The Well-Tempered Ear

Here is a collaborative obituary for music critic, radio host, performer and gay pioneer Jess Anderson, who died in January at 85

March 7, 2021
3 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

In late January of this year, Jess Anderson (below) — a longtime friend, devoted musician and respected music critic – died at 85.

The Ear promised then that when more was known or written, it would be posted on this blog.

That time has come.

Jess was a polymath, a Renaissance Man, as the comments below attest to time and again.

For the past several years, he suffered from advancing dementia and moved from his home of 56 years to an assisted living facility. He had contracted COVID-19, but died from a severe fall from which he never regained consciousness.

Jess did not write his own obituary and he had no family member to do it. So a close friend – Ed Wegert (below) – invited several of the people who knew Jess and worked with him, to co-author a collaborative obituary. We are all grateful to Ed for the effort the obituary took and for his caring for Jess in his final years.

In addition, the obituary has some wonderful, not-to-be-overlooked photos of Jess young and old, at home, with friends, sitting at the piano and at his custom-built harpsichord.

It appears in the March issue of Our Lives, a free statewide LGBTQ magazine that is distributed through grocery stores and other retail outlets as well as free subscriptions. Here is a link to the magazine’s home webpage for details about it: https://ourliveswisconsin.com.

That Jess was an exceptional and multi-talented person is obvious even from the distinguished names of the accomplished people who contributed to the obituary:

They include:

Chester Biscardi (below), who is an acclaimed prize-winning composer, UW-Madison graduate, composer and teacher of composition at Sarah Lawrence College.

John Harbison (below), the MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who teaches at MIT and co-directs the nearby Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in the summer.

Rose Mary Harbison (below), who attended the UW-Madison with Jess and became a professional performing and teaching violinist who co-directs the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival.

Steve Miller (below), a close friend who became a bookmaker and is now a professor at the University of Alabama.

The Ear, who knew Jess over many decades, was also invited to contribute.

Here is a link to the joint obituary in Our Lives magazine, a free LGBTQ periodical that you can find in local grocery store and other retail outlets: https://ourliveswisconsin.com/article/remembering-jess-anderson/?fbclid=IwAR027dzv2YqRUNlYF1cF6JyXnEcQxAwcprPYbtBQCs3rYt0Nu847W_xbjpk

Feel free to leave your own thoughts about and memories of Jess in the comment section.

It also seems a fitting tribute to play the final chorus from The St. John Passion of Johann Sebastian Bach. You can hear it in the YouTube video below. It is, if memory serves me well, the same piece of sublime music that Jess played when he signed off from hosting his Sunday morning early music show for many years on WORT-FM 89.9.

 


Posted in Classical music
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Classical music news: Roland Johnson, co-founder of the Madison Opera and longtime conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, has died at 91.

June 3, 2012
14 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Roland Johnson (below), a longtime pioneer of classical music in Madison who paved for the way for the current artistic and financial successes of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Opera, died Wednesday at the age of 91.

He was also active as the head of the music department at Madison Area Technical College and cultivated local talent at MATC and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music as well as working with the many stars and guest soloists of the classical music world he brought to the city. During his retirement, he also guest conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

So far, no cause of death has been given.

Here is a link to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal (whose archives also provided the photo below) and The Capital Times/77 Square.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/roland-johnson-co-founder-of-madison-opera-and-symphony-leader/article_88613928-ad29-11e1-99f7-001a4bcf887a.html

And here is a link to the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s website entry on Johnson and Music Director Laureate, which has a lot of background:

http://madisonsymphony.org/johnson

I have not yet seen a full obituary published, but I expect one soon. I also so far do not know about plans for a memorial service. When I know details, I will pass them along.

PLEASE NOTE: I just heard details of the Memorial Service,  Here they are: Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 11 a.m. at MIDVALE COMMUNITY LUTHERAN CHURCH, 4329 Tokay Boulevard, Madison. A visitation will start at the church at 10 a.m. and a reception will follow. Memorials may be made to the Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony Orchestra or the Midvale Community Lutheran Church.

Johnson died just a year after the death of his very close friend Ann Stanke, who, along with Johnson’s late wife Arline, co-founded the Madison Opera and led the Madison Symphony Chorus.

I personally knew Johnson to be a generous and amiable man, one who took great pride in his fidelity to a composer’s intention and who also prided himself on studying with the great German conductor Hermann Scherchen.

Johnson, a dedicated violinist, also played in a string quartet at the University of Alabama, prior to coming to Madison in 1961. He retired in 1994 and was succeeded by John DeMain.

Johnson was not a temperamental artist but a forgiving man. When I once criticized in print the tempo at which he took a Beethoven symphony, he later explained in the most friendly of terms why he chose that tempo but at the same respected my right to disagree with his choice.

For me, Roland Johnson was a great man and a great musician. He embodied the idea of the artistic humanist who is more than a performing perfectionist. I and many other will miss him.

Please leave your tributes and observations in the Comments section.


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