UW-Madison alumni form 3/4 of new quartet in Door County
Executive director also an alumna
By Katherine Esposito
The first time UW-Madison’s Hunt Quartet played in Door County for Midsummer’s Music, a Door County summer chamber music festival, it was in response to an emergency.
The renowned Pro Arte Quartet had long been booked to play, but the quartet had to cancel. Midsummer’s artistic director James Berkenstock scrambled to fill the void.
David Perry, violinist with the Pro Arte, had a solution: Hire the Hunt, the graduate string quartet at UW-Madison. “David said that this particular configuration of the Hunt Quartet was superb,” says Berkenstock. “He said they already had a program and would do a great job.”
Subbing for the famous, seasoned quartet created undeniable pressure, recalled former Hunt violinist Vinicius (Vini) Sant’Ana. “The audience expected a world-class performance,” he said. “We were aware of that. So we tried our best, and it was one of our best performances.”
The audience at Sturgeon Bay’s United Methodist Church was thrilled, and so were Berkenstock and MSM’s executive director, Allyson Fleck, who received her doctorate at UW-Madison in viola. It was the musicians’ youth, their vivacity, their clear rapport with each other, that snagged attention. It was something that felt new and special. Following one more Hunt performance in Door County, Berkenstock and Fleck had an idea: why not see if the quartet would like to remain together after graduating to become a permanent presence in Door County?
They began to brainstorm. They teamed up with Green Bay’s East High School Fine Arts Institute and De Pere’s St. Norbert College to mull over the idea of a three-year string quartet residency. They started making the rounds to meet with community leaders, foundations, and interested individuals to develop plans and seek funding. “The alignment with programs already in progress or being planned at the Fine Arts Institute and at St. Norbert seemed so perfect and propitious,” said Berkenstock. Only two of the Hunt Quartet members were able to make the commitment (violinist Sant’Ana and violist Blakeley Menghini), as former Hunt cellist Kyle Price leads a different arts enterprise, and violinist Chang-En Lu had not yet finished his degree program at UW-Madison. So they tapped Roy Meyer, an alumnus violinist who studied with David Perry and Ryan Louie, a cellist who earned a master’s degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Now named the Griffon Quartet to honor a three-century-old Great Lakes shipwreck legend, the four regularly venture around the Door Peninsula and Brown County, beguiling audiences with classical quartet music designed to charm adults and kids alike. All fall, the quartet played a host of venues ranging from libraries to senior centers, to churches, at the local YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and in businesses and restaurants. In December, so many people attended a holiday concert at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor that even after adding dozens of chairs to the hall, at least 40 people stood to hear the music spilling over into the lobby.
But entertainment is only a partial goal: the Griffon Quartet is also designed to bridge a void in Door and Brown counties left when the century-old Green Bay Symphony folded and the public schools all but eliminated strings education. For this, the Hunt Quartet helped provide a model.
At the Mead Witter School of Music, the on-going Hunt Quartet, supported by longtime donor Dr. Kato Perlman, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the School of Music, is tasked with visiting elementary school children to inspire a love of music. Six schools participate in the Up Close and Musical program, and the quartet visits each school four times, showing children the basics of melody, rhythm, and expression. In Door County, the mission of the Griffon Quartet will be similar, but enlarged to include lessons, concerts, classroom presentations, involvement with seniors in a memory-oriented program called “B Double Sharp,” and impromptu appearances wherever appropriate and needed.
“The whole thing grew and expanded,” said Berkenstock. “The more we worked on it, the more we realized how potent this could be in northeast Wisconsin. There’s a lot missing, from a cultural standpoint.”
Fundraising “is now ramping up,” he adds.
Fleck is optimistic about the future of the Midsummer’s string residency program. “There are so many opportunities out there,” she says. “I know our project is worthy.”
For violist Blakeley Menghini, who discovered her calling as a teacher after two years in the Hunt Quartet, it’s a dream come true. “While earning my graduate degrees, I fell in love with teaching,” she writes. “And during my two years in the Hunt Quartet, it grew difficult to imagine my life without the string quartet. Thanks to Midsummer’s Music, we are not only able to imagine that life, but are living it.”
