By Jacob Stockinger
Proposals range from making tickets cheaper and concerts shorter, stressing music education and community outreach, moving to informal concert venues like bars and coffeehouses, and programming more new music.
It is a good question to revisit today, when the 14th annual family-friendly Opera in the Park, put on by the Madison Opera at 8 p.m. in Garner Park on the far west side, takes place and will draw up to 15,000. Here is a link to a posting about the event with more details:
But such a discussion about audiences usually runs the risk of almost always underestimating and even insulting the contribution of older audiences. (The Sunday afternoon crowd at the Madison Symphony Orchestra comes immediately to mind.)
Not that we should ever stop looking for ways to attract young people. But isn’t it maybe a little like asking: How can we attract more blue hairs to young punk band or rap concerts? Maybe we just need different music at different stages of our life.
In any case, let us not forget to praise the immense contribution of older people or to be grateful for them.
That is the welcome and long overdue message of British pianist-composer-painter and polymath MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner Stephen Hough (below), who has performed in Madison several times, in his blog for The Guardian.
Here is a link to his posting. Read it and see if you agree and leave a message in the COMMENT section:
What do you think?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Last Saturday night, in Mills Hall, The Ear saw and heard the All-Festival Concert by the Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF).
But this year’s event proved one of the best ever, right at the top of the list.
The topic this year was “Slavic Discoveries: Early Music from Eastern Europe.”
To be honest, the music itself was not one of my all-time favorites of MEMF, although it had many beautiful moments.
What proved most impressive to my ears and eyes was the incredible variety that the various performers managed to instill into a concert that otherwise could have been pretty monotonous.
But this concert was anything but monotonous. The performances were well-rehearsed and quite polished.
There was, as usual, a lot of vocal music by some of the biggest orchestral and choral forces I recall seeing.
And the forces used the entire hall, even putting brass at the top of the back balcony at one point.
Plus, early music expert and retired UW-Madison professor Medieval history John W. Barker served as the narrator in an engaging piece about the slain Polish trumpeter whose battle call is still played today in Krakow in his honor.
The singers sang in large groups and small groups — solo, duets (below) and quartets — and all permutations performed superbly. The voices were strong and clear, and the diction always seemed excellent.
Conducting duties – split between guest main conductor Kristina Boerger (below top) and assistant conductor Jerry Hui (below bottom) – were exemplary.
It can be easy to lose a sense of balance and control with such large forces. But the range of dynamics from soft to loud, from slow to fast, never felt awkward or wrong. Not here. The blending and flow were superb.
So The Ear offers a hearty Thank You! to all the participants of this year’s Madison Early Music Festival who made this final concert so satisfying.
And to listeners, I say: If you can only make one concert during the Madison Early Music Festival each summer, the All-Festival Concert is a good bet — and a great place to start if early music is new to you.
Judging from this latest installment, you won’t be disappointed.
And you just might catch The Bug!
By Jacob Stockinger
The concert starts at 8 p.m. in Garner Park, on Madison’s far west side where Mineral Point Road and Rosa Road intersect. (The rain date is this Sunday.)
There will be many treats, from the music and light sticks to ice cream cones and picnic dinners, to enjoy at the popular event that now draws up to 15,000 people. (Garner Park opens at 7 a.m. the day of the concert. Blankets, chairs, food and beverages are allowed.)
But one of the big draws this year is the chance to see and hear bass-baritone native son Kyle Ketelsen (below, in a photo by Dario Acosta). Ketelsen – who sang with the Madison Opera early in his career and who continues to make his home in Sun Prairie — has sung at the Metropolitan Opera and many other major opera companies in Europe and elsewhere.
This will be the first time Ketelsen returns to Opera in the Park since 2008.
Here is a link to general information about the event, which features the vocal soloists, the Madison Opera Chorus and members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, all playing under the baton of John DeMain the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera:
And here is a link to biographies of the guest soloists:
Ketelesen, who just returned from a month-long stint out-of-town, kindly agreed to a Q&A with The Ear:
How have you seen Opera in the Park develop since you appeared in the inaugural one 14 years ago?
