The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: There was so much to like about the Grand Tour finale of the 2019 Madison Early Music Festival. But where were the high notes in Allegri’s legendary “Miserere”?

July 19, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Fair is fair.

Before he talks about last Saturday night’s conclusion of the successful 2019 Madison Early Music Festival – which marked its 20th anniversary — The Ear has a confession to make: He generally prefers later Baroque music and he generally prefers instrumental music to vocal or choral music.

That said, he nonetheless had a memorable and very enjoyable time on the “Grand Tour” during the well-attended All-Festival concert. There was so much to like and to admire.

The concert used the conceit of a Grand Tour by a composite 17th-century traveler going to London, Venice, Rome, Naples, Paris and Dresden to take in the local sights and local music, and included lesser-known composers such as William Lawes and William Child as well as such famous figures as Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Gabrieli , Jean-Baptiste Lullyand Heinrich Schütz.

Like most journeys, this one – once again assembled in an ingenious scissors-and-paste job by early music specialist Grant Herreid (below) – had many entertaining and uplifting moments.

But it also had one big disappointment.

The Ear really looked forward to hearing a live performance  of the famous “Miserere” by Gregorio Allegri (below) as a high point. But those haunting, ultra-high descant notes that give you goosebumps and that you never forget hearing just never materialized.

Maybe it had to do with the different ornamentation that the MEMF forces used. Maybe it was based on a different manuscript or score. Maybe there was no one capable of singing those spellbinding and unforgettable high notes.

Whatever the reason, The Ear’s hope for a live performance of the dramatic and iconic work were dashed and the famous, even classic, recorded versions – the 1980 recording by the Tallis Scholars is heard in the YouTube video at the bottom — remain for him the unsurpassed standard.

The evening also had its ironies. That same night on the NBC TV news The Ear saw a story about “overtourism” in Europe and China. Venice, for example, has now shrunk to only about 50,000 unhappy residents who put up with some 20 million tourists a year.

But centuries ago, travel was a rare and exotic luxury of the wealthy and well-educated, not an affordable indulgence or curiosity by ever-expanding middle classes. And this metaphorical trip proved an ideal vehicle to sample 16th- and 17th-century music in England, France, Germany and Italy.

Combining high culture and low, Herreid chose witty and detailed travelogue texts that gave the audience the rich flavor of various cultures at the time.

Details mattered to the four sharp-eyed travelers on which this tour was based. So as “our hero” wandered, we got to hear about the “libidinous ladies” of Naples and the musical talented courtesans of Venice as well as the richly attired archbishop of Paris attending a feast day service in the newly finished Notre-Dame cathedral.

Such descriptions were well delivered by unnamed narrators (below) from the chorus and proved a refreshingly earthy and entertaining counterpoint to the more serious spiritual and religious music of the era.

Another big satisfaction was the exceptional quality of the ensemble playing – exhibited even in large amounts of less interesting music — by the many singers and instrumentalists on the stage of Mills Hall, and, at one point, in the hall’s balcony.

Whether the players and singers were conducted by Herreid or by assistant conductor Jerry Hui — a UW-Madison graduate who is now a tenured professor at UW-Stout — the music sounded tight, authentic and expressive.

As for more superficial pleasures, it is great visual fun watching such early versions of modern string, wind and percussion instruments being played — trombone-like sackbuts, oboe-like shawms, flute-like recorders and lute-like theorbos. (Below are cello-like viols.)

The players, both faculty and students, were particularly convincing on their own in the sound painting done to depict battle scenes and political upheaval. And who will ever forget the surprise of loud foot-stomping by all the performers and conductor?

Herreid was absolutely spot-on to keep the program to about 80 minutes with no intermission. It helped the audience stay in the spirit of the Grand Tour and added cohesion to the program.

The Grand Tour, in short, proved outstanding in concept and excellent in execution.

But was The Ear alone in missing to those high notes?


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Classical music: Make Music Madison 2015 takes place this Sunday and features some impressive classical music projects. And there is still time to participate.

June 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Sunday is the summer solstice, which arrives at 11:39 a.m. CDT.

That means it is also time for the Make Music Madison festival – a day-long, citywide FREE event with live music taking place mostly outdoors.

Here is a link to the event’s website:

http://makemusicmadison.org

Make Music Madison logo square

The map of events is impressive, which is why Madison’s Make Music event is second in size only to New York City’s.

One thing is the sheer number of events and the number of artists, which is close to 400.

But the website is good too, although it is hard to see programs and specific pieces to be performed.

Use the filter map to see the genre -– classical, pop, folk, jazz, choral, Celtic, whatever – and the location.

For classical fans, I single out a couple of events, although there are many more.

