The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Token Creek Festival celebrates Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker this Tuesday afternoon and evening with a forum, a picnic and a recital.

August 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

On this Tuesday, August 25, the Token Creek Festival shines a lens on one of Wisconsin’s most important artists: the American poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), whose recognition and appreciation have been delayed until recently.

Many poets of the 20th century have worked in what is broadly known as the Imagist mode: short lines, brief phrases, elusively stated thoughts. At its most eloquent it can give us the great range and imagination of William Carlos Williams, as well as decades of other very convincingly compressed writers from Emily Dickinson through Gary Snyder.

lorine niedecker

In Lorine Niedecker we feel the pressure of what has been left out, the hard journey to final shape. We infer a “story” behind it, and we marvel at the courage and art that set it down so briefly.

We can also admire the persistence that drove her to continue to write all through her life, when she received little support or recognition. Niedecker cleaned hospital rooms, and hung barely above the poverty level throughout her life, which she led mainly in a cottage on Blackhawk Island (below) near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. (You can hear a reading of her poem “My Life by Water” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Niedecker cottage Blackhawk Island

According to Ann Engelman, president of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, she “has been called the poet of place because her imagery is so grounded in the area where she lived. Basil Bunting called her “the Emily Dickinson of this century.”

As an objectivist poet, the simplicity of her images helps us sense our own experiences with the elements around us.” Niedecker (below, in a photo from her later years, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation) had a strange life that included a truncated college education and long stretches of isolation as well as an extended epistolary (and, briefly, physical) friendship with fellow poet Louis Zukofsky; her existence resonates in her verse.

lorine niedecker poetry foundation

Three years ago the Token Creek Festival began a concerted look at the land where the festival takes place (below, in a photo by Jess Anderson), exploring intersections between art and nature. The theme continues in the multi-part Niedecker-inspired event, “Paean to Place,” on this Tuesday.

Token Creek land:barn Jess Anderson

Here is a schedule:

  • 4 p.m. Forum. “Finding Lorine Niedecker” will introduce the poet through audio and video footage. A wide-ranging conversation between biographer Margot Peters and composer John Harbison will explore Niedecker’s work, and the event will conclude with performances of music inspired by, or settings of, her evocative texts.
  • 6 p.m. Picnic. Festival attendees are invited to a first -ever Token Creek picnic at the farm—an elegant feast of savory summer fare.
  • 7:30 p.m. Recital: “Longing for Place.” Pianist Ryan McCollough and soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon are two outstanding performers who represent their own youthful generation, searching for what is best and most characteristic in the work of their time. In 2015 our relationship to the natural world is even more fragile and elusive than it was to Lorine Niedecker. Still artists seek to frame that relationship, and render it with their new developing languages.

McCullough and Fitz Gibbon’s recital on themes of nature and place and longing includes works by Henry Purcell, Kaija Saariaho, Nicholas Vines and Robert Schumann, as well as new song cycles by John Harbison — a co-founder and co-director of the Token Creek Festival — and Niccolo Athens.

Harbison’s settings of Niedecker poems, commissioned by the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Music Festival and premiered there this summer, “let the words speak clearly, syllable by syllable, but he adds expressive space into the texts’ phrases and expands its melodic contours, heightening the sense of the poems being mediums of internal, very personal, monolog” (from the Tanglewood program booklet, July 2015).

Ryan McCullough with piano

Lucy Fitz Gibbon

“Paean to Place” is presented in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

Tickets are $15-$30 (students $10). Packages are available.

Tickets can be purchased by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

TokenCreekentrance

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The concert venue (below), indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music education: This Thursday, Music con Brio will hold its first-ever “Summer Shindig” to raise money to support music education for diverse and economically disadvantaged young people. Plus, check in on the last day of WYSO’s tour in Argentina.

August 4, 2014
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ALERT: The Youth Orchestra under University of Wisconsin-Madison conductor James Smith (below), of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO), just concluded its 10-day tour to Argentina. Here is a link to the live blog where you can catch on up all the entries and events, including a final word from WYSO executive director Bridget Fraser:

wysotour2014.blogspot.com

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Normally, The Ear doesn’t post about fundraisers. There are just too many of them given by too many groups.

But certain kinds of fundraiser stand out as special, especially since The Ear considers money spent on music education the best possible investment one can make for both the future of musical performance and music appreciation by audiences.

So I have invited Music con Brio to submit a post. Think of it as “A friend writes” column from the New Yorker magazine.

Here it is, with photos by Scott Maurer, as written by Carol Carlson, who holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is a co-founder and co-director of Music con Brio (Music with Force)

Musc con Brio

“In summer, the song sings itself.” From American poet William Carlos Williams

What a beautiful time it is in Madison right now! The flowers, the birds, the Dane County Farmers’ Market in full bloom –- it’s enough to make anyone hum a little tune with a spring in their step.  And what better place to enjoy all that the Madison summer has to offer than the beautiful Capitol Square?

You are cordially invited to Music con Brio’s first-ever Summer Shindig on Thursday, August 7 from 6-8 p.m., generously hosted by the Boardman Law Firm, 1 South Pinckney Street, in downtown Madison on the Capitol Square.

Music con Brio, Inc. is committed to offering high quality music lessons at an affordable graduated tuition schedule to a diverse mix of Madison area students, forming an inclusive, supportive community to build students’ self-esteem and pride in their talents. (A sample of Music con Brio’s music-making from a 2013 appearance at Emerson Elementary School can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Music con Brio 1 CR Scott Maurer

Music con Brio’s first-ever Summer Shindig will be held on this Thursday, August 7, from 6 to 8 pm, generously hosted by the Boardman Law Firm. The Pecatonica String Quartet (below) will be performing, as well as Music con Brio’s own Eagle Feather Fiddlers and advanced violin group. The Shindig will feature goodies by Barriques and artisan brews by Mobcraft Beer.

