The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are the winners of last night’s Final Forte competition of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Plus, the new student opera group at UW-Madison gets off to a promising start with an all-Mozart program. And the UW Choral Union changes its performance date of Haydn’s “The Creation.”

January 30, 2016
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ALERT 1: Here are the results from last night of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Final Forte competition of teenage concerto performers: The two Honorable Mentions go to pianists Liam Mayo and Audrianna Wu; the second prize goes to violinist Tabby Rhee; and the winner’s prize goes to marimbist Robert Rockman.

For more information about the competition, the contestants and the rebroadcasts on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, visit:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestras-10th-anniversary-free-final-forte-concert-of-young-concerto-winners-is-this-friday-at-7-p-m-in-overture-hall-it-will-also/ 

ALERT 2: The UW-Madison Choral Union has moved its one-time only performance of the oratorio “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn from Sunday, April 24, to 8 p.m. on the previous night, Saturday, April 23. At the same time, the separate concert by the UW Chamber Orchestra that was scheduled for Saturday, April 23, has been CANCELLED because it will instead accompany the Choral Union that same night.

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The infinitely versatile and irrepressibly enterprising Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) has come up with another project to pursue: the Impresario Student Opera.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Impresario Student Opera made its debut in Mills Hall last Sunday night.

The program was all-Mozart.

It began with an orchestral work, the Symphony No. 35, the “Haffner.” There was a 24-player orchestra, which did commendable work, though the strings were really rather thin. But Utevsky again proved himself a savvy conductor.

Impresario Student Opera JWB

The rest was Mozart opera.

A recitative and duet from Act II of Così fan tutte, “Il coro vi dono,” has Guglielmo (Gavin Waid) scoring success in wooing his comrade’s sweetheart, Dorabella (Meghan Hilker). For these, co-director Dennis Gotkowski conducted. (You can hear the scene in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Impresario Studen Opera The Impresario JWB

After the intermission came the main event — appropriately, the eponymous comedy Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario). This was very freely adapted by turning the title character into a woman — by no means what Mozart expected.

Five singers (below top) were mustered: Waid and Hilker, with Anna Polum and Nicole Heinen as the dueling sopranos (below bottom), and Jiabao Zhang as the sugar daddy of one of them.

Impresario Student Opera 5 singers JWB

Impresario Student Opera two sopranos

The dialogue was rewritten and given in English, the musical numbers sung in what purported to be German — but diction lessons are badly in order.

In their star roles, Polum was powerful, if a little unsteady at moments, while Heinen was a quite sprightly soubrette. Utevsky conducted, but had some parts in the comedy too. Stage director Alannah Spencer showed imagination in her staging.

There were a lot of in-group jokes, aimed at a rather rowdy claque of voice students.

All in all, though, despite a bumpy start, this project bodes well as expanded opportunity for the splendid vocal talent that the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music attracts.


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 10th anniversary FREE “Final Forte” concert of young concerto winners is this Friday at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall. It will also be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio and rebroadcast by Wisconsin Public Television.

January 25, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is described as “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete.”

“The Final Forte” event is the final round of the Bolz Young Artist Competition in which the four finalists perform in a FREE concert with the Madison Symphony Orchestra that is broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and rebroadcast by Wisconsin Public Television (WPT).

“The Final Forte” will take place this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center. Seating is FREE but you must register with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. John DeMain will conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

According to the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which organizes and conducts the competition:

“The Final Forte 2016 finalists (above) were selected from several young Wisconsin artists who competed in the Bolz Young Artist Competition’s two preliminary rounds. The event gave these four artists the chance to perform a movement from a concerto with the MSO.

The 2016 contestants are (below, left to right): Pianist Audrianna Wu of Madison, who will perform the third movement of the Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Grieg (you can hearing the famous concerto played by Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes in a YouTube video at the bottom); pianist Liam Mayo of Green Bay, who will perform the first and third movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 by German composer Felix Mendelssohn; violinist Tabby Rhee of Brookfield, who will perform the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius; and marimbist Robert Rockman of Sun Prairie, who will perform the “Fantasy on Japanese Prints” by American composer Alan Hovhaness.

final forte 2016

This year’s anniversary event features special guest co-host, concert pianist Christopher O’Riley, who hosts NPR’s “From the Top” that airs here on Sunday night 8-9 p.m.

Christopher O'Riley

The most comprehensive information about the FREE concert, the live broadcasts, the biographies the four young contestants, the complete list of sponsors and a link to register to reserve a seat (you can also call 608 257-3734) can be found at the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s website:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/finalforte

According to the MSO: “This competition has captured an enormous following and numerous honors, including an Emmy nomination, First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007, and fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings.

The 2008 WPT and WPR broadcasts reached more than 60,000 viewers and listeners in the Madison market alone and the 2009 broadcasts reached an estimated 200,000 statewide.”

This event will be broadcast on: Wisconsin Public Television: Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 7, at 12 p.m.

Milwaukee Public Television: Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 4 a.m.

Wisconsin Public Radio: Sunday, Jan. 31, at 12:30 p.m.

Here is a link to Wisconsin Public Television, which features introductory videos about each performer:

http://wpt.org/final_forte

And here is a link to Wisconsin Public Radio, where Thursday right after the noon news on The Midday, Christopher O’Riley, host of NPR’s popular classical music program From The Top, chats with radio host Stephanie Elkins (below) about his show and the young musicians from Wisconsin that have appeared on his show in the past. O’Riley is in town to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bolz Young Artists Final Forte.