It has developed from a relatively small, enterprising venture from Madison Opera, into a destination event that people really count on and look forward to. Any more growth, and they’ll have to relocate to the Kohl Center!
What music will you be singing this year?
I will sing arias from “Mefistofele” and “Faust,” both as the devil (below). Then I will do a trio from “The Tales of Hoffmann,” as the devil again. They are some of my favorite roles. On the lighter side, a duet from “Kiss Me Kate” and a famous tune from “Guys and Dolls.” We’re mixing it up quite a bit. I always enjoy singing musical theater, but rarely get a chance.
What are the best parts of singing outdoors and what are the most difficult or challenging parts of doing so? What do you most enjoy about it?
You get to “cheat” a bit with the microphone. Indoors, opera singers are very rarely amplified, so every crescendo and decrescendo is all you. This way, I can play pop singer, and just fade away from the mic for a nice diminuendo.
The roar — hopefully! — of that crowd of 15,000 is an absolute rush as well!
Sometimes we get the urge to push to be heard in an outdoor concert, which is of course entirely wrong. We’re accustomed to hearing our own reverb from an opera house or concert hall. But outside, it’s an entirely different feel, acoustically. You need to trust the microphone and the sound guy, and know that you’ll indeed be heard. (Below is a photo — not of Kyle Ketelsen — from a past Opera in the Park by James Gill.)
What role did the Madison Opera play in fostering your now international career?
Certainly regional opera is a starting point for nearly all U.S. singers, no matter where their career eventually takes them. The Madison Opera offered me the opportunity to sing a number of roles at a very early stage in my career. My first Leporello (below, at the Metropolitan Opera) in “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for example, was in Madison.
I was able to lay the groundwork for what has become a calling card of mine, which I’ve sung at the Met, Covent Garden, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Madrid, Munich and others. It was a nurturing environment to test-drive such an amazingly intricate, complex role.
You perform in Europe and around the US. Why do you continue to base your career in Sun Prairie, a suburb of Madison? Does it put you at a professional disadvantage not to live in New York City or Chicago?
My wife and I are from small towns in Wisconsin and Iowa, so it’s felt like home from the beginning. We absolutely prefer the slower, easy-going approach to life. Not to mention quiet! Trees, grass, open spaces and elbow room we hold at a premium.
I work enough in big cities. There is no desire, or necessity, to make my home there. Thankfully, I’ve never needed to be in the middle of things, professionally, in order to start my career.
I feel living in the Midwest gives me an advantage, actually. When I’m home, I’m refreshed. It renews me, and gives me the strength to then go back out when it’s time. (Below is Ketelsen in Bizet’s “Carmen” at the Chicago Lyric Opera. At bottom is a YouTube video of Keletsen singing the role of Escamillo and the famous Toreador Song from “Carmen” in Los Angeles under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel.)
What else would you like to say about yourself, about Opera in the Park or about major highlights of your career since you last sang in Opera in the Park and in upcoming seasons?
It’s especially fulfilling singing in the Madison area. It draws a truly unique, incredibly appreciative, gracious audience. See my website KyleKetelsen.InstantEncore.com for more information.
By Jacob Stockinger
Violinist Tanesha Mitchell (below in a photograph by Richard Anderson) isn’t alone.
Like her, there are many string and brass players, wind players and percussionists, who have studied music and have become pretty accomplished amateurs.
And many of them, The Ear, suspects, dream of playing even just one concert with a professional orchestra.
Talk about community outreach!
Each year, the BSO holds an amateur week – it is called Academy Week — in which 80 talented amateurs get to play with and under the tutelage of professionals in the symphony orchestra and its conductor. Participants get seven rehearsals and a full concert as well as private lessons.
The Ear wonders how much it costs and how they choose participants.
You can hear more about it in a YouTube video from 2011 at the bottom.