For a suggested donation of $10 per person or $20 per family, you can:

– Check out the fantastic view of the Capitol from Boardman’s beautiful balcony terrace.

– Enjoy Barrique’s goodies and Mobcraft beer.

– Bid on the fabulous silent auction filled with awesome, local arts-related items.

– Meet current Music con Brio students.

Music con Brio 2 CR Scott Maurer

And you can do all this while listening to the beautiful music of the Pecatonica String Quartet, featuring Music con Brio’s own Carol Carlson and Amber Dolphin.

Check out more event details and RSVP here.

Donations of items for the silent auction are greatly appreciated -– if you have something you’d like to contribute, please email info@musicconbrio.org to let us know.

Music con Brio, Inc. is committed to offering high-quality music lessons at an affordable graduated tuition schedule to a diverse mix of Madison area students, forming an inclusive, supportive community to build students’ self-esteem and pride in their talents.

Music con Brio 3 CR Scott Maurer

Now beginning its fourth year, the organization serves almost 100 students in 1st-9th grade, representing 10 different Madison schools. In addition to lessons in violin, cello, piano and percussion, Music con Brio presents an annual Community Concert Series around Madison in collaboration with local bands such as The Handphibians, Yid Vicious, and The Big Payback.

Contemporary percussion group Clocks in Motion (below), an affiliate ensemble with the UW-Madison School of Music, will be in residency with Music con Brio during 2014-15, which will include performing with Music con Brio on the Community Concert Series.

Clocks in Motion outside

The Pecatonica String Quartet was founded in 2008 by young, vibrant musicians in the Madison area. The name of the group comes from a quaint, twisting stream in southwest Wisconsin, the Pecatonica River. The PSQ plays frequently around southern Wisconsin at weddings, private parties, schools, and in concert. Their performance for Music con Brio will include all types of music, ranging from arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos to contemporary rock.  The quartet is happy to take requests as well.

Pecatonica String Quartet

For more information visit www.musicconbrio.org or write to carol@musicconbrio.org

Thank you so much for your support of Music con Brio!

Carol Carlson

 

 


Classical music news: Let us now praise all the invisible people behind the scenes who make concerts and culture possible.

May 14, 2012
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It takes a village to raise a child, goes the proverb.

And The Ear says it takes a team to present a soloist.

We said goodbye last Wednesday afternoon to Ann Miller Chastain (below) – who went professionally by Ann Miller — the former marketing director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for the past five years.

We said it at a 90-minute tribute and memorial gathering (below) in the Promenade Hall of the Overture Center, where almost 300 people gathered to pay their respects to a woman who struggled valiantly but ultimately in vain against an especially aggressive form of cancer. She was 62.

If you go to MSO concerts, you might remember seeing her in the lobby at intermission, where she always had a friendly and enthusiastic word for you.

Here is a link to her obituary:

http://host.madison.com/news/local/obituaries/chastain-ann-miller/article_6f751586-96ec-11e1-857e-001a4bcf887a.html

And here is a link to her Facebook page, where you will also find sone of the causes she championed:

http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Miller-Chastain/100000977333693

As usually happens at this kind of event, we relived much of Ann’s life through co-workers, friends and family members as well as through Ann’s own wishes and plans for the celebration of a life well lived.

We heard about her indefatigable good humor, her ever-present smile and her professional commitment based on both passion and expertise. We heard live and recorded music, songs she loved. We heard how she worked to hone her formidable selling skills at her own dress shop, at a radio station, a TV station, at Madison Magazine.

MSO artistic director and conductor John DeMain (below) spoke simply but eloquently and touched on a special skill Ann was particularly proud of: Drawing young people to classical music concerts that generally attract an older audience.

But even as John and others spoke, and music (Puccini’s string quartet “Chrysanthemums”) was played by the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), I kept thinking that it is too bad that so much applause and recognition go to the person or group in the spotlight, while so many of the people who – like Ann — make the performing arts possible and successful remain in the shadows and dwell in silence.

I think of all the music providers I love and work with in Madison — the UW School of Music, the MSO, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Opera, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival and so many others.

And I think of how many people it takes to make each concert possible.

I wonder: Maybe at the end of each season, those people – or at least a representative sample of them – could come out on stage to take a bow and receive our gratitude.

They are the people who publicize the event and make sure we know about it.

They are the people who plan the event and book the artists, which is far more complex and time-consuming than you might think.

They are the people who keep the show running on schedule.

They are the people who solve problems, major and minor, for both the performers and the public.

They are the people who seek donations and balance the books.

They are the people who do the sound and lighting, the sets and costumes.

They are the people who plan outreach, educational and fundraising events.

And they do so much more that I haven’t even mentioned.

They are the so-called “small” people who have such a big effect and without whom Madison’s thriving performing arts scene would simply not be possible.

And The Ear thinks they deserve more recognition than a name printed in a program or a memorial service when they die.

Now, you should know that nobody among these people, or in Ann’s family, has asked me to write this.

But I know and you know: Even the greatest individual soloist needs an entire team to be able to perform in public.

So I say: Thank you, Ann.

And thank you to all the others who, like Ann, bring me the news of beauty, as American poet William Carlos Williams once wrote.

We, like the performers, appreciate all that you do – and we want you to know that.

You do so much for us.

We should do more for you.


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