The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: You’re invited to a FREE 12-hour marathon birthday party for Johann Sebastian Bach this Saturday. Plus, tonight’s concert of African-American music has been CANCELLED

March 14, 2017
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ALERT: Tonight’s concert of African-American spirituals and songs has been CANCELLED because guest scholar and singer Emery Stephens is ill. The UW-Madison School of Music hopes to reschedule the event later this spring. 

By Jacob Stockinger

Guess who turns 332 on March 21?

This coming Saturday will bring a 12-hour, noon to midnight, marathon party for the Birthday Boy – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750, seen below in a humorous poster for a similar event held several years ago).

The local event – now part of the nationwide “Early Music Month” — is being revived, thanks to Madison violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below), who performs with the Madison Bach Musicians, the Ancora String Quartet  and the Madison Symphony Orchestra,  and to many sponsors.

The party will take place at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below) on Regent Street. (Several years ago, the event, when it was sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, was held at the Pres House.) There will be live audio-visual streaming and free wi-fi, and the event will be recorded.

Here is a link to the updated schedule of performances:

https://bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com/concert-schedule/

Here is a link to an earlier post about the upcoming event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=bach+around+the+clock

If you love the music of Bach (below) – and The Ear doesn’t know anyone who is into classical music who doesn’t revere Bach — there will be a lot to love and to listen to at this FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC  celebration.

The event is modeled after a longtime similar event in New Orleans and those who attend it can come and go and come back again.

Local performers include groups and individuals who are professionals (Madison Bach Musicians and Wisconsin Chamber Choir), amateurs and students (Suzuki Strings of Madison).

The impressive program includes lots of variety.

There will be preludes and fugues.

Cantatas and concertos.

Sonatas and suites.

Obscure works will be performed.

But there will also be popular works such as two Brandenburg Concertos (Nos. 3 and 5), The Well-Tempered Clavier (Books I and II), the Magnificat, a Violin Concerto, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and some of The Art of Fugue. (You can hear Fugue No. 1  from “The Art of Fugue,” which will be performed at BATC, in the YouTube video at the bottom.) 

There will be music played on period instruments and on modern instruments, including the harpsichord and the piano; the baroque violin and the modern violin; older recorders and newer flutes, the viola da gamba and the cello. And of course there will be lots and lots of singing and organ music.

Given such a marathon undertaking, you should know that there will be refreshments (coffee, tea, bottled water and snacks), comfortable seating and special birthday cakes — served at midnight — provided by Clausen’s Eurpean Bakery in Middleton.

NOTE: You can find out more when several organizers and performers from Bach Around the Clock are Norman Gilliland’s guests on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Midday” this coming Thursday from noon to 12:30 p.m.

For more information –including how to support the event with a donation and how to participate in it as a performer – go to the event’s homepage:

https://bacharoundtheclock.wordpress.com

Here are some links to previous posts on this blog about attending earlier versions of Bach Around the Clock. Read them and look at the pictures, and you will see how enjoyable they are and how informative they are.

From 2010:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/classical-music-events-here-is-the-line-up-for-saturdays-bach-around-the-clock/

From 2011:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/classical-music-review-the-marathon-“bach-around-the-clock”-concert-is-now-officially-a-tradition-in-madison-wisconsin/

From 2012:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/classical-music-here-are-8-lessons-i-learned-from-my-day-of-berlitz-bach-at-wisconsin-public-radios-bach-around-the-clock-3-last-saturday/

See you there!


Classical music: Madison Youth Choirs will perform immigrant music in “Sounds Like Home: Music in Diaspora” this Saturday and Sunday

May 3, 2016
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A REMINDER: Subscribers to the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s current season that just ended have until May 5 — this Thursday — to renew and save their current seats. New subscribers can receive up to 50 percent off and other discounts are available. For more about the programs of the 2016-17 season and about subscribing, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/16-17

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following notice from the Madison Youth Choirs about three concerts this coming weekend:

On this Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, 2016, in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center for the Arts, the young singers of Madison Youth Choirs (below, at the winter concert in 2014) will bring to life the musical creations of several groups who have left their homelands throughout history, under a variety of circumstances.

Madison Youth Choirs Winter Concert 2014

How do we keep our traditions in a place where they may not be tolerated? How do we maintain our identities in the face of great change? How do we preserve our stories and our history for future generations?

We invite you to ponder these questions with us as we explore the rich choral work of the African-American, Indian, Cuban, Arabic, Irish, Jewish and additional musical traditions as well as several works based on the biblical diaspora as told in Psalm 137.