Learn more about the Griffon String Quartet, including full biographies and spring schedule.
About Midsummer’s Music Festival
Midsummer’s Music Festival is a chamber music ensemble featuring world-class musicians from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, Aspen Music Festival, and faculty of quality universities throughout the Midwest. Midsummer’s Music performs in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County, including art galleries, resorts, museums, churches, and private homes. The Festival was co-founded in 1990 by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, long-time Door County summer residents and principal orchestral players with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Their summer festival runs from mid-June to mid-July, with six additional events during the Labor Day holiday. In addition, we sponsor programs such as the Pro Arte Quartet, the Chicago Early Music Consort with “A Renaissance Christmas,” and our exceptional string quartet with Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words” around Easter.
The 2019-2020 Hunt Quartet will perform on April 18, 2019 at 6:30 PM in Morphy Hall.
Current members are Chang-En Lu, violin; Ava Shadmani, violin; Fabio Saggin, viola; and Alex Chambers-Ozasky, cello. Repertoire will be posted soon.
ANNOUNCING A WORLD PREMIERE:
Composer John Harbison pens new composition for Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm
New strings scholarship also created
Composer and music educator John Harbison, winner of both a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant and a Pulitzer Prize in composition, has created a new work for Sally Chisholm, violist with the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet.
The composition, tentatively entitled “Sonata for Viola and Piano,” will receive its world premiere with Chisholm and Minnesota pianist Timothy Lovelace at a special concert on the UW-Madison campus, Sunday, February 17, 2019, 7:30 PM, as part of a yearlong celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday. Across the world in 2018 and 2019, the celebration includes two other world premieres, over a dozen new recordings, a first book and many performances.
Harbison has known Chisholm for many years. “I have been aware of Sally’s extraordinary playing for quite some time,” says Harbison, whose actual 80th birthday is December 20, 2018. “She performed my composition called ‘The Nine Rasas,’ about an ancient Indian theory of states of being that were both interesting and refined. Sally was quite remarkable.”
The first half of the School of Music concert will feature the Pro Arte Quartet (with Chisholm, violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia and cellist Parry Karp) performing Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76, No. 4, known as “Sunrise,” and Harbison’s “Four Encores for Stan,” an homage for string quartet and narration to Polish composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, former director of the Minnesota Orchestra.
The program’s second half will include solo performances by Lovelace, followed by Chisholm, who will play selections from Harbison’s “The Violist’s Notebook,” dedicated to fellow violists Kim Kashkashian, Marcus Thompson and James Dunham. Harbison’s new composition, written specifically for Chisholm, will close the program.
Harbison will be present for the premiere.
The performance will take place at 7:30 PM, Sunday, Feb. 17, in Mills Concert Hall in the George L. Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., on the UW-Madison campus. Tickets are priced at $25, and are available online.
In tandem with the concert, the Mead Witter School of Music announces the Dr. Stanley and Shirley Inhorn Strings Scholarship, initiated with a $10,000 gift from the Inhorns. The scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2019, and is available to both graduate and undergraduate strings students. “As the cost of higher education increases dramatically, we recognize that the availability of more scholarships will greatly enhance the ability of the Mead Witter School of Music to attract both in-state and out-of-state strings students,” says Stanley Inhorn. Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music, expressed her thanks to the Inhorns. “Stan and Shirley Inhorn have been great and generous friends to the Madison music community. Their ongoing support of the Mead Witter School of Music will ensure that our wonderful students can realize their musical dreams.”
Harbison currently teaches musical composition and arrangement in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s jazz division. He has composed for the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as scores of other large and small ensembles. His catalog includes three operas, six symphonies, twelve concerti, a ballet, five string quartets, numerous song cycles and chamber works, and a large body of sacred music that includes cantatas, motets, and the orchestral-choral works Four Psalms, Requiem and Abraham. His music is widely recorded on leading labels.
He also is a part-time Madison resident who, with his wife Rose Mary Harbison, each summer over Labor Day weekend hosts the weeklong Token Creek Music Festival, which features classical chamber pieces and jazz.