Elkins,Stephanie_100

http://www.wpr.org/search/site/final%20forte


Classical music education: This Wednesday night the annual “Finale Forte” — final round of the Bolz Young Artist Concerto Competition with the Madison Symphony Orchestra — will be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio. The public can also attend the FREE live performance at the Overture Center.

March 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Four of Wisconsin’s most talented young musicians will perform in concert with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) as Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) and Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) offer a live broadcast of “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete:  The Final Forte” at 7 p.m. this Wednesday night, March 25.

WPT will air an encore presentation 11 a.m. Sunday, March 29.

The Final Forte features (below) harpist Maya Pierick, a student at Madison West High School, violinist Julian Rhee, a student at Brookfield East High School, pianist Vivian Wilhelms, a student at Waunakee High School and pianist Isabella Wu, a student at Madison Memorial High School. (Below are, from left to right, pianists Isabella Wu and Vivian Wilhelms, violinist Julian Rhee and harpist Maya Pierick.)

Final Forte 2015 4 finalists

The four young artists will perform in the Capitol Theater (below) of the Overture Center for the Arts with MSO music director John DeMain conducting the MSO as the four teenagers vie for honors and scholarship money in the 2015 Bolz Young Artist Competition.

Each finalist will perform a movement from a concerto while judges determine who will win scholarships. The winners will be announced at the end of the concert.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the free live performance. Phone 608-257-3734 or visit madisonsymphony.org online to reserve a seat. Click here to make your reservation via email

Be sure to include your name and the number in your party. We are expecting a full house, so if you make a reservation and are unable to attend, please let us know.

Audience members MUST be seated by 6:45 p.m.

Capitol Theater

Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte is a partnership of Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte is part of WPT’s multi-year Young Performers Initiative, a statewide effort to raise the visibility of the arts, celebrate the creative achievements of Wisconsin’s young people and support the arts in education.

Major funding is provided by Diane Ballweg, Fred and Mary Mohs, Stephen D. Morton, and The Boldt Company, with additional funds from Sentry Insurance Foundation, AHMC Properties, A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, Margaret C. Winston, W. Jerome Frautschi, James Dahlberg and Elsebet Lund, Larry and Julie Midtbo, Kato L. Perlman, Anne W. Bolz, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

The Final Forte is the final round of the MSO’s Bolz Young Artist Competition. Young artists from across the state of Wisconsin competed in the Bolz Young Artist Competition’s two preliminary rounds for a chance to perform a movement from a concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra during the final round.

The 90-minute WPT program features profiles of each of the finalists.

Tune in to these ENCORE broadcasts:

  • Wisconsin Public Television: Sunday, March 29, at 11 a.m.
  • Wisconsin Public Radio: Sunday, March 29, at 12:30 p.m.
  • Milwaukee Public Television: Sunday, March 29, at 2 p.m.

HISTORIC COLLABORATION WINS AWARDS

The unique collaboration among the Madison Symphony Orchestra  (below), Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television is producing award-winning programming. In addition to an Emmy Award nomination, the Final Forte earned First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007 and was rated the fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings (the television audience was 63 percent greater than WPT’s average audience in the Madison market). The 2008 broadcasts on WPR and WPT reached more than 60,000 viewers in the Madison market alone and there were an estimated 200,000 statewide viewers and listeners for the 2009 broadcasts.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

CONDUCTOR JOHN DEMAIN’S TAKE: “This has been a very auspicious partnership,” says John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad). “The quality of the broadcasts and the performances of the finalists are simply spectacular. I think this sends a magnificent message to our community and to the entire state of Wisconsin about the importance and effectiveness of our music education programs. It is an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to feel the commitment and energy of these young performers and to reflect on the central role the arts play in our lives. I look forward to these events with great joy.”

DeMain will lead the MSO in the final movement of the Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120, by Robert Schumann while the four judges are evaluating the performers.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

TO SUPPORT THIS PROGRAM

Please contact Director of Development Casey Oelkers at (608) 257-3734 or coelkers@madisonsymphony.org.

HERE ARE BIOGRAPHIES OF THE FOUR PERFORMERS. YOU CAN ALSO FIND VIDEOS, DONE BY WISCONSIN PUBLIC TELEVISION, ABOUT THEM ON YOUTUBE. JUST PUT THEIR NAME OR “FINAL FORTE” INTO THE SEARCH ENGINE. 

MAYA PIERICK, HARP

Final Forte 2015 Maya Pierick

Maya Pierick, age 17, is a senior at Madison West High School. Having started early in Suzuki violin, she began playing harp at age eight with Karen Atz. She currently studies with Danis Kelly of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Maya has played harp in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) from 4th through 11th grade. After playing for 6 years at the Youth level under conductor James Smith, she toured Argentina with WYSO in 2014.

Maya’s realized her love of singing with choir director Heather Thorpe at First Unitarian Society. In high school she has furthered her achievements in voice by successfully auditioning into the Cantabile choir of the Madison Youth Choirs under the direction of Michael Ross, as well as West High School’s Concert Choir under the direction of Anthony Cao – with whom she recently completed a semester as teaching assistant to the Freshman Choir.

In her spare time Maya also enjoys dance, ceramics, circus arts and photography. In college, Maya plans to study Harp Performance and Physics.

