The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Singers are needed for the Rural Musicians Forum community chorus that will perform two modern Magnificats during the upcoming holiday season.

September 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Rural Musicians Forum has announced the formation of a new choral group for two concert performances in early December.

singing hallelujah chorus

The concerts will feature two contrasting settings of the traditional biblical text of the “Magnificat,” both by modern composers Alan Hovhaness (below top and at the bottom in a YouTube video) and Jonathan Willcocks (below bottom).

Alan Hovhaness with scores BIG

Jonathan Willcocks

The chorus begins its rehearsal schedule on October 5. The chorus is open to regional singers without audition. There is no fee for participation in the chorus, although members will purchase some music.

All rehearsals are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sunday evenings weekly at the Christ Lutheran Church in Spring Green (below).

christ Lutheran Church in Spring Green

The concerts are slated for December 5 in Spring Green and December 7 in Plain.

The director for the ensemble is Gregory (Greg) J. Dennis (below), whose reputation as the director of the Mount Horeb Chorale and of the Platteville Chorale is well-established. These groups have not only performed widely in Wisconsin but have traveled abroad during the past summer.

Gregory Dennis

Highly regarded for his extraordinary musicianship, Mr. Dennis recently retired from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he conducted two mixed choirs and taught elementary and secondary general music and choral music methods courses in addition to supervising student teachers. He directed RMF’s community “Sing Out Messiah” in 2013.

Drawing upon the enthusiasm and commitment of orchestra, soloists and chorus, Dennis will open doors to the beauty of the music and the season with the sensitivity for which he is known.

In describing his hopes for the performances, RMF Artistic Director Kent Mayfield (below) says: “Our goal is to bring these works of extraordinary beauty and seasonal depth to the greater Southwestern Wisconsin community, engaging as many area singers and musicians to participate as possible. My hope is to inspire the wider community to share in a vibrant and unique musical experience.”

Kent Mayfield  Rural Musicians Forum

For less-experienced singers and performers, the chance to work in the company of trained musicians of acknowledged skill offers the opportunity for skill-building and in-depth musical appreciation.

For many, even those with extensive experience with choral and orchestral music, the works of Alan Hovhaness and Jonathan Willcocks promise to be a challenge and opportunity not often available in the area.

A regional orchestra assembled uniquely for these concerts will be named soon.

For further information on the chorus or the orchestra, contact Kent Mayfield, artistic director of the Rural Musicians Forum. You can call (414) 239-7952 or send an email to ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com.

 


Classical music: University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Kipperton String Quartet will open the Rural Musicians Forum’s summer season on Monday night, June 9, in Spring Green at Unity Chapel with a FREE concert of Borodin, Britten and Shostakovich.

June 4, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you think you have to live in a big city to hear fine classical music, think again.

Blog friend Kent Mayfield, who lives in Milwaukee but works with rural musicians, writes:

“Known for its high energy and musical depth, the Kipperton String Quartet (below) will open the 2014 summer concert season for the Rural Musicians Forum with a FREE concert in Spring Green on Monday, June 9.

Kipperton String Quartet playing

“The Kipperton String Quartet performs at 7:30 p.m., at Unity Chapel. The Chapel (below top is the exterior and below bottom is the interior)  is located on County Road T, just east of Hwy 23. The chapel is a living testament to the simple and contemplative lives early settlers created for themselves in southwest Wisconsin. While famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright did not design the building, he did help in its planning and it seems to reflect at least some of his early designs and influence.

“There is no ticket charge but a freewill offering to support the concert series will be taken. For more information: www.ruralmusiciansforum.org OR contact Kent Mayfield ruralmusiciansforum@yahoo.com

Unity Chapel in Spring Green exterior

Unity Chapel in Spring Green interior

“The Kipperton String Quartet includes (from left) violinists Timothy Kamps and Wes Luke; violist Paul Alan Price-Brenner; and cellist Kevin Price-Brenner.

Kipperton String Quartet 1

“Music for a Summer Evening” for June 9 will feature three string quartets from the 19th and 20th centuries.

“The most familiar of these is surely the String Quartet No. 2 in D Major by Russian composer Alexander Borodin (below), who was also a professional chemist. The quartet was well-received during Borodin’s life but managed to “cross-over” into the mega-popular realm when at least two of its themes (heard at bottom in a popular YouTube video) were used as part of the 1953 musical “Kismet.” Robert Wright and George Forrest used several of Borodin’s compositions to accompany a story set in the times of the Arabian Nights. Two songs in particular, “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” and “This is My Beloved” are based directly on lyrical and exotic themes from the second and third movements of Borodin’s quartet.

Alexander Borodin

“The Kipperton String Quartet will also perform Three Divertimenti for String Quartet by Benjamin Britten (below). Britten is one of the great 20th-century composers and certainly among the greatest British composers of all time. The Three Divertimenti are a set of three individual character pieces meant as “pleasing entertainment.” The bristling rhythms, and colorful sounds are broadly appealing. Britten was a composer of great skill and imagination who wrote for the wider public.

