The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: During global protests against racism, a longtime fan of the Madison Symphony Orchestra writes a letter to ask for more diversity and African-American composers

June 9, 2020
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By Jacob Stockinger

During the ongoing global protests and demonstrations against police brutality, racism and white privilege, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) will hold its annual meeting next Tuesday, June 16, at 3:30 p.m.

The meeting is NOT open to the public — as erroneously stated in an earlier version — but just to season subscribers (not single ticket buyers) and members of MSO boards. The meeting will be virtual and held online via Zoom.

During the meeting, a statement about diversity and inclusion will be read, according to the MSO. 

If you have questions, you can call Alexis Carreon at (608) 257-3734.

With both the symphony and current events in mind, a longtime MSO subscriber has written the following letter to Manager of Individual Giving Jeff Breisach.

Please read the letter and then let us know what you think.

Do you agree or disagree?

What else would you like to say about the role of MSO in adapting to concerns about racism, injustice and privilege?

Do you have any suggestions?

“Dear J. Breisach:

“Please share my following concerns with those planning the annual meeting of the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

“In light of the recent historic events, I hope MSO will add an item or two to deal with the economic and racial injustice prevalent in Madison, as well as elsewhere in our nation.

“Specifically:

  • Empty seats should be made available as Rush Seats ($1 or $5) the day of the concert to open our halls to those facing economic disparity. Such disparity rests on a long history of racism and poverty injustice in our town and in our land. Our hall should always be full and should have a more multi-ethnic, multi-age audience than is currently the case. As our audiences stand, we are one of the most racially and economically privileged events in Madison. That must stop.
  • We need more racially diverse composers included in our regular programming–at the very least during the month of February, but even better throughout the year. And I’m not just thinking of “Porgy and Bess” tunes. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (below top) also comes to mind as a composer we need to hear more often. Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges — Joseph de Boulogne (1745-1799, below bottom) — is another. (Editor’s note: You can hear the Romance for violin and orchestra by Coleridge-Taylor in the YouTube video at the bottom.) There are more. Having a local black chorus in for Christmas is not enough!

“It is time for MSO to acknowledge its history of white privilege and take some steps to more widely acknowledge the richness of a diverse local audience and classical music history.

Sincerely,

Carol Troyer-Shank

“PS: I have been a MSO ticket holder in the economically denigrated balcony for more than 20 years.

“PS2: The architect and designers clearly thought about making more money — not about safety of attendees — when they designed a balcony to squeeze in more people instead of to allow ease of movement for lower-cost ticket holders. Shame on them! So, of course, all those seats should be filled every time. Even at $5 a ticket, the MSO would gain enormous improvement in their local image.”

 


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Classical music: New Orleans seeks to once again become an American opera capital with an emphasis on diversity

May 31, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

When you think of opera in America, chances are good that you think of New York City with the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera; the Lyric Opera of Chicago; the Houston Grand Opera; the Santa Fe Opera; and countless other opera companies in many major cities.

And when you think of New Orleans, you understandably think of jazz.

But the truth is that for a long time, New Orleans was an American capital for opera, more important than many of the other cities mentioned above.

Consider the fact that the first opera performed in the United States was performed in New Orleans in 1796. And that at one point, New Orleans was home to five opera companies.

Plus, the opera that was performed there in the past brought racial, cultural and gender diversity to an art form that often lacked it and was largely Euro-centric. (You can hear the company sing “We’re Goin’ Around” from ragtime great Scott Joplin‘s opera “Treemonisha” in the YouTube video at the bottom,)

Now some singers and others (below) have formed an organization – OperaCreole — with the aim of correcting racism and restoring New Orleans’ reputation for opera,  especially that of the many African-American and Creole opera composers who were native to New Orleans.

A fine story, with an illuminating interview, recently appeared on NPR (National Public Radio).

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/05/28/530085480/a-new-orleans-company-shines-a-light-on-operas-diverse-history

Another excellent story, with more focus on repertoire and history, appeared in The New Yorker magazine:

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/a-small-step-toward-correcting-the-overwhelming-whiteness-of-opera

And here is a link to OperaCreole’s own website with more information about the company and its productions:

http://www.operacreole.com


Classical music: Three upcoming UW events –- two focusing on racial diversity and one on Latin American classical guitar music -– merit your attention. Plus, classical guitarist Christopher Allen gives a FREE recital at noon on Friday.

October 14, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features classical guitarist Christopher Allen performing music by Abel Carlevaro, Leo Brouwer, Manuel Ponce and Federico Moreno-Torroba.

By Jacob Stockinger

Three upcoming events at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music merit your attention and maybe your attendance.

Two concern racial diversity and the role of African-American composers and performers. It is an issue here and at many music schools around the country.

The third involves a concert by Javier Calderon of Latin American composers who wrote for the classical guitar.

All events are FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

THURSDAY

On Thursday night at 5-6 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building, baritone Emery Stephens of Wayne State University in Detroit will present a lecture-recital titled “African American Voices in Classical Music,” with UW-Madison collaborative pianist Martha Fischer, along with an interactive component for audience members.

Stephens will share brief histories of the composers and their music. The program will include unaccompanied spirituals, spiritual arrangements and art songs by African-American composers.

Works will be by Harry Burleigh (1866-1949), Edward Boatner (1898-1981), Hall Johnson (1888-1970), Margaret Bonds (1913-1972), Charles Brown (b. 1940), and Betty Jackson King (1928-1994). Sorry, specific titles have not been mentioned.

For more about Stephens and his subject, visit:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/beyond-race-with-emery-stephens/

FRIDAY

On Friday afternoon from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 1351 of the Mosse Humanities Building Stephens will present a master class on his Beyond Race Project.

emery stephens

SATURDAY 

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison School of Music professor Javier Calderon will give a FREE faculty concert of guitar music by music of Eduardo Caba (Bolivia), Manuel Ponce (Mexico), and Heitor Villa-Lobos (Brazil).

Sorry, The Ear has received no word on individual works on the program. But at bottom is a YouTube video of Calderon playing a work by Isaac Albeniz at a UW Varsity Band Spring Concert in 2010.

 


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