She will play Marcel Tournier’s “Feerie” for Harp and Strings.

JULIAN RHEE, VIOLIN

Final Forte 2015 Julian Rhee

Julian Rhee, age 14, is a freshman at Brookfield East High School. Julian recently won the 2015 Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Competition; the 2015 Milwaukee Youth Symphony Concerto Competition; and the 2015 Concord Orchestra Dorothy J. Oestreich Concerto Competition. Also, Julian is one of the 11 violinists advancing to the semi-finals of the prestigious Johansen International Competition for Young String Players, where he will be traveling to Washington, D.C. representing Wisconsin.

Julian won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Fall Youth Concerto competition in 2011 and 2013. Julian has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Menomonee Symphony Orchestra, as well as being the youngest semi-finalist of the 2013 Stradivarius International Violin Competition at age 12.

In addition to violin, Julian has studied piano since age 7, and loves to read, play basketball and video games, and is an avid local sports team fan. Julian is Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Youth Senior Symphony Orchestra and is currently studying privately with Ms. Hye-Sun Lee at the Music Institute of Chicago.

He will perform the first movement of the Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77, by Johannes Brahms.

VIVIAN WILHELMS, PIANO

Final Forte 2015 Vivian Wilhelms

Vivian Wilhelms, 16, is a sophomore at Waunakee High School. Vivian began playing piano at age four and currently studies with Bill Lutes. In 2010, she was the winner of the MSO Fall Youth Concerto Competition, and in 2013, she was a winner of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition. In 2014, she received first place in the UW Madison School of Music High School Piano Extravaganza Competition and was the runner-up in the WMTA Badger State Competition. This year, she also received an honorable mention in the Lacrosse Rising Star Concerto Competition. Vivian has studied violin with Janet Chisholm since she was eight years old and has been an active member of WYSO since 2011.

In school, Vivian is a member of the varsity forensics and Science Olympiad teams. She also loves volunteering as a mentor for beginning violinists through Madison’s Music Makers program and frequently visits the Waunakee Manor, a local retirement center. In her free time, Vivian enjoys swimming, writing, listening to music, and hanging out with her friends.

She will plays the second movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Camille Sant-Saens.

ISABELLA WU, PIANO

Final Forte Isabella Wu 2015

Isabella Wu, 16, is a sophomore at Madison Memorial High School. She began piano at age 5 with Shu-Ching Chuang. Isabella won the 2010 and 2012 Madison Symphony Orchestra Fall Youth Concerto Competitions, the 2014 Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Youth Artist Competition, the 2014 Chippewa Valley Symphony Kristo Orthodontics Young Artist Competition, and received honorable mention at the 2013 Midwest Young Artists National Walgreens Concerto Competition. She also won the 2009 Wisconsin State Badger Competition and placed runner-up in the 2012 Music Teachers National Association Wisconsin State Competition.

Isabella additionally plays violin and studies with Liz Norton. A member of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) since 5th grade, she has won the Philharmonia Concerto Competition on violin, the Youth Concerto Competition on piano, and served as concertmaster and principal second.

This year, Isabella is a percussionist in her school’s highest band. Outside of music, she is a Mathcounts coach, Lincoln-Douglas debater, member of Future Business Leaders of America, and writes for the school newspaper. Isabella enjoys art, literature, and philosophy, and can be found wandering through the woods on bike or foot.

She will play the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 1, by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

 


Classical music: Dance into 2015 this morning and tonight with waltzes and more from Vienna on public radio and TV.

January 1, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just a holiday reminder.

Today is New Year’s Day. That brings the annual “Great Performances” presentation of the “New Year’s Day From Vienna” celebration — with waltzes, polkas, gallops and more by the Johann Strauss Family – on PBS and NPR (National Public Radio).

Vienna Philharmonic

It will all be performed in the Golden Hall (below top) by the Vienna Philharmonic with former Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta (below middle) this year, along  with the usual help from the Vienna State Ballet and Broadway and Hollywood star host Julie Andrews (below bottom).

Vienna Golden Hall

Zubin Mehta

Julie Andrews 3

And it will be broadcast TWICE today:

ON WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO (WPR): THIS MORNING at 10 a.m.  New Year’s Concert from ViennaThe Vienna Philharmonic presents its annual New Year’s celebration.

ON WISCONSIN PUBLIC TELEVISION (WPT): TONIGHT from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the main channel Channel 21/Cable 600 the program will also be run, with dancers and scenic landscape shots. (The Wisconsin Channel will run it from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.) It comes, by the way, after an all-day marathon that starts at 9 a.m. and  features all eight episodes of Season Four of “Downton Abbey.” Season Five starts on Sunday night.

And the concert’s typical ending is the poplar clap-along, audience-pleaser: The Radetzky March, heard below in a performance from New York’s Day in Vienna in a popular YouTube video.


Classical Music: Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” – with Madison maestro John DeMain conducting — this Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

October 16, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

A good friend and blog fan writes:

“The three-hour nationwide broadcast of the 2009 San Francisco Opera production will be aired this Friday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival.”

wpt Porgy and Bess 1 SF 2014

The highly praised production features maestro John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) , the longtime music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which performs an all-Russian program this weekend. DeMain is also the artistic director of the Madison Opera. He frequently guest conducts around the nation and the world.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

DeMain has conducted, to large audiences and critical acclaim, excerpts of “Porgy and Bess” here in Madison. It has long been a specialty of his. In fact, DeMain won a Grammy for his all-black cast in New York City in 1976. He also conducted a production that was broadcast on PBS several years ago by the now–defunct City Opera of New York.