In 2014, Harbison was one of five composers commissioned by the Pro Arte Quartet to compose a piece commemorating the quartet’s 100th anniversary. His String Quartet No. 5 joined compositions by William Bolcom, Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield and Benoit Mernier, both in performance and on a Pro Arte Quartet Albany Records recording.
Besides serving as violist for the Pro Arte Quartet, Chisholm was a founder of the Thouvenel String Quartet and the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota. She was a finalist at the Naumburg Chamber Music Competition and first prize winner in the Weiner International Chamber Music Competition.
Timothy Lovelace chairs the collaborative piano program at the University of Minnesota and performs all over the world. He and Chisholm have previously premiered works by Andrew Imbrie for the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, and have performed frequently with many of this Society’s guest artists such as Nobuko Imai, Pete Wiley, and Robert Mann. “His musicianship gives freedom, imagination, and a purity that is beloved. When I see Tim’s name in concert programs at the Kennedy Center and throughout New York City, I think, ‘They are so lucky!’” says Chisholm.
Chisholm believes the new sonata will become an “instant classic.”
“After glimpsing just the first two movements, I recognize how wonderfully he writes for viola,” says Chisholm. “The opening measures are the heart of the viola sound, with brilliant expression and interplay with the pianist.”
The new composition departs from the standard sonata structure of three to four movements to include five and perhaps six shorter movements in its initial draft, Chishom says. The same style follows in many of Harbison’s other compositions, although not necessarily that of his prior viola sonata.
“Compared to Mr. Harbison’s Solo Sonata for Viola, written in 1961, the new Sonata for Viola and Piano is centered in the heart of the viola sonority and soulfulness,” Chisholm explains. “The composer comes through so clearly in both, but the geography in the first few movements of his latest work is more compact. We have not yet seen all movements, and are expecting surprises.”
In November, Harbison was still putting the finishing touches on Chisholm’s sonata which he sees as more of collaborative piece and less of a virtuosic work, if only due to the nature of the instrument and its performers.
“Violists form a close community with a special temperament, which influences what I write for viola,” Harbison says. “Violists understand what they play, and that they share the musical texture with other performers.
“I am hoping for a certain type of musical character,” he adds. “Schuman wrote music for cello and violas called ‘fantasy pieces’ that have more informal characters,” he adds. “I believe my approach is more like that.”
In 2016, Chisholm was appointed to a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation professorship which she named to honor Germain Prévost, violist with the Pro Arte Quartet from its inception in 1912 through 1947. The appointment included $75,000 in research support from WARF over five years. That, plus an unspecified amount from an anonymous admirer of John Harbison, will fund the commission and additional expenses.
Provisions of the commission required that the work be premiered during the composer’s 80th birth anniversary year and that those performances include premieres on either coast. According to Chisholm, former Juilliard String Quartet violist Samuel Rhodes and pianist Robert McDonald will perform the work’s New York premiere March 19 at The Juilliard School. Subsequent performances will include those by Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt in San Francisco, Rice University violist James Dunham at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado, as well as violists Richard O’Neill, Marcus Thompson, and Kim Kashkashian.
The anonymous benefactor also has requested premiere performances in London and Berlin, both of which have yet to be arranged.
Says Chisholm: “We are all so grateful to the WARF Professorship that enabled this commission to be seriously pursued. Funding enables the premiere to be performed at UW-Madison, for the consortium to be formed with world famous violists, the underwriting of our guest pianist Timothy Lovelace, the composer John Harbison in attendance, and a great new work to be added to the viola repertoire.”
Other Harbison-related events scheduled in February include a Madison Symphony Orchestra performance of his work “The Most Often Used Chords” ; a UW-Madison Memorial Library exhibit on his music; and a performance of the Grammy Award-nominated Imani Winds Wind Quintet in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theatre. Other area ensemble tributes and musical activities are still in the planning stages.
Tickets ($25.00) may be purchased from Campus Arts Ticketing. All seats are general admission.
- Telephone: 608-265-2787
- In person: Memorial Union Box Office, 800 Langdon Street.