At the Saturday evening performance, MYC will also present the Carrel Pray Music Educator of the Year Award to Dan Krunnfusz (below), former artistic director and conductor of the Madison Boychoir and a longtime choral and general music teacher in Madison and Baraboo public schools.

Dan Kronnfusz

MYC Spring Concert Series: “Sounds Like Home: Music in Diaspora.” Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts201 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday, May 7, 2016, 7 p.m.: Boychoirs

Sunday, May 8, 2016, 3:30 p.m. Girl choirs; 7:30 p.m. High School Ensembles

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students ages 8-18. Children 7 and under receive free admission but a physical ticket is required for entry. AUDIENCE MEMBERS WILL NEED A SEPARATE TICKET FOR EACH CONCERT.

Tickets are available through Overture Center Box Office, and may be acquired in person at 201 State Street, Madison; via phone at (608) 258 – 4141; or online at http://www.overturecenter.org/events/sounds-like-home-music-in-diaspora

This project is generously supported by American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, the Green Bay Packers Foundation, the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, the Madison Community Foundation, the Madison Gas and Electric Foundation, the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, and Dane Arts with additional funding from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation. This project is also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, see below in a photo by Jon Harlow on its tour to an international festival in Scotland in 2014): Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community.

Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility, and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.

Madison Youth Choirs Scotland Tour CR Jon Harlow

Here is the repertoire of the MYC 2016 Spring Concert Series “Sounds Like Home: Music in Diaspora”

Saturday, May 7, 2016, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts

7 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Boychoirs)

Purcell

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child…Traditional spiritual, arr. Burleigh

Hashivenu…Traditional Hebrew, arr. Rao

Rolling Down to Rio…Edward German

Britten

The Minstrel Boy…Traditional Irish, arr. Benjamin Britten

Super Flumina Babylonis…Giacomo Carissimi

Duke’s Place…Duke Ellington, arr. Swiggum/Ross

Holst

As by the Streams of Babylon…Thomas Campion

A Miner’s Life…Traditional Irish, arr. Houston

Combined Boychoirs (below, in a photo by Joanie Crump)

The Riflemen of Bennington…Traditional, arr. Swiggum

Babylon…Don McLean

Madison Youth Choirs Boychoir Spring Concert - Joanie Crump

Sunday, May 8, 2016, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts

3:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Girlchoirs, below in a photo by Karen Brown)

Choraliers

Babylon…Don McClean

Beidh Aonach Amarach…Traditional Irish, arr. Dwyer

Ani Ma’amin…Traditional Hebrew, arr. Caldwell/Ivory

Gospel Train…Traditional spiritual, arr. Shirley McRae

Alhamdoulillah…Traditional Arabic, arr. Laura Hawley

Con Gioia

Folksong arrangements (2, 3, 4)…Gideon Klein

Hope is the Thing with Feathers…Marye Helms

Wild Mountain Thyme…Traditional Irish, arr. Jay Broeker

Stadt und Land in stille Ruh…Traditional German canon

Capriccio

Mi’kmaq Honor Song….arr. Lydia Adams

Thou Shalt Bring Them In…..G.F. Handel

Iraqi Peace Song…..Lori Tennenhouse

Bring Me Little Water, Silvy…..credited to Leadbelly, arr. Moira Smiley

Capriccio, Cantilena, and Cantabile

Across the Water (world premiere)…  UW-Madison alumnus Scott Gendel (below)

Scott Gendel color headshot

7:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring High School Ensembles)

Cantilena

We Are…Ysaye Barnwell

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child…Traditional spiritual

Jai Bhavani…arr. Ethan Sperry

Hej, Igazitsad…Lajos Bardos

Ragazzi

An Wasserflüssen Babylon…Michael Praetorius

Uz mne kone vyvadeji (from folksong arrangements)…Gideon Klein

Son de Camaguey…Traditional Cuban, arr. Stephen Hatfield

Loch Lomond…Traditional Scottish air, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams

Cantabile

In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles (from Alarcón Madrigals)…Roger Bourland

Riawanna…Stephen Leek

Barchuri Le’an Tisa…Gideon Klein

Kafal Sviri…Traditional Bulgarian, arr. Liondev

Cantabile and Ragazzi

O, What a Beautiful City…Traditional spiritual, arr. Shawn Kirchner

Madison Youth Choirs Combined Girlchoirs Spring Concert 15 CR Karen Brown


Classical music: Edgewood College offers two promising band and choral concerts this coming weekend. Plus, a FREE concert of new music for harp and cello is Friday at noon

March 31, 2016
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features harpist Linda Warren and cellist Carol Wessler in the music of Harper Tasche and Laura Zaerr.