The San Francisco Opera production stars two highly acclaimed singers: bass-baritone Eric Owens as Porgy and soprano Laquita Mitchell as Bess.

wpt porgy ad bess SF 2 2014

But don’t look for a local production of the entire opera.

“When you see the big cast,” this fan explains, “it becomes very clear why we in Madison and the Madison Opera cannot do “Porgy and Bess” in Madison. It is just too big.”

Here are the specifics: “Porgy and Bess” will be broadcast on Friday night at 8-11 p.m. on The Wisconsin Channel (Cable Channel 972). It will be broadcast again on Sunday at 4-7 p.m. on the flagship WPT channel (Channel 21, Cable Channel 600 in HD).

The Ear thinks that it is too bad that the PBS broadcasts won’t be shown on a big screen in some cinema, like the “Met Live in HD” series. It would be fun to see the production in a group.

Here is a link to a preview from Wisconsin Public Television:

http://wptschedule.org/episodes/45345123/The-Gershwins–Porgy-and-Bess-from-San-Francisco-Opera/

Here is a link to a review from a SFGATE website for San Francisco:

http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/TV-review-S-F-Opera-s-Porgy-and-Bess-5819710.php

And here are links to the San Francisco Opera website that also includes a blog that talks about “Porgy and Bess” and also has complete cast information:

http://sfopera.com/Home.aspx

http://sfopera.com/porgy.aspx#media-videos

Finally, to whet your appetite, here is a YouTube video with excerpts of favorite moments from the San Francisco Opera production of “Porgy and Bess”:

 

 

 

 


Classical music: A new early music vocal group — “Voces aestatis” (Summer Voices) — makes its debut this Friday night with early music by Byrd, Palestrina, Lasso and others. Also, the Madison Area Youth Orchestra (MAYCO) performs Barber, Shostakovich and Mozart on Friday night. Plus, the Wisconsin State Music Honors air on Wisconsin Public Television on Thursday night at 7.

August 20, 2014
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ALERT: If you want to hear some wonderful young musicians performing, be sure to tune into the Wisconsin State Music Honors concert, which spotlights young musicians in middle and high school.  The orchestral and vocal performances took place in Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts and will air on Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) this Thursday night, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m.

The Ear promises you: Tune in and listen and you will be impressed. And kudos to WPT for giving student artists the kind of public recognition that is usually lavished on student athletes.

Here is a link to the schedule blurb:

http://wptschedule.org/episodes/44717914/2013-State-Honors-Concerts/

wpt state honors concert 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

The Latin name means “Summer Voices.”

That’s not surprising. The leader of the new early music vocal group “Voces aestatis” (below top) is Ben Luedcke, the church music director who for years has also led the Madison Summer Choir (below bottom), which usually performs later repertoire.

Voces aestratis 1

Summer Choir 2011 orchestraI

Here is an official announcement:

“VOCES AESTATIS” TO GIVE DEBUT CONCERT IN MADISON

Voces Aestatis (pronounced VOH-ches eh-STAH-tees) is a new early music choral ensemble, and Madison’s only professional choir specializing in 16th-century repertoire.

This ensemble features 12 voices, striving for a clarity of tone and pure blending, with expressive singing in an intimate setting.

Director Ben Luedcke (below) has selected several well-known Renaissance favorites for the debut concert, as well as a few surprises.

Ben Luedcke conducts voces aestratis

The first half features sacred pieces exploring Christ’s birth, death and legacy. It features works by William Byrd, Michael Praetorius, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Giovanni da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso (below), Antonio Lotti, Johannes Ockeghem, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Heinrich Schütz.

The second half of the concert focuses primarily on the pinnacle genre of secular Renaissance repertoire — Italian and English Madrigals. It features works by Carlo Gesualdo, Claudio Monteverdi, Thomas Weelkes, Michael Cavendish and John Wilbye.

Orlando di Lasso

The one-time-only performance is this Friday night, August 22, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below), 1833 Regent Street, on Madison’s near west side near Randall Elementary School.

General admission tickets are $10, and are available at the door.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Madison Front

MAYCO PERFORMS LAST CONCERT THIS SUMMER

“Train wrecks,” as The Wise Critic calls them when he refers to excellent but conflicting events, are happening more and more frequently in classical music around Madison.

Even the summer doesn’t take us away from them.

Take, for one example, the conflict between the closing concert of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 31, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music memorial for longtime pianist Howard Karp, which is slated for the same approximate time, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a reception following.

Another such “train wreck” is this Friday night.

In addition to the vocal concert previewed above, the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO, below) will perform its second and last concert of this summer.

MAYCO playing

The concert is under the baton of MAYCO’s founder and UW-Madison student violist Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below top), and will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom), on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

Admission is $7; by donation for students.