It seems kind of like Interlochen summer music camp, but for adults instead of teens.
Here is a story that aired Saturday on NPR or National Public Radio.
For those amateurs with dreams of professional music-making glory – for even just a week – it is a must-hear story.
And it makes you wonder if it could help the future of classical music if more symphony orchestras and chamber orchestras – including the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra – adopted something similar.
What do you think?
The Ear wants to hear
By Jacob Stockinger
Recently, NPR or National Public Radio featured a story that The Ear found very interesting and engaging.
The subject was how certain composers took inspirations from bird songs and even tried to imitate specific bird songs — such as that of the Ceti’s warbler (below) — in certain compositions including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.
And when the connection wasn’t specific, the composers still tried to evoke the bird sonically.
The composers cited in the four-minute story were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ralph Vaughan Williams (listen to the YouTube video at the bottom with Hillary Hahn and Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra) and Ottorino Respighi.
The Ear is sure there are many other examples of composers, works and specific bird species that are all linked. Antonin Dvorak comes to mind immediately.
If you know of any, please leave the names in the COMMENT section.
By Jacob Stockinger
Late word has reached The Ear about a promising new chamber music group that has been formed on Madison’s near east side. It will make its debut in a concert this Friday evening at 6 p.m. Admission is $12 for the general public; $8 for seniors and students.
It is called the Willy Street Chamber Players and a has a great logo (below) that combines the isthmus and a violin.
For complete information, here is a link to the group’s website:
And here are excerpts from their website:
“The Willy Street Chamber Players are the new faces of chamber music in Madison, Wisconsin. In residency at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Williamson/Marquette neighborhood, our group features musicians who live on the East Side of Madison and also perform with the city’s major arts organizations.
“Our performances are of the highest quality and are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who attend. Concerts begin at the unique time of 6 p.m., allowing audiences to leave for the evening with enough time left over to enjoy summertime dinners and venture off to the next great event happening around town.
“A special lunch-time family concert will also be held at noon on Friday, July 17, for those who are looking for an enriching and creative way to spend their lunch hour.
“Chamber music revolves around the concepts of collaboration and building relationships, and we believe those activities affect everyone in the room, not just the musicians on stage. Post-concert social activities are an integral part of our programming and we encourage everyone to stay after each performance to meet our musicians.
“We founded this festival as a way to strengthen ties with the neighborhoods that we call home. By sharing diverse programs of the music we love most we hope to share a bit of ourselves with our community in a welcoming and inclusive environment.
“We are the musicians that you hear practicing in the windows on Spaight Street or biking down the Capitol City trail on Atwood Avenue.
“We play your weddings, teach your kids and play impromptu concerts on your street corners.
“We play as members of Madison’s leading ensembles including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Bach Musicians, the Ancora String Quartet and have all gone through the graduate studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
“Some of us — Eleanor Bartsch — have even gone viral on YouTube serenading elephants with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. But most importantly we shop local, eat local, bike local and live local.
“Come join us for these exciting concerts. We would love to meet you!
Here is the 2015 Core Roster of Performers
Eleanor Bartsch, Violin (below)
Lindsey Crabb, Cello (below)
Beth Larson, Violin (below)
Rachel Hauser, Violin/Viola (below)
Mark Bridges, Cello (below)
Paran Amirinazari, Violin (below)
Jason Kutz, Piano (below)
Here is the JULY 2015 CONCERT SCHEDULE:
ALL CONCERTS WILL BE HELD AT IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH (below), 1021 SPAIGHT STREET, MADISON
Friday, July 10 at 6 p.m.: WSCP Welcomes You!! Our inaugural season will take off with the epic Brahms Sextet in B-flat major, Op. 18– you can hear it in a YouTube video at the bottom — with special guest violinist Suzanne Beia (below) of the Pro Arte Quartet, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Friday, July 24, at 6 p.m.: Hear and Now — A special concert of music written by living composers; many of whom have ties to the Midwest. Come partake in a fun evening of living, breathing music!