One noteworthy event is that Farley’s House of Pianos will place an upright piano in the Hilldale Mall outside Metcalf’s grocery store from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with chairs available for seating. A full schedule of individuals and groups will perform all kinds of music.

And here is an another unusual event planned and directed by the talented Jerry Hui (below), a UW-Madison graduate who is now a music professor at UW-Stout and who has come up with a project that involves singing choral music on the shore of Lake Mendota.

Jerry Hui

I will let Jerry Hui describe it:

“The official name of the event is called the Massed Choir, part of Make Music Madison 2015. Make Music Madison is modeled after a similar event in New York City called Make Music New York, which for the last few years have featured flash mob-style music-making — including a choir. Since Madison has a vibrant choral community, I think it’s about time that we come together and have fun making music as one big choir.

“We’ll be performing three pieces on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Edgewater Hotel Plaza. Two of the pieces were voted by the participants: “Dona Nobis Pacem” (in a Youtube video at the bottom) from the Mass in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the hymn “Joyful, Joyful.”

“The third piece is freshly composed by Scott Gendel (below). Gendel is an award-winning composer and pianist, who has strong ties with Madison and is a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Scott Gendel color headshot

Gendel has set to music a beautiful poem titled “In Summer” by late 19th-century African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (below).

Paul Laurence Dunbar

There is still time to join the Massed Choir!

The scores are available as PDFs on Make Music Madison’s website http://makemusicmadison.org/mass-appeal/#choir; just print a copy and show up on Sunday!

There’ll be two optional rehearsals, both at Christ Presbyterian Church: Friday, June 19, 7-8:15 p.m.; and Saturday, June 20, noon-1:30 p.m. To help with logistics planning, singers are encouraged to register at http://tinyurl.com/MadisonMassedChoir2015.

NOTE: Back to The Ear, who encourages other classical performers to list their event, time, program and place in the COMMENTS section and who says enjoy whatever you play or listen to!


Classical music: Music by four Wisconsin composers will be sung by the Festival Choir of Madison this coming Saturday night at the First Unitarian Society.

March 3, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, the Festival Choir of Madison (below) will perform a program of music called “Wisconsin Sings!”

Festival Choir of Madison at FUS

The concert features new and recent works by four composers with strong Wisconsin ties.

The program includes:

“Four Mystical Poems” by Eric William Barnum (below).

Eric William Barnum

“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” and “Make Me a Dream” (a world premiere finished just a few weeks ago) by Jerry Hui (below), a UW-Madison School of Music graduate who now teaches choral music at UW-Stout and who also performs early music with the Madison-based group Eliza’s Toyes.

Jerry Hui

“Under Your Feet” and “And Dream Awhile” by Blake Henson (below).

blake henson

Adoramus Te, Sanctus Parvulus” by Zach Moore (below)

Zach Moore horizonital

There will be a pre-concert Lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are $9 for students, $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors.

Tickets are available at the door or at: http://festivalchoirmadison.org/Season1415/tickets.htm

Here is the origin of the program, as the choir director Bryson Mortensen (below), who also teaches at the UW-Rock County, explains it:

Bryson Mortensen (1)

“A few years ago, I attended a conference in the Twin Cities where there was a concert composed entirely of pieces by living Minnesota composers.

“After leaving the concert, I thought, “surely Wisconsin could do the same!”

“Since then I have been digging up pieces and meeting composers in Wisconsin who could contribute works to the program.

“After all these years, we have put together a concert that presents the music of four composers who live in, have studied in or come from Wisconsin.

“From the nationally and internationally recognized music of composers like Blake Henson, Jerry Hui and Eric William Barnum to the young and blossoming composer Zach Moore, the concert presents a variety of styles and moods that make for a great evening together.”

For more information about the Festival Choir of Madison, here is a link to the choir’s homepage:

http://festivalchoirmadison.org

In the YouTube video below, you can hear the Festival Choir of Madison singing the Low Mass by French composer Gabriel Fauré:

 


Classical music: Choral music, wind music and brass music add to the season-ending events this super-busy weekend.

April 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings more season-closers. The groups concluding their concert seasons include the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s FREE Friday Noon Musicales; the Festival Choir of Madison; the UW Chamber Orchestra; and Edgewood College.

Here is a round-up of yet another busy weekend.

FRIDAY

On Friday afternoon, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the last FREE Friday Noon Musicale of the season at the first Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature Driftless Winds, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville Faculty Reed Trio.

Members are Laura Medisky, oboe; Corey Mackey, clarinet; and Jacqueline Wilson, bassoon.

The program, performed in the historic Landmark Auditorium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus, Jacques Ibert, Erwin Schulhoff and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Bring your lunch; coffee and tea are provided.