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

MusicHall2

The program includes: Overture to “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Knoxville, Summer 1915” (at bottom in a YouTube video with the ravishing voice and clear diction of Dawn Upshaw) by Samuel Barber with text by James Agee, and featuring soprano soloist Caitlin Ruby Miller; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor.

caitlin ruby miller

Here is a link to MAYCO’s website and to a previous story and review from earlier this summer:

http://www.madisonareayouthchamberorchestra.org

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/classical-music-the-ear-does-some-more-catching-up-this-time-he-takes-in-the-madison-area-youth-chamber-orchestra-mayco-plus-here-is-more-news-from-day-4-of-wysos-tour-in-argentina/

 

 

 


Classical music: On the last day of the Fiscal Year, The Ear says to arts groups “Show us the money” — and where it goes — if you want more. Cultural organizations should be transparent about their budgets, and accountable to the public about money, power and politics.

June 30, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is June 30, 2014.

You might well think it is just another day of another month in another year.

Except that it is not.

It marks the end of Fiscal Year 2013-14.

That means that all kinds of organizations -– for-profit businesses, non-profit groups and charitable organizations – will be figuring out how they met, exceeded or failed to meet their budgets for the past fiscal year that ends today.

It also means they have set budgets for the new fiscal year that starts tomorrow, Wednesday, July 1.

budget columns compared

 

The Ear knows that he has been deluged with requests for donations, often multiple mailings from the same organization. Now, perhaps it is due to the gradual recovery and an expanding economy, with more disposable income at play.

The requests have come from big organizations like the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, the Overture Center for the Arts, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Edgewood College and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) among many others.

Of course the requests for help have also come from smaller organizations including the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Madison Early Music Festival (MEMF), the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (BDDS), the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, the Middleton Community Orchestra and the Ancora String Quartet among others.

But there has been a lot of turmoil in the music world lately. Last year saw the death of the City Opera of New York and of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. It saw the death and resurrection of the Minnesota Orchestra, which chose to spend a lot on money on a new hall rather than on the musicians who make the “product.”

Anyway, it all got The Ear to thinking that we hear constant pleas about need, including how ticket prices just don’t cover production expenses. So no wonder that there is a lot of competition for donor dollars.

money.3

But what we don’t hear very much about is what happens to the money that the various groups collect –- often in large amounts. Does anyone out there know the salaries of the conductors and executive directors, of directors of development and of the musicians?

So here is my proposal to classical music groups in the area:

Fair is fair. If you feel you can honestly ask the public for money because you need it, then I think the public is entitled to know why that money is needed, and how it has been spent and will be spent.

I would like to see how big many endowment funds are, and how much many groups draw from them each year.

I would like to see how much money goes to top administrators. And how much goes to overhead expenses like hall rental and score rental, to advertising and business operations. And how much actually goes to musicians.

budget calculator

Maybe it could be cast in percentages, like in a budget pie chart — then posted on the group’s home website.

Budget pie chart

Better yet, I would like to see raw total numbers out in the open and easy to access.

How about stating expenses and income in terms of how a given amount of cents is spent out each dollar donated.


budget pie

I would also like to see some comparative salaries over the past five years. Partially that is because I want to see a history of percentage raises at a time when most working people are not seeing their wages rise, and have not seen that for a very long time.

I suspect a lot, maybe even most, of donation requests and organizations are completely above-board. But I also suspect some potentially embarrassing things are being kept quiet or secret or conveniently overlooked. They could be things that might discourage ordinary listeners from making donations, or help the rest of us to prioritize to whom we will give money.

But The Ear says: If you don’t come clean about spending the public’s money, then you forfeit your right to ask for that money.

I don’t say all this as an enemy or even skeptic of the arts. I say it as someone who supports the arts and culture, someone who thinks transparency and accountability will help the arts, especially given the current widening wealth gap and the concern it has raised.

So The Ear says:

“Show us the money.”

He also notes that bring a non-profit organization and being a charity are not the same thing, just as he recalls the abuses more than a decade ago of the national head of the United Way who was living in luxury off the money that good people donated to eradicate or at least alleviate social misery and inequality.

Finally, The Ear can’t stop thinking that a big part of the problem that classical music organizations face with falling attendance and not attracting young audiences has to do with how much a ticket goes for. Moreover, he suspects that the lion’s share of such expenses are NOT going to the individual musicians’ salaries.

Madison Symphony Orchestra overhead 2

So I ask all large and small music organizations -– all arts organizations, really –- to move quickly and openly toward greater transparency and accountability. Even if it is available on some tracking website, we should not have to search for it. Such research should be done for us, the targeted donors.

When you ask for our money, please also tell us where it has gone in past fiscal years and where it will go in the coming fiscal year.

Talking about money and power and politics in the arts often seems to demean the arts in the minds of many people. It somehow seems to dirty the arts to link them to such non-aesthetic things.

But such is the reality. The Ear knows from many years of being an investigative reporter -– one who uncovered criminal wrongdoing and even scandal at the Wisconsin Arts Board — that money, power and politics rule the art world as much or more than beauty does, and they do so in the arts no less than in other worlds.

It is too bad that the regular media don’t do a better job of policing the arts, which only want positive feature stories, approving reviews and good PR. Citizens need to be informed, especially since Big Money has become more important.

So isn’t it time to get some things cleared up, specifically the financing of arts group in the coming fiscal year?

budget money in a jar

What do you readers think?

Do you have relevant facts to share?

Should arts groups disclose -– either by law or voluntarily — their budgets and where the money that they have already received has gone before they are entitled to ask for more money?

Let The Ear and his readers and especially the arts groups in town know where you stand and what they should do to satisfy you so that you can help them.

