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: The Madison Symphony Orchestra receives a national grant for its HeartStrings outreach program of music therapy for the special-needs community. Plus, you can hear the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet perform music by Schubert and Dvorak on Monday, May 23

May 15, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following note, which he finds worth sharing because of the local distinction and because it confirms that the importance of hearing music goes far beyond the concert hall and recording studio.

The notice outlines an example of musical outreach that is both empathetic and compassionate, traits that mean the entire public should know about and support the MSO’s outreach programs: 

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced on May 10 that the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has been awarded an NEA Art Works grant of $20,000 to support HeartStringsSM, an internationally recognized, music therapy-informed community engagement program for individuals with special needs.

The NEA has approved more than $82 million total to fund local arts projects and partnerships in this second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2016.

HeartStringsSM  uses live music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals with disabilities, long-term illnesses, dementia and assisted-living needs.

Participants receive the HeartStringsSM program free-of-charge, and the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet (below), a professional string quartet comprised of principal MSO musicians, performs the music live at various sites.

NOTE: You can hear the Rhapsodie Quartet plus UW-Madson and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp perform on Monday, May, 23, at 7 p.m. in the Promenade Hall of the Overture Center. The program features the “AmericanString Quartet by Antonin Dvorak and the late and sublime String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, by Franz Schubert. The suggested donation is $5 at the door.

MSO HeartStrings outreach with Rhapsodie Quartet playing

The Quartet will facilitate a series of nine group music therapy-informed sessions at 10 retirement communities, healthcare facilities, and state institutions across Dane County, reaching nearly 3,200 individuals –many of whom would not otherwise have access to the restorative effects of live music.

“The arts are all around us, enhancing our lives in ways both subtle and obvious, expected and unexpected,” said Chu. “Supporting projects like the one from the Madison Symphony Orchestra offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

MSO Director of Education and Community Engagement Kathryn Schwarzmann said:

“HeartStrings is a signature program of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which brings meaningful musical experiences directly into the lives of individuals with special needs throughout Dane County, Wisconsin. This nationally recognized community engagement program combines the beneficial effects of live music with participatory, music therapy-informed activities designed to promote the well-being of traditionally underserved populations.

The NEA’s Art Works grants support the creation of work, and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields.

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEASpring16.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov

Here is a video of a television interview that features Kathryn Schwarzmann, who explains more about the background of the HeartStrings program and about how it works:


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