By Jacob Stockinger
The 16th annual Madison Early Music Festival opens this coming Saturday night and runs through the All-Festival concert the next Saturday night. The topic is “Slavic Discoveries: Early Music from Eastern Europe.”
Here is a link to the home website where you can information and event, times and prices: http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/
Cheryl Bensman Rowe (below), who co-directs the festival with her husband, UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe, agreed to talk about the festival and its lineup of workshops, lectures and concerts. Her interview is running in two parts.
Here is a link to Part 1, which ran yesterday:
Today is Part 2.
How does early Slavic or Eastern European music differ from its counterparts in, say, Western Europe such as Italy, France, Spain and England. What is the historical origin and role of the music from that era in that part of the world?
The early Slavs came from Indo-European lands, spreading from various parts of Asia into Eastern Europe around 2000 B.C. Under the pressure of nomadic hordes, the Slavic tribes crossed the Carpathian Mountains and pushed their way down to the Balkans. Others moved westward toward the upper Danube, and still others eastward toward the River Dniper and Black Sea.
This migration continued from the fourth through the eighth century, giving birth to the Slavic nations that we know today. East of the River (below) explores the dance music and traditional melodies from these indigenous cultures, and you will hear the haunting and virtuosic melodies from these Slavic traditions that influenced the music of many Eastern European compositions.
Bob Wiemken (below), from Piffaro explains: “It would seem at first consideration that an immersion in music of Slavic lands and peoples to the East during the medieval through baroque periods would yield some sounds, styles and repertoire strikingly different from that produced by composers from western lands, and in some cases and during certain times that assumption yields expected results.
“However, when comparing what might be considered composed art music, the fodder of courts and cathedrals, a surprising similarity between the two, between East and West, emerges, at least insofar as the lands bordering on what is normally considered “western Europe” are concerned.
“On closer examination the reasons for this similarity seem clear. Political and cultural interchange between East and West burgeoned during the late 15th through early 17th centuries. Eastern rulers, especially in Poland and Hungary, sought to build their courts and chapels after western fashion. They thus attracted some of the best western composers to create and/or head their musical establishments for a time. Easterners studied and worked in western environs, most notably the Slovenian Jakob Handl in Vienna and the Hungarian Bálint Bakfark in Paris and Padua, and many western composers occupied lofty musical positions or spent a portion of their professional careers at eastern courts.
“As a result, western sacred polyphony, the international musical language of the day, traveled east and settled in Slavic courts and cathedrals, and eastern dances, such as the Polnischer Tanz, the Passamezzo ongaro and the Ungarescha journeyed east, creating a tale of cross-cultural influence and engagement in the musical interaction between western and eastern composers.”
And Jordan Sramek, director of the Rose Ensemble, writes:
“During the 17th century there is an often-forgotten relationship between Poland and Italy and there is a striking influence the Italianate style had on Polish composers of the time. Also, Italian composers were invited to the Imperial Russian court to be in residence in St. Petersburg.”
What music and composers of the era have been most neglected and least neglected by historians and performers?
Many composers and their works have only been neglected because the music was unavailable to us in Western countries. The music in some of the Eastern European collections has been out of print, or inaccessible in libraries. It’s the same with recordings—Amazon does not have everything!
Ancora String Quartet violist and Wisconsin Public Radio host Marika Fischer Hoyt (below center) should be interviewed about her experience in Hungary. Tom Zajac was in Poland several years ago, and talked to Polish musicians, went to libraries, and tried to soak up as much information as he could while he was there.
As time goes by, it will become easier to travel to some of these countries, and more materials will become available, there will be more ensembles presenting this music. Music historians from the East have been doing research, but a lot of their books and articles need to be translated into English.