 

 


Classical music: Today is the first day of summer. Also today, the second annual Make Music Madison celebration features folk, blues, pop, bluegrass and other genres. Check out the artists, times and venues. But The Ear thinks that classical music is underrepresented for a city so rich in that kind of music.

June 21, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Saturday, June 21, 2014.

That makes it the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer, which arrived early here in the Midwest at 5:51 a.m. CST.

Summer Solstice

It seems so soon for the longest day of the year to arrive. Much too soon, really.

Can it really be that from now on until Dec. 21 the days will start getting shorter and the nights longer? That we are on our way toward the winter solstice? Why, it hardly seems we had a spring.

winter solstice image

Well, the good news is that today is also when the second annual FREE Make Music Madison celebration will take place.

Make Music Madison logo square

The FREE event will take place CITYWIDE.

It takes place INDOORS and OUTDOORS.

MMM 2014 indoors

MMM 2014 crowd outdoors playing

It starts in the early morning and runs until almost midnight. It features some 394 individual and group performers — lots of amateurs and some professional musicians.

All kinds of musical genres will be heard.

The emphasis and quantity are clearly on jazz, pop, rock, folk, bluegrass, gospel, hip-hop and roots music and other genres. But classical music is also included – though no specific composers, works or programs are listed.

Here is a link to the Make Music Madison homepage:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org

And here is a link to the performers, venues, time and maps for direction:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/2014-performances/

From the homepage, you can clock on artists, times, venues.

Here are just a few hints of the offerings –- including string quartets and a performance by the Classical Guitar Quartet of Madison — that you might be interested in if you are a classical music fan:

The very young Suzuki Strings of Madison will perform:

Suzuki Strings of Madison MMM 2014

Duo-cellists Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith (below) will perform.

Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith duo-cellists MMM 2014

On Madison far west side, nest West Towne, Farley’s House of Pianos will host keyboard musicians:

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

If you attend Make Music Madison either to perform or to listen, let The Ear know what you heard and how it went. You can even include photos if you have them. (Please don’t forget IDs and the photo credits.)

Here is the promotional video for last year’s Make Music Madison.

Unfortunately, it gives short shrift to classical music, which The Ear finds to be an odd oversight. After all, Madison is a city that can boast of a very active classical music scene for its size: It is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Pro Arte String Quartet, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and so many other fine classical individual and group classical performers and presenters.

It is posted on YouTube, where you can also find samples from last year’s performances.

The Ear thinks this year’s performance should have more YouTube videos posted, along with more videos of classical music to encourage other amateur and professional longhairs to participate:


Classical music: Could a new ivory protection law derail the Pro Arte Quartet’s tour to Belgium in May? Don’t miss the Pro Arte’s FREE preview concert of the MUST-HEAR program for its “Back to Belgium” tour on Thursday night at 7:30. Plus, a terrific new one-hour documentary about the Pro Arte airs Thursday night at 9 and other times on Wisconsin Public Television.

April 16, 2014
2 Comments

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that some reviews of productions last weekend are being delayed to make room for previews of the many upcoming concerts and musical events this week.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear hears:

The Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) may well be prevented from taking its long-planned centennial tour to its homeland Belgium next month because of a seemingly small but very significant government regulation designed to curtail the trade in illegal ivory.

Pro Arte Qartet  Overture Rick Langer

Now, who can argue with the intent to protect elephants from being poached for their ivory tusks? But clearly there are unintended consequences that make the humane regulation look absurd and silly, if not mean-spirited, in its requirements for out-of-date documentation.

Take the Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music since 1940. It turns out that the acclaimed string quartet may not make its long-planned centennial tour to Belgium next month -– depending on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, with the help of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), inspects and confiscates or destroys musical instruments it deems in possible violation of the law at U.S. customs.

As for how it applies to the Pro Arte Quartet: It seems that ivory inlay on one old instrument –- a beautiful and full voiced viola -– and the ivory used in the tips of bows for one or more of the old instruments may violate the new ban and regulation.

ivory on bow tip

It that seems an exaggeration consider the following stories about the difficulties that other musicians and other countries have faced in confronting the situation:

Here is a link to an overview story on NPR:

http://www.npr.org/2014/04/07/300267040/musicians-take-note-your-instrument-may-be-contraband

The problem is not so much getting out of the U.S., since other countries are taking a more lenient or understanding view. The problem comes at U.S. Customs when you leave or even, and especially, return.

Here is the story about one Canadian musician is being held hostage from seeking a professional job by the ban. Be sure to view the video:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/u-s-ivory-ban-makes-musician-cancel-winnipeg-audition-1.2609434

Here is the take by famed critic Norman Lebrecht on his classical music blog “Slipped Disc:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/03/new-threat-to-musical-instruments-entering-the-usa.html

As for the Pro Arte: People are reportedly working behind the scenes to secure a solution, which ranges from getting an exemption to using either a substitute instrument or a substitute player, to cancelling the tour. Stay tuned.

ivory on 2 bows

But while you stay tuned you have two chances tonight to hear the Pro Arte:

Thursday night at 9 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television’s main channel is the extremely we’ll done one-hour documentary about the Pro Arte and its Centennial celebration will air. It features great photos and historic footage, but it also features the quartet playing a studio concert of music by Darius Milhaud, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber (the famous “Adagio for Strings” that was originally a string quartet movement and that received its world premiere in Rome from the Pro Arte) and contemporary composer John Harbison. (Other airings are also scheduled. Here is a link:

http://www.wptschedule.org/episodes/45015629/The-Pro-Arte-Quartet-A-Century-of-Music/