- Online: https://artsticketing.wisc.edu
About the Inhorns:
Stanley and Shirley came to Madison in 1953 – Shirley from Iowa to attend graduate school in biochemistry, and Stan from Columbia Medical School to become an intern at the Wisconsin General Hospital. Shirley is a pianist, and she also played the marimba in the University of Iowa band. Stan is a violinist who played in a string quartet in college and also started one in medical school. Stan courted Shirley by taking her to the Pro Arte Quartet concerts on campus, and soon they married and settled down to raise a family of three children. After he completed his training, Stan stayed on at the UW School of Medicine. One day, a neighbor, who happened to be the orchestra conductor at West High School, mentioned that he was going to audition for the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Stan joined him and subsequently played in the orchestra for several years until his academic responsibilities became too demanding. Their three children all took piano lessons, and in elementary school, each chose to play a string instrument – a violin, a cello, and a viola. Thus, the Inhorn String Quartet was created. Soon the children all joined the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, in which both Shirley and Stan became life trustees. They also became board members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the MSOL for which they received the first John DeMain Award. They have also been supporters of the Pro Arte Quartet and other programs at the Mead Witter School of Music. More recently Stan has been a board member of the Oakwood Chamber Players. The Inhorns appreciate the vibrant music scene in Madison and are pleased to be able to contribute their time and resources to these organizations.
Wisconsin Brass Quintet tacks contemporary by adding percussionist Anthony DiSanza
On October 25 and again March 14 at the Mead Witter School of Music, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, a resident ensemble now in its 45th year, will expand its sonic and stylistic range with the addition of percussionist Anthony DiSanza, professor at the School of Music. The music will include contemporary works as well as classics, some newly arranged by WBQ musicians.
The sextet will also perform beyond Madison, with concerts planned for October 28 in Fort Atkinson and March 29 in Ashland.
We asked the musicians of the WBQ to tell us the history of brass quintets and how the Wisconsin Brass Quintet fits into that picture.
What is a brass quintet? Have these existed for centuries, similar to a string quartet?
A brass quintet comprises two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba (or, in some cases, bass trombone, but the WBQ has always had tuba). Anchored by the vast tuba sound, and capped by the ringing power of two trumpets, brass quintets can play with bold passion, with sweet delicacy, with the liveliness of a dance band or the songfulness of a string quartet. The instruments can blend seamlessly, but each can stand out when it needs to.
After World War II, there was a huge trove of brilliant musicians departing army bands and seeking work for themselves. Many began to populate US orchestras, but others had the itch to play chamber music. There wasn’t a such thing as brass chamber music, so two groups were formed, the New York Brass Quintet (NYBQ) and the American Brass Quintet (ABQ), inventing the concept of brass quintet. Later, the Empire Brass Quintet and the Canadian Brass were formed, and at that point brass quintet had become an accepted standard group.
At the beginning, the NYBQ and the ABQ played arrangements of Renaissance choral and instrumental music. After all, when developing repertoire from scratch, it is faster to create arrangements than to commission new works. However, these brass players also wanted to play more current music, so they commissioned new works. Some pieces, like the quintets by Gunther Schuller and Alvin Etler, are now staples of the repertoire.
The WBQ was founded in 1972, making it one of the longest-running brass ensembles in the country. We fulfill the Wisconsin Idea by touring regularly throughout the state and beyond. Our affiliation with the university provides us the freedom to pursue creative avenues which challenge traditional notions of brass chamber music.
Interestingly, current and past members of the WBQ are very closely tied to the NYBQ and the ABQ. Emeritus trumpet professor John Aley played with the ABQ. Mark Hetzler studied trombone with John Swallow of the NYBQ, and later become a member of the Empire Brass Quintet. Horn professor emeritus Doug Hill studied with Paul Ingraham of the NYBQ, as – amazingly – did Doug’s successor, Dan Grabois. Dan also studied chamber music with the afore-mentioned John Swallow and with trumpeter Robert Nagel and tubist Toby Hanks (both of the NYBQ). Now, current members Hetzler and Grabois are passing down their experience to newer and younger group members like tubist Tom Curry, and the tradition will live on. The WBQ always fields a graduate student in the second trumpet spot, as well, and that further passes on the tradition and knowledge of the first generation.