Jordan Sramek (below), the director of the Rose Ensemble, describes the situation so well, “Among scholars and performers of early vocal music, there is, perhaps, an unreasonable lack of attention paid to music from what is contemporarily referred to as “Eastern Europe.” While some musicians spend their careers digging in the “Western” libraries of Florence and Paris, the shelves of the manuscript libraries and monasteries of Krakow, Moscow and Prague often remain dusty, either due to lack of interest or perceived inaccessibility.”
The Rose Ensemble concert features only a glimpse of the great wealth of early vocal repertoire from Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Bohemia, in an attempt to shine some light on some truly brilliant gems.
Can you tell us about the All-Festival concert program on Saturday, July 18th?
At the All-Festival Concert (below is a photo of last year’s, held in Luther Memorial Church instead of Mills Hall) at the end of the festival on Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall, there will be a wonderful program of Slavic music. The first half will feature Polish composers:
“Missa Lombardesca” by Bartołomiej Pękiel: https://youtu.be/lT8ZBRqQWZ8
The second half of the program will feature excerpts from a wonderful Hungarian collection that Marika Fischer Hoyt found for MEMF when she was in Hungary this past summer. She was visiting family, but also spent a lot of time in the library researching music that is only available in Hungarian libraries. Libraries are still so valuable, and it’s wonderful to know that we can’t find everything on the Internet!
Take Harmonia Caelestis, a cycle of 55 sacred cantatas attributed to the Hungarian composer Paul I, First Prince Esterházy of Galántha (1635–1713) and published in 1711. They are in the Baroque style, and each of the cantatas consists of one movement, composed for solo voices, choir, and orchestra. https://youtu.be/txE-Levn_vM
The program will end with Ukrainian composers Ephiphanius Slavinetsky (below, depicted revising service books), a sacred choral concerto by Dmitri Bortnianski.
Next on the program, you will hear a stunningly beautiful a cappella choral work, “Now the Powers of Heaven,” by Giuseppe Sarti. https://youtu.be/4VI6chNJe50
In 1784, Sarti was invited by Catherine the Great to succeed Paisiello as director of the Imperial Chapel in St. Petersburg. We will end the program with a work by Nikolai Diletski.
Many of these works have not been recorded, so we hope the Madison community will join us to hear these unknown works. Also, it’s not too late to sign up to sing or play in the workshop! http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/classes.htm
Are there other sessions, guest lectures and certain performers that you especially recommend for the general public?
I think everything is highly recommended, and I’m looking forward our first day on Saturday, July 11, with the opening concert of the Rose Ensemble. John W. Barker, who is well known to The Ear, will be presenting the opening 6:30 p.m. pre-concert lecture, “Discovering the ‘Other Europe’”, which will give a wonderful overview for the week. There will be other lectures throughout the week, and the Balkan Dance event with live music, on Wednesday, July 15, will be really fun.
I’ve included the link, which has more information about these and all the other events. Try to see them all! http://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/events.htm
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’re looking forward to an entire week immersed in the wonderful Slavic sounds.
And in 2016 we will be celebrating Shakespeare!
By Jacob Stockinger
The 16th annual Madison Early Music Festival opens this coming Saturday night and runs through the All-Festival Concert the following Saturday night. The topic is “Slavic Discoveries: Early Music from Eastern Europe.”
Here is a link to the home website, where you can find complete information about events, concerts, venues and prices:
Cheryl Bensman Rowe, who co-directs the festival with her husband, UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe, agreed to talk about the festival and its lineup of workshops, lectures and concerts. Her interview will run in two parts. Today is Part 1.
How successful is this year’s festival compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? How well established is MEMF now nationally or even internationally?
This year we are right on track with enrollment, budget and performers as we have been for the past several years. MEMF was “on the map” literally, as you will see from this article from the summer edition of the magazine Early Music America, a national publication that is read by all early music enthusiasts and professionals. We were honored to be included in this map of not-to-be-missed festivals.
Here is a sampling of Early Music Samplings this summer:
Our faculty and ensembles come from all over the world:
What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?
Our biggest news is that we are now a part of The Arts Institute on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Our program director, Chelcy Bowles, retired from the Division of Continuing Studies at the UW, and she felt that MEMF would be a perfect fit for this relatively new initiative on campus.
