonzi string quartet

“La Courte Paille” by Poulenc: Virginia Rogers, Harp and Cara Davis, Soprano

Friday, July 24, Princeton Public Library

This suite of children’s songs for soprano features poems by Maurice Carame.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation has also sponsored several free family concerts this season, as has the Oberreich Foundation. These family concerts take place at the public libraries in Berlin, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.

A German Folk Tale: Virginia Rogers, Harp (below) and Johannes Deegen, Violin

Friday, June 26, Berlin Public Library, Berlin

This charming antique picture music book is in German, and the performers will translate it into English as well as play the violin with the lever harp.

Virginia Rogers

Peter and the Wolf: The Bergonzi String Quartet

Thursday, July 16, Fond du Lac Public Library, Fond du Lac

A heroic tale of a boy who seeks justice for his friends and faces his fears head on.

The Green Lake Festival of Music is supported in part by the Arts Midwest Touring Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Crane Group and General Mills Foundation. Additional support comes from the Horicon Bank, the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, Agnesian Healthcare, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, and private and corporate donations.

Please visit www.greenlakefestival.org for information about these and other artists performing at the Festival or to purchase tickets.


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