By Jacob Stockinger

Two promising band and choral concerts are on tap this weekend at Edgewood College.

Both will take place in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

FRIDAY

The Edgewood College Concert Band, under the direction of Walter Rich (below), will perform a benefit concert for Luke House on Friday at 7 p.m.

Admission is FREE with a freewill offering to benefit the Luke House community meal program.

Included on the program are Flourish for Wind Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams; “Serenity” by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo; “Chorale and Capriccio” by Caesar Giovanini; “Jerusalemby Hubert Parry; “I’m Seventeen Come Sundayby Percy Grainger; “Daybreak” by Carl Strommen and “Children of Gaia” by Robert Sheldon.

The Music Department at Edgewood College has hosted benefit concerts for Luke House since 1994.

Walter Rich

SUNDAY

Two vocal ensembles will perform a concert at 2:30 p.m., Sunday in St. Joseph Chapel. Admission is FREE.

Featured will be the Chamber Singers (below), under the direction of Sergei Pavlov (center at the bottom of the stairs). The group has just returned from performances at the International Sacred Music Festival in Quito, Ecuador.

The Chamber Singers will perform excerpts from the Mass in F by Domenico Zipoli; “Usnijze mi, usnij” by Polish composer Henryk Gorecki; “Holy, Holy” from the Gospel Mass by Robert Ray; and a Victor Johnson arrangement of “Bonse Aba,” a traditional Zambian work. Todd Hammes, adjunct faculty member in the Music Department, will assist on percussion.

Edgewood College Chamber Singers

Also performing will be the Women’s Choir (below top), under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below bottom). The Women’s Choir will perform Israeli and Jewish folk songs, a spiritual, and the “Domine Deus” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in G major, also featuring Victoria Gorbich on violin. (You can hear the glorious Bach piece performed in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Edgewood College Women's Choir

Kathleen Otterson 2


Classical music: The critically acclaimed vocal group Cantus sings about four kinds of love at the Stoughton Opera House this Saturday night. The Stoughton High School Concert Choir is a special guest performer.

March 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received word about an intriguing and appealing performance this weekend:

On this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Cantus (below top, in a photo by Curtis Johnson), the critically acclaimed, nine-voice men’s vocal ensemble based in the Twin Cities, will perform at the Stoughton Opera House (below middle and bottom), known for its historical restoration and its fine acoustics.

Cantus Railing Clustered

Stoughton Opera House ext

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

Love has been the inspiration for artistic expression since the dawn of time. It is such a complex idea that the ancient Greeks broke it down into four different kinds: romantic, familial, friendly and unconditional or spiritual love.

Weaving together repertoire and interstitial remarks, Cantus regards this unquantifiable emotion from all sides.

The program spans multiple historical eras and cultural traditions.

It features music by Francis Poulenc, Edvard Grieg, Ludwig van Beethoven and Bobby McFerrin.

Each of those works is paired with newly commissioned works exploring each of the four loves (romantic, familial, friendly and spiritual) by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang (below top, in a photo by Peter Serling) as well as Roger Treece (second below), Joseph Gregorio (third below) and Ysaye Barnwell (below bottom).

david lang CR peter serling

Roger Treece

Joseph Gregorio

Ysaye Barnwell

The program brims with Cantus’s trademark programming juxtaposition, including pairing the Beach Boys’ “Their Hearts were Full of Spring” with  “Wedding Qawwali” by the Grammy Award- and Academy Award-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman (below) and Michael McGlynn’s setting of the traditional Gaelic “Ceann Dubh Dilis (Her Sweet Dark Head)” in a set about romantic love.

A. R, Rahman

While seemingly disjointed on its face, the variety of repertoire throughout blends seamlessly and highlights the universality of Love – our greatest and most fragile gift.

For more information about Cantus, including biographies, photos, videos and audio samples, visit this link:

http://www.allianceartistmanagement.com/artist.php?id=cantus&aview=dpk

Here is a YouTube video about the program, with musical samples, to be performed in Stoughton:


Classical music: A FREE community hymn sing is Saturday at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall. Plus, Edgewood College’s annual FREE fall choral concert is this Sunday afternoon.

October 16, 2015
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ALERT: Going to the Dane County Farmers’ Market on this UW-Madison Homecoming Weekend? A FREE community hymn sing will be held this Saturday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center. The event is presented by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and lasts about 45 minutes. MSO organist Samuel Hutchison (below) will be at the keyboard of the Overture Concert Organ.