FUS1jake

On Friday night, the Madison Chamber Choir will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church (http://www.madisonchamberchoir.com) . It will be directed by Adam Kluck.

On Friday night, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, the University of Wisconsin-Stout Choirs come to Madison on a mini-tour, with a program titled “An Ode To The Bard: Shakespeare in Music.”

The concert will feature musical settings of Shakespeare’s words, popular music of his time (including tunes that are referenced in his plays), and works inspired by the legacy of William Shakespeare (below).

shakespeare BW

Performers include the Stout Symphonic Singers (an open-seat choir of about 30 singers) and the Stout Chamber Choir (an auditioned choir of 20 singers), both directed by composer-conductor Jerry Hui (below), with pianist Michaela Gifford.

Admission is free with a free-will donation welcomed.

Jerry Hui

 

SATURDAY

On Saturday at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Village West, 6209 Mineral Road, on Madison’s far west side, the UW-Stout Choirs will give a second performance of their Friday night program. See directly above.

On Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the All-University String Orchestra will perform a FREE concert under conductor Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on a specific program.

Janet Jensen Katrin Talbot

On Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel at 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble will perform under the direction of Walter Rich and Daniel Wallach.  Included will be works by Paul Dukas, Jenkins, Williams, Van der Roost and Franz von Suppe.

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at the college.

Walter Rich  Edgewood Concert Band 2013-3-22-Band

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., the FESTIVAL CHOIR OF MADISON (below) will conclude its 40th season in the 
First Baptist Church, 
518 North Franklin Avenue, in Madison. It will perform with the Pecatonica String Quartet and winds, and under the baton of artistic director Bryson Mortensen, who is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County.

The program is entitled “Gloria” and features two Glorias: the well-known one by Antonio Vivaldi and a rarely heard one by Luigi Boccherini. A pre-concert lecture, begins at 6:30 p.m. The Ear hears there will also be an encore performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Tickets are $18 general public, $14 for seniors and $8 for students if bought in advance – call (608) 274-7089; the day of the concert, tickets are $20, $15 and $10, respectively.

For more information, visit the link: http://festivalchoirmadison.org/index.htm

festivalchoir

On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Women’s Chorus and the University Chorus will perform a FREE concert under the direction of Anna Volodarskaya and Adam Kluck (below), respectively. Sorry, no word yet on a specific program.

Adam Kluck conducting

SUNDAY

On “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., members of the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will perform the second-to–last concert of that series this season. As always it will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio. The concert itself is FREE in the Brittingham Gallery No. 3. Sorry, no word on a program.

SALProArteMay2010

On Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform a FREE concert under director Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, no word on the program.

leckrone

On Sunday, May 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Chamber Singers, Men’s Choir, Women’s Choir and Campus-Community Choir.

Kathleen Otterson (below) will conduct the Women’s Choir, while Albert Pinsonneault will lead the Chamber Singers, Campus-Community Choir, and Men’s Choir.

Kathleen Otterson 2

Pinsonneault (below) will also conduct the combined choirs and the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Te Deum.”

Admission is $7 to benefit music scholarships at Edgewood.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

On Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill, the Lincoln Chamber Brass of Chicago will perform a FREE concert, just a week before they compete at the prestigious Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

All of them are members of Civic Orchestra of Chicago; at 21, the horn player already substitutes for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Four are students at Northwestern University, the fifth at DePaul. Four of the five, including Ansel Norris, who was born in Madison and in high school studied with UW-Madison trumpeter John Aley, will attend the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival this summer.

Musicians of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. 
The program includes Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 3; David Sampson’s “Morning Music”; Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” (arranged by Barker); and Giles Farnaby’s Suite of Dances.

Members (below, from left) are Ansel Norris and William Cooper, trumpets;
 Kevin Haseltine, horn; 
Joseph Peterson, trombone; and Scott Hartman, bass trombone.

For more information, visit: http://lincolnchamberbrass.wordpress.com/home/

lincoln chamber brass  madison shot

At 7:30 in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform its last concert of the season and its last concert before being either mothballed or terminated.

The performance is FREE and will be under the baton of director James Smith.

The program includes: Jacques Ibert’s “Hommage to Mozart”; Richard Strauss’ “Dance Suite After Francois Couperin”; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E Fat Major. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear the first movement performed by the legendary conductor Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic.)

For more about the news significance of the event, here is a link to yesterday’s blog post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/classical-music-the-uw-chamber-orchestra-will-play-this-sunday-night-but-then-will-be-axed-and-fall-silent-next-season-is-this-au-revoir-or-adieu/

uw chamber orchestra USE

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