But you can record that on a DVD or some other device. And here are other times on The Wisconsin Channel (21.2). The airdates are: April 18 at 8 p.m.; April 19 at 2 a.m.; and April 19 at 5 p.m. In addition, WPT will be offering this documentary program via web-streamibng at the same time as the broadcast, so people can see it globally. The link to the program page, on which the streaming link is also housed, is http://wptschedule.org/episodes/45015629/The-Pro-Arte-Quartet-A-Century-of-Music/

 

Here is the real treat: At 7:30 p.m. on this Thursday night in Mills Hall, the Pro Arte Quartet -– playing its own instruments — will perform a FREE MUST-HEAR concert of the same program that was requested by the Belgian hosts for whom they will play. Consider it a warm-up or run-through.

ProArte 2010 3

The program features one the Ear’s top all-time favorite string quartets: the so-called “Dissonant” Quartet, K. 465 (1785) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was so advanced in its harmonies that early publishers actually changed some of the opening notes that Mozart wrote to make the work conform to the practices of the day. (The opening that gives it its nickname can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The program also includes the Quartet No. 1 (1909) by the pioneering modernist Bela Bartok (below top), and the Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No. 2, (1837) by the early Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn.

In its blend of the Classical, the Romantic and the Modern repertoire, the program seems quintessentially Pro Arte. And it should be a pure joy to hear.

Members of the current Pro Arte Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer and with links to biographies) are:Parry Karp, cello; Suzanne Beia, second violin; 
Sally Chisholm, viola; and 
David Perry, first violin.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

If didn’t already know it, here is a capsule history of the quartet:

The Pro Arte Quartet was founded in 1911-12 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. Violinist Alphonse Onnou was the leader, and the other founding members included Laurent Halleux (violin), Germain Prévost (viola), and Fernand Auguste Lemaire (cello). The quartet made its debut in Brussels in 1913 and soon became known as an exponent of modern music.

The Pro Arte played their American debut in 1926, performing at the inauguration of the Hall of Music in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. They returned for 30 tours to the United States, as well as a tour of Canada, often under the auspices of the noted patron of chamber music, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

Their first visit to Madison was in 1938, where, two years later, the musicians were stranded by Hitler’s invasion of Belgium and the outbreak of World War II. Following their concert on campus, the University of Wisconsin chancellor offered a permanent home to the quartet.

It was the first such residency ever in a major American university, and became the model on which many other similar arrangements were developed at other institutions.

Onnou died in 1940, but the quartet continued until 1947 as quartet-in-residence at Wisconsin University, led first by Antonio Brosa and from 1944 by Rudolf Kolisch.

The Pro Arte became the faculty string quartet at UW-Madison in the late 1950s, an appointment that continues to the present day -– making the ensemble more than 100 years old, the oldest on-going string quartet ever in history.

 

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Classical music: Why didn’t Beverly Taylor get to conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mozart’s Requiem last weekend and fill in for maestro John DeMain? Was it sexism or something more innocent? You can hear Taylor tonight conduct the University of Wisconsin Concert Choir and the UW Chamber Orchestra in J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion” and then on Saturday night, April 26, when she conducts the UW Choral Union in Rachmaninoff’s a cappella “Vespers.”

April 12, 2014
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

There I was last Sunday afternoon, sitting in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, deeply engaged in and enjoying Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s glorious and poignant Requiem, incomplete as the original score is.

Now, I have my own personal reasons why the performance and music proved especially moving to me.

But suffice it to say that during the outstanding performance that was turned in by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top), the Madison Symphony Chorus (below bottom, in a photo by Greg Anderson), guest soloists including UW graduate soprano Emily Birsan and guest conductor Julian Wachner, from the famed Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, I kept wondering:

Why isn’t Beverly Taylor conducting this program?

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

You may recall that Beverly Taylor has headed the choral department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music for 19 years. Before that, she was at Harvard. Plus, she regularly tours and does guest stints.

And if you are like The Ear, Beverly Taylor (below) has probably brought you more memorable moments of great choral music than any other musician in town since Robert Fountain, especially through her almost two decades at the UW-Madison during which she has directed the main community and campus group, the UW Choral Union, as well as various other UW groups, including the Concert Choir.

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

She has also conducted world premieres and Midwest premieres, and she has worked with some pretty big names, singers and instrumentalists (cellist Matt Haimovitz) as well as composers such as Robert Kyr (below top) and John Harbison (below bottom).

robert kyr

JohnHarbisonatpiano

So then I started thinking:

When have I heard Beverly Taylor conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra -– of which she is the assistant conductor, the same kind of post that launched the meteoric career of Leonard Bernstein (below) when he was the assistant conductor to Bruno Walter at the New York Philharmonic? Assistants often get to fill in when the principal conductor is ill or out-of-town. Same thing happened to assistant conductor Seiji Ozawa when Bernstein was ill disposed.

bernstein-new-york-city-nightlife-rmc-image-1001-bw

Perhaps memory fails me, but I could not think of a single time when I heard Taylor conduct the MSO in a regular season subscription concert.

Can it be true that she is good enough to keep her post, but not good enough to perform its duties when the occasion arises. And if it is true, is it right? Would that happen to a man?