Benjamin Britten

“The third work on the Kipperton program for RMF’s “Music for a Summer Evening,” is the String Quartet No. 1 in C major for Strings, Op. 49, by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (below). It is a short piece, in four movements of compact, classical form: a slow opener, then variations on a folk-style melody, followed by a rushing scherzo and an exuberant, dancing finale – a progression from unease to exhilaration taking not much more than a quarter of an hour. The atmosphere is, he said, spring-like. Some of the music came from one of his film scores, for “The Girl Friends,” about three girlhood friends growing up before World War I who eventually become nurses.”

dmitri shostakovich

The quartet first met in the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra and quickly coalesced into the premier string quartet of the tri-state area. In addition to the DSO, the members also play in other orchestras such as the LaCrosse Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra.

The quartet was the very first String Quartet in Residence at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

According to RMF Artistic Director, Kent Mayfield, “The Kipperton String Quartet creates a shimmering sound full of energy and virtuosic skill that pleases both the casual listener and more serious students of the classics. This is a perfect way to welcome summer to the Wisconsin River Valley.”

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Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio has cancelled the “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” FREE chamber music series after 36 years of success. Other classical music from around Wisconsin is slated to replace it starting this fall.

May 8, 2014
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PLEASE NOTE: Some corrections have been made from the original posting. I have noted them below in an updated version. I apologize for any inaccuracies, although the basic points remain the same.

By Jacob Stockinger

This Sunday’s edition of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” will mark not just the end of the current season; it will also mark the end, after 36 years, of the FREE chamber music series that has been broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio throughout the state.

(Below is the Pro Arte Quartet, frequent guest performers who always attract a full-house at SAL.)

The concert series, which now reaches some 200,000 listeners across Wisconsin, will simply no longer exist. (NOTE: Potter says the actual figure is closer to 10,000, but that serving statewide listeners and not accumulating higher ratings is the motivation behind the change.)

SALProArteMay2010

Pianist Eugene Alcalay (below), who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will close out the series with a solo recital of Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner, broadcast live as usual, on this Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, where it has attracted a full house almost every week.

(You can hear Eugene Alcalay play the first movement of the Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, “Funeral March,” Op. 35, by Frederic Chopin in a 2011 performance at the Chazen in a YouTube video at the bottom.) In the Madison area, you can hear it at WHA FM 88.7.

Eugene Alcalay

“This will be the last concert in that series for this season and forever,” said Wisconsin Public Radio’s Director of Marketing Jeffrey Potter.

The news comes just after WPR finished its successful spring pledge drive.

“The making of the decision and the timing of announcing it was not easy for us,” Potter told The Ear in a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon.

Potter also said that the decision to cancel the series was the decision solely of WPR, and not of the Chazen Museum of Art officials, although he said they understood the reasons and appreciated being kept in the loop.

Potter said the decision should not be interpreted as a sign of failure of the SAL series that started in 1978.

“The most important message to get out is that it has been a great run,” Potters said, praising the audiences, the musicians, the venue and WPR’s longtime host Lori Skelton (below).

Lori Skelton

“It hasn’t been that there is something wrong with the program,” Potter said. “It is just that Wisconsin Public Radio is also looking out for the best way to serve the public because we are the single biggest presenter of classical music in the state. We want to highlight music in Green Bay, Superior, Milwaukee, Lawrence University in Appleton, even Mills Hall at the UW-Madison.” He added that doing that would serve the Wisconsin Idea — that the borders of the university are the borders of the state — as well or even better than the current “Sunday Afternoon Live.”

“The resources we put into a live broadcast are not insignificant,” Potter said. “Live music may be exciting, but being live music doesn’t determine whether it is great music or not.”

Potter said that other forms of classical music besides chamber music, in a format yet to be determined, will replace SAL in the fall. That programming will be done by SAL host Lori Skelton working with Peter Bryant, WPR’s new director of News and Classical Music Service Peter Bryant.

The emphasis, Potter said, will be on recorded music from around the state rather than on live performances in Madison by musicians from around the state.

WPR new logo

In the meantime, WPR will follow the usual summer format. Performances by the Madison Opera’s productions of Puccini’s “Tosca” (May 17) and Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” (May 24) will occupy the next two Saturday  (NOT Sunday, as Potter originally stated) afternoon time slots, starting the weekend after the live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera end.

Potter also said the WPR would be contacting musicians (NOTE: a letter was sent to them and to the Chazen officials on Wednesday, according to Potter) and the public about the program change in the near future, starting this week and weekend. More information will soon be posted on the website www.wpr.org

NOTE: Adds Potter on Thursday: “I wanted to share the link with additional details about the decision. It can be found on the home page, right side middle of the page under the “Announcements” section. Here’s the link: http://www.wpr.org/news-about-wprs-sunday-afternoon-live-chazen

SALmicrophone sign

The decision to cancel “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” was met with disappointment and disapproval by Russell Panczenko, the longtime director of the Chazen Museum of Art.

“I was caught completely by surprise,” said Panczenko (below). “Frankly, I knew nothing about it,” he added saying he was disappointed because killing off the series would lower the profile of the free public museum statewide.