For more information about future hymn sings, visit:

http://madisonsymphony.org/hymnsings

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College in Madison will present a fall choral concert this Sunday afternoon, Oct. 18, at 2:30 p.m. in St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.

Admission is FREE.

Edgewood Chamber Singers

The Edgewood Chamber Singers, performing under the direction of Sergei Pavlov (below top), will be joined by the Women’s Choir, under the direction of Kathleen Otterson (below top).

Sergei Pavlov

Kathleen Otterson 2

Included on the Women’s Choir program are works by Henry Purcell, Russian and Korean folk music, and a spiritual.

The Chamber Singers will perform works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Sergei Taneyev and Segundo Condor.

 


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.

 


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Chorus will give two performances of a concert to welcome spring this Sunday afternoon.

March 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the latest of what The Ear hears from the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

Spring might seem like a long way off, but it isn’t. In fact it officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere this Friday at 5:45 p.m. CDT.

MSO chorus director and MSO assistant conductor Beverly Taylor and the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will usher in the warmer weather this Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

That is when they present the “It Might As Well Be Spring” choral concerts in Promenade Hall at Overture Center for the Arts.

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

The concerts will feature classical music selections from Johannes Brahms and Aaron Copland, a traditional spiritual, and the song “It Might as Well Be Spring” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “State Fair.” (You can hear the original in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Audience members will also enjoy choral renditions of poems by Walt Whitman, Robert Bridges and the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.

Madison Symphony Orchestra Principal Pianist Daniel Lyons (below) will accompany much of the music.

Dan Lyons

Tickets are $19, available at madisonsymphony.org/springchorusconcert, at the Overture Box Office (201 State Street) or by calling (608) 258-4141.

Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since.

The chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December and will be joined by four soloists for the MSO’s performance of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Choral” Symphony No. 9 (“Ode to Joy”) on May 8, 9 and 10.

MSO Chorus from left CR Greg Anderson

The Chorus, conducted by Beverly Taylor (below) is comprised of more than 125 volunteer musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent., New members are always welcome. Visit madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information.

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

 


Classical music: The Wisconsin Chamber Choir will perform “Welcome Yule,” a concert of six centuries of holiday music, including Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols,” this Friday night.

December 16, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will perform “Welcome Yule,” featuring the well-known “Ceremony of Carols” (at bottom is an excerpt in a YouTube video) by British composer Benjamin Britten.

Wisconsin Chamber Choir with Gehrenbeck RWV

Benjamin Britten

The concert is this Friday night, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Grace Episcopal Church (below in exterior and interior photos), at the intersection of West Washington Avenue and Carroll Street on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison.

Advance tickets are $15 for the public and $10 for students; at the door, the prices are $20 and $12, respectively.

grace episcopal church ext

Grace Episcopal harpsichord

Welcome Yule! traverses six centuries of music in celebration of Christmas.

Benjamin Britten’s cheerful Ceremony of Carols, (accompanied by harp) is paired with Renaissance motets by Giovanni di Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Raffaella Aleotti, and a set of rousing medieval carols.

After intermission, we pay tribute to the late Stephen Paulus (below top), who died this year, with his bright and uplifting Ship Carol, accompanied by harp, followed by a rarely-heard Magnificat and Nunc dimittis by Herbert Howells (below bottom), originally composed for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. Howells’ visionary music is accompanied by organist Mark Brampton Smith.

Here is a link to a post The Ear did about Stephen Paulus,who had many links to Madison. Be sure to read some of the local reader comments:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/classical-music-american-composer-stephen-paulus-dies-at-65-the-festival-choir-of-madison-performed-many-world-premieres-by-him-and-will-perform-the-all-night-vigil-by-tchaikovsky-this-coming-saturd/

stephen paulus

herbert howells autograph

Also on the program are inspiring works by contemporary composers Jean Belmont Ford and Wayne Oquin; a lush jazz arrangement of Silent Night by Swiss jazz pianist Ivo Antognini; and a Christmas spiritual by Rosephanye Powell.

Advance tickets are available for $15 from www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org, via Brown Paper Tickets, or at Willy Street Coop (East and West locations) and Orange Tree Imports. Student tickets are $10.

Founded in 1998, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn; a cappella masterworks from various centuries; and world premieres.

Robert Gehrenbeck (below), who directs choral activities at the UW-Whitewater, is artistic director of the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.