Our new program director, Sarah Marty, has been a part of MEMF since she was a student, and has also been a participant in the MEMF workshops, and on our board. She knows a lot of the “behind the scenes “ information, which was really helpful when she took over for Chelcy.
The workshop format remains the same, but this year we have several new faculty members from some of the ensembles:
Daphna Mor, from East of the River (below), teaching recorder and Balkan music.
Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett and Kelly Landerkin from Ensemble Peregrina, teaching Polish medieval chant.
Michael Kuharski, http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Michael-Kuharski/9630833, a fantastic teacher of Balkan dance, will be leading the wonderful dance event with live music played by the local Balkan music ensemble Veseliyka.
The dance event will be on Wednesday, July 15, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.
Why was the topic of the Early Eastern European music chosen for the festival? What composers and works will be highlighted?
There has been a lot of new musical discoveries over the past ten years of repertoire from Eastern Europe. John W. Barker brought up the idea of Polish Music, and Tom Zajac, a faculty member and performer who has been to MEMF for at least 12 years, has done a lot of research in this area, and was interested in sharing it with MEMF. We are always looking for new and interesting topics to present, and the time seemed right to bring this music to Madison.
Please look at the concerts link for more information about each individual concert:
Tomorrow: Part 2 — What makes early Slavic music different? What composers are being rediscovered? And what will the All-Festival concert feature?
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday The Ear asked readers for suggestions about classical music that would be appropriate to post and play today, which is Independence Day or the Fourth of July.
I got some good answers.
Some of the suggestions were great music but seemed inappropriate like “On the Transmigration of Souls” by the contemporary American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize. But it deals with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and strikes The Ear as a bit grim for this holiday.
So, here are four others for The Fourth:
Ann Boyer suggested the Variations on “America” by Charles Ives, who was certainly an American and a Yankee original. The original scoring for organ was transcribed for orchestra by the well-known American composer William Schuman and it is performed below in a YouTube video by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the famous composer-arranger Morton Gould, who seems to specialize in Americana:
Tim Adrianson suggested Aaron Copland’s great Third Symphony. It is long but the most famous part of the symphony is “Fanfare for the Common Man,” played here by Metropolitan Opera artistic director James Levine and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. And that seems a perfectly fitting piece of music to celebrate the birth of American democracy:
Reader fflambeau suggested anything by Howard Hanson, but especially Syphony No. 2 “Romantic.” Here is the famous slow movement — performed by Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra — that is also the appealing theme of the Interlochen Arts Academy and National Summer Music Camp:
Finally, The Ear recently heard something that seems especially welcome at a time when there is so much attention being paid to matters military.
It is also by Aaron Copland and is called “A Letter From Home.” It was dedicated to troops fighting World War II but it strikes me for its devotion to the home front and to peaceful domestic life, which is exactly what the Fourth of July should be about. Be sure to look at the black-and-white photographs that accompany the music:
And The Ear reminds you that you can hear a lot of American composers and American music today on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Have a Happy Fourth of July and Independence Day, everyone!
By Jacob Stockinger
Today, the stock markets, banks and many businesses are closed in observance of the Fourth of July.
But Saturday is the real Independence Day for the United States of America.
Now, The Ear has some ideas about what classical music to celebrate the event -– and the choices do NOT include the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky or the “Marseillaise,” the French national anthem that started during the French Revolution. Maybe one of the overtures by Ludwig van Beethoven or an aria by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Giuseppe Verdi would do. Try and see if you can convince me.
But here is your choice to play DJ.
Leave your choice -– with a YouTube link, if possible -– in the COMMENT section.
Then I will decide which choice is most appropriate and best, and post a YouTube video of the work on Saturday to mark the real Fourth of July, the real Independence Day.
Thanks for your help.
I know I have some very knowledgeable readers, so I am looking forward to the seeing and hearing their suggestions.