Russell Panczenko of Chazen

“A year ago said they thought might be doing something, but then at a meeting this spring where I thought they would just be discussing the next season, they came out of the blue and said they were canceling it,” Panczenko explained. “They just cancelled, no discussion.”

“I always thought it was wonderful program, not just for us but also for the people who went into the galleries after the concerts,” Panczenko added. “People also heard about the museum around the state because there was always a 7-minute promotion piece about the touring or permanent exhibitions. I thought it was a good deal all around. It was wonderful. It was the also the only live performances they regularly had.”

ChazenMusArt_open11_7430

Both Potter and Panczenko said they anticipated negative reactions and backlash from the public. But, Potter said, that is unlikely to change the decision, as happened when WPR tried to cancel live broadcasts on Saturdays from the Metropolitan Opera and tried to change Classics by Request from Saturday to Friday, then rescinded each decision.

“Anytime you have a program change and lose something, it is hard on people,” said Potter, who added that WPR gets about 36,000 emails and phone calls about programming each year.

“I don’t think we will reverse this decision despite opposition” said Potter. “We are really trying to look at the bigger picture. We want to hear opposition. But we didn’t enter in this lightly and we wouldn’t exit it lightly.”

But Potter said he wanted the public to know that the change will not lessen the amount of classical music that will be heard on WPR,

Said Potter: “We at WPR remain committed to serving our customers throughout the state. We feel that people will continue to enjoy classical music on WPR.”

If you want to leave a public opinion or statement, please use the COMMENTS section of this blog.

And don’t forget that you can copy and paste from comments to private emails and vice-versa.

Here are some contact email addresses to send WPR a message:

http://www.wpr.org/staff

Director of Radio: mike.crane@wpr.org

Director of News and Classical Music Service: peter.bryant@wpr.org

Director of Marketing: jeffrey.potter@wpr.org

Listeners or musician or even performer, what do you think about Wisconsin Public Radio killing off “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen”?

The Ear wants to hear.

 

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Classical music: SUNDAY afternoon Edgewood College mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson will perform a recital of songs by Schubert, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Berlioz, Rossini, Gershwin, Alec Wilder, Andre Previn and others. Plus, Ilona Kombrink memorial is set for Oct. 20.

September 10, 2013
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ALERT: Edgewood College teacher and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson, a loyal reader and friend of The Ear, writes: “There will be a memorial concert for the UW-Madison soprano and voice professor Ilona Kombrink (below), who died last month and with whom I was privileged to study, on Sunday, October 20, at 3 p.m., at the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community’s Grand Hall. We are very early in the planning stages, but we hope that former students and colleagues will perform or speak on the program. More information will follow soon.”

Ilona Kombrink color

By Jacob Stockinger

Edgewood College mezzo-soprano and voice professor Kathleen Otterson will perform a song recital this coming Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. Admission is $7 to benefit the music scholarship fund at Edgewood.

Otterson writes:

“I am dedicating this concert to my former teacher, the UW-Madison soprano Ilona Kombrink who died last month. But the program is a collage of things I performed on two concerts in Bayfield this summer — hence its title: “What I Did With My Summer Vacation.”

The pianist is Edgewood College coach and accompanist Susan Goeres (below top, on the right with Otterson on the left) . Flutist Elizabeth Marshall (below bottom), who performs in the Black Marigold wind quintet, teaches at Edgewood College, UW-Platteville and Madison Area Technical College and who is the second flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, will also participate.

Kathleen Otterson (l) and pianist Susan Goeres

Elizabeth Marshall flute

Describing the major works to be performed, Otterson continues: “Of particular interest, I think, is the Andre Previn piece: “Two Remembrances,” written for Sylvia McNair and first performed by her at the Tanglewood Festival in 1995. The intermingling of the alto flute and the voice is really remarkable, with the flute providing the second voice in the evocative dialogue. 

andre previn color

McNairSylvia2

“Ilona had a special fondness for the “Rueckert-lieder” of Gustav Mahler (below top), and I was fortunate to work on these wonderful songs with her for my graduate recital.

“The poems of Friedrich Rueckert held deep personal meaning for Mahler, and these songs are very much more intimate than the better-known “Wunderhorn Songs.””Ich atmet einen Lindenduft” is included in the program, paired with a song by Alma Schindler Mahler (below bottom) composed at around the same time: “Laue Sommernacht” (performed in a YouTube video at the bottom with some good listener comments.)

Gustav Mahler big

Alma Mahler

“Rossini’s song cycle “La Regatta Veneziana” tells the story of the historical Venetian Regatta, which takes place each year on the waters of the Grand Canal (below) at the beginning of September (this year it was on Sunday, September 1).

“Along with a spectacular procession of elaborately carved boats and costumed participants, there is a race – the subject of the song cycle, as the young girl Anzoletta watches anxiously for her lover Momolo, offering scorn if he fails to win and kisses if he succeeds.

Grand Canal, Venice

“Three songs from the beautiful “Nuits d’été” (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz (below) round out the program. They are not specifically about “summer” but instead seem to be summertime musings, both sweet and bitter, settings of texts by Théophile Gautier. Musically, they are everything from playful to melancholy in character.

berlioz

“Parking at Edgewood is free and the Chapel is accessible to all.”


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