Robert Gehrenbeck new headshot 2013 USE

 


Classical music: The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble gives its last concert of the summer this afternoon at 3 with music of Brahms, Bruckner, Josquin des Prez, Rachmaninov and Andrew Rindfleisch. Don’t miss this annual treat.

August 3, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know very well the name of Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor will be a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform the second concert of its fourth season on Friday, Aug. 22, at 7:30 p.m., in Music Hall. Utevsky is also the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has a website here (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a review of this weekend’s concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble.

The Ear immediately took him up on the offer. After all, Utevsky is a discerning listener and a perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour three summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the review by Mikko Utevsky (below):

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

By Mikko Utevsky

The Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below), now in its 13th season with founder Scott MacPherson, delivered a polished and professional concert Friday night at Christ Presbyterian Church.

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble group concert dress

The performance opened with a wrenching rendition of Imant Raminsh’s “Come, my Light,” followed by a pure and beautiful “Hear My Prayer” by Henry Purcell (below).

purcell

Two back-to-back settings of “Mille regretz,” the first by Josquin des Prez (below top) and the second by University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate Andrew Rindfleisch (below bottom), made for an interesting comparison — Rindfleisch produced an introspective, dark reading, while Josquin’s famous setting was ably rendered beside it as well.

Josquin Des Prez

Andrew Rindfleisch portrait

The crown jewel of the first half was the final motet by Johannes Brahms (below), the anguished, searching “Warum ist das Licht gegeben?” (Why Is the Light Given to Those In Misery?, which can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom).

In four movements, this motet is, apart from the “German Requiem,” which the IVE has announced they will perform — with orchestra — for their 15th season in 2016, Brahms’ greatest choral work, with densely chromatic lines and twisting, intricate counterpoint. The chorus dug into this tremendously difficult music with gusto, singing with a complex and varied sound and excellent blend.

brahms3

The second half began with a work by Anton Bruckner (below), “Virga Jesse floruit,” another German masterwork, again sung with a secure sound and attention to the drama of the composer’s setting.

Anton Bruckner 2

“Tebe poyem” (from the Orthodox liturgy) by Sergei Rachmaninov (below top) was my favorite piece on the concert, displaying a depth and richness of sound surpassing anything else on the program. The solo line by Chelsea Propst (below middle) soared over the chorus, whose basses rose to the challenge of Rachmaninov’s tremendously low writing with aplomb. Another Russian work captured much of the same magic, “Ne riday Mene, Mati” by Alexander Gretchaninov (below bottom).

Rachmaninoffold

Chelsie Propst USE

Alexander Grechaninov in 1912

Lionel Daunais (below), a French-Canadian composer and singer, produced a comic treat in his “Figures de danse,” a suite of six hilarious settings of short, original poems about dancers and theater performers. The only work with piano on this program (with a difficult and prominent part performed excellently by Jane Peckham), these little vignettes had the audience in stitches.

Lionel Daunais

The concert concluded with two spiritual settings by Moses Hogan. The first was a soulful solo rendition of “There’s a Man Goin’ Round,” sung by Kathleen Otterson (below), who teaches at Edgewood College, over the hummed accompaniment from the chorus.

Kathleen Otterson 2

The second was a rapid-fire, high-energy “Elijah Rock” to close out the evening. (A humorous encore will remain unidentified — go hear the repeat Sunday to find out what it was!)

My only programming regrets were the absence of any works between Purcell and Brahms — surely that two-century gap must have yielded some works worthy of inclusion! — and the preponderance of Christian sacred music.

Certainly it forms the backbone of the choral literature, but on a program of 11 works (if “Mille regretz” is to be counted twice), to have only three (again, including the above twice) works that were not both sacred and Christian seems striking, especially for a chorus with no religious affiliation. A little more diversity in selection would be welcome on both counts.

 

Throughout the performance, the chorus (below top) sung with clear diction and strong sound, rising to the technical challenges of every work with apparent ease. IVE founder and conductor Scott MacPherson (below bottom, conducting a rehearsal), who teaches at Kent State University and is a UW-Madison graduate, directed with energy and excitement, and the chorus clearly responded.

Isthmus vocal Ensemble men

Isthmus Vocal Ensemble rehearsing with Scott MacPherson

Despite its once-a-year schedule, this group is clearly a Madison fixture, and thoroughly earned their full house and standing ovation Friday night.

The performance will be repeated this afternoon, Sunday, August 3, at 3 p.m. in the Covenant Presbyterian Church (below) on 326 South Segoe Road. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 students and seniors. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

Covenant Presbyterian Church chancel

 

 

 

 

 

 


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