Now, it is true that Taylor’s many duties include preparing the MSO Chorus. And she performed that important duty in a fine manner for the Mozart Requiem, which was acknowledged both in critics’ reviews and in the loud applause when she came on stage to take a bow. One suspects she herself has conducted Mozart’s Requiem several times in her long career.

Not that guest conductor Julian Wachner (below top) was in any way a failure or proved unsatisfactory. He conducted just fine, even if the program was somewhat odd because it opened with a single Slavonic Dance by Antonin Dvorak, which is usually an encore instead of a curtain-raiser; and because it featured Joseph Jongen’s “Symphonie Concertante” for Organ and Orchestra with guest organist, and a real real virtuoso, Nathan Laube (below).

The Jongen is a work that wasn’t performed here at all until the Overture Center opened with its custom-built, million-dollar Klais concert organ; and now we have heard it twice in 10 years. I think I can go another 10 or 20 years without hearing this second-tier work again. It has its moments, but they are not very many and they are not very long.

Julian Wachner conducting

Nathan Laube at console

Anyway, just to be sure, I checked the biographies of Julian Wacher and Beverly Taylor. I compared and decided that Taylor’s holds up just fine. See for yourself:

http://www.julianwachner.com/press/biography/

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/btaylor

http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/bio?faculty_id=54

You will notice that Taylor, who has a good training pedigree, is not only the chorus preparer for the MSO, but also the Assistant Conductor -– the one who helps the main maestro and music director John DeMain help balance the orchestra during rehearsals and who consults with him on other occasions for other reasons.

And Beverly Taylor has certainly conducted her share of major chorus and orchestra masterworks with the UW Symphony Orchestra and the UW Chamber Orchestra: Requiems by Giuseppe Verdi and Johannes Brahms as well as Mozart; Benjamin Britten’s “War” Requiem’; Antonin Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater”; and many other works including Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and B Minor Mass, Mozart’s great C Minor Mass, Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” (below); Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” George Frideric Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” (at bottom in a YouTube video performance by the UW Choral Union under the baton of Taylor), Franz Joseph Haydn’s “ Lord Nelson” Mass, the “Symphony of Psalms” by Igor Stravinsky and other works by Gabriel Faure,  Anton Bruckner, Leonard Bernstein and Francis Poulenc.

Missa Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra

In fact, you can hear Beverly Taylor in action TONIGHT at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, when she conducts the UW Concert Choir and the UW Chamber Orchestra in Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” (tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for seniors and students); and again on Saturday night, April 26, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, when she will conduct the UW Choral Union in the large-scale a cappella “Vespers” by Sergei Rachmaninoff (below) for one performance only.  Admission for the “Vespers” is $10 for the public, free for seniors and students. 

rachmaninoffyoung

So I am again left with the question: Why didn’t Beverly Taylor get to fill in on the podium for MSO conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), who is also the artistic director of the Madison Opera and who was off in Virginia guest conducting Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen.” It sure seemed like her kind of program.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

I want to give the MSO the benefit of the doubt and not jump to the conclusion that Taylor didn’t get the podium to herself because of sexism, especially since the MSO has booked guest women conductors, including the Finnish firecracker Anu Tali (below top), and hired a woman concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz (below bottom), whom it has often highlighted as a soloist.

Anu Tali

Naha Greenholtz profile

But then I also remembered that the MSO used Taylor’s colleague at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, instrumental conductor James Smith, for this year’s “Final Forte” Bolz Young Artist Competition concert and broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.

And I also read a New York Times story about how even the great and high-profile Metropolitan Opera has had only three -– yes, count them, three -– women conductors  (below top is Anne Manson leading the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra) in its entire history, even during the time when women conductors like Marin Alsop (below middle) and JoAnn Falletta (below bottom) are much in the news. Here is a link to that story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/arts/music/female-conductors-search-for-equality-at-highest-level.html?_r=0

women conductors NY Tmes Anne Manson leading the Manitoba Chamber orchestra

Marin Alsop 2

conducting_joann_falletta

So what about our own hometown woman conductor? Maybe it really is a question of sexism, perhaps the unconscious or subconscious kind, or the kind that is camouflaged under other concerns like incompetence and low public appeal. Or maybe it is just a question of the orchestra’s history, habit and tradition in action.  Or perhaps it is something as simple and innocent as a schedule conflict or an overbooked schedule. But it looks suspiciously like the old vicious circle: She is inexperienced, so we can’t give her the experience.

I raise the question more than I claim to I have the answer. But I also want to know if I am alone in my curiosity and concern.

I want to hear what other readers and musicians in the area and elsewhere have to say, even though they may be reluctant to speak up using their real names to question or criticize such a major player as the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

But Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) is a major player in Madison too. And she deserves a chance to move from behind-the-scenes and once in a while have her talents place in the public spotlight for the same organization that she has served so well for so long.

Beverly Taylor Katrin Talbot

Who knows, she might even have saved the MSO some money in booking fees and her local fans might even have helped filled some of the empty seats I saw last Sunday afternoon.

So The Ear says: Come on, MSO, give Beverly Taylor the chance she has earned to stand alone and conduct by herself after almost 20 years of being a team player. Please shine the spotlight on her when the chance next presents itself.

What do readers and audience members think?

Don’t be shy.

The Ear wants to hear.

 

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