How has the art form evolved?
Dozens of contemporary works for brass quintet have now been composed, and many brass quintets function largely as new music ensembles. At the same time, the Canadian Brass began exploring another path, in which brass quintets, often of an extremely high caliber of performance, created more of a “show” – the music was lighter, humor was incorporated, and an effort was made to create more mass popularity for brass chamber music. These two can be seen today, with many ensembles choosing one or the other of these directions.
Several brass ensembles began exploring more popular styles: jazz, rock, Latin music, and so on. In order to create a more authentic sound, they added a percussionist to their performances.
One ensemble that added percussion for these and other reasons was the Meridian Arts Ensemble (founded in 1987 – Dan Grabois joined the group in 1989 and continues to be the horn player). Meridian’s idea was to continue to branch out into different styles: not just early music and contemporary music, but jazz, rock, various ethnic styles, and often new amalgams of all of these. In this case, the percussionist becomes not an add-on but an actual sixth member of the group. Meridian has created a vast repertoire of music for quintet and percussion. Now, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet will start to experiment with these new styles of music.
Tell us about a few works on your program.
We’ll start with Corpus, by David Sanford. This piece was a Meridian commission. When Dan brought the work to the attention of the WBQ, they immediately wanted to play it. David Sanford comes from a big-band-meets-contemporary-music mindset, and the piece is both experimental and immediately accessible. The other long piece on the program is Street Song, by the conductor/composer Michael Tilson Thomas. This is a brass quintet piece, but Mark Hetzler had the idea that it would sound great with percussion. Tony DiSanza created – brilliantly – a percussion part, which makes the piece even more vivid than it is for quintet alone. Again, this is a developed work of some length that is still very accessible to audiences, and that explores many styles. One other piece to discuss is Pat Metheny’s First Circle. Pat Metheny is one of the all-time great jazz guitar players, and our own trumpeter Alex Noppe did the arrangement. Again, using percussion in a jazz piece is a natural. But the arrangement also gives Alex a chance to improvise, something he does brilliantly.
Can you describe briefly how individual personalities have contributed to the WBQ’s own flavor?
Each member of the WBQ brings a diverse set of musical experiences and eclectic tastes to the group. From classical music to rock, jazz to heavy metal, world music to hip hop, the members of the group simply love music of all kinds. Developing an appreciation for such a wide array of music has direct benefits for the group, as the ensemble’s collective “anthology” affords them a wealth of styles, artists, and genres from which to draw when engaging with repertoire. This diversity of musical influences has also been a guiding force in the creation of new repertoire of the WBQ, as the group members constantly bring in new original arrangements, transcriptions and compositions. In doing so, the repertoire stays fresh and vital, and the WBQ plays the kinds of music they want to play, rather than simply the music that already exists for brass quintet.
What do you say to young brass players who are concerned about performance as a career?
There is no doubt that music is a difficult career. However, it is hard to imagine a more rewarding, not to mention fun, profession. If you are passionate about becoming a musician, here are a few bits of advice to keep in mind:
- Be great at what you do. This may seem obvious, but it is absolutely essential. You must put in the time it takes to become a fantastic musician.
- Be versatile. You never know where your career might take you. Develop a diverse set of skills, and be ready to say “yes” when you get the call.
- Be proactive. The music business rewards those who are willing to reach out, put themselves on the line, and take risks. Make connections. Meet people. Ask for help when you need it.
- Stick with it. There will be ups and downs as you pursue a career in music. To make it, you will need to display grit and persevere through difficult times.
For many young brass players, it is hard to see beyond the orchestral career path. You may have the skillset, interest, and commitment that will win you the big audition. However, these jobs are fairly few and far between. For many musicians, a balance of many kinds of playing jobs and teaching tends to be the best way to make a living. So, cultivate your own musical voice, set your goals high, and forge your own path.
The musicians of the WBQ are Alex Noppe and Matthew Onstad, trumpets; Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Daniel Grabois, horn; Anthony DiSanza, percussion.
Below: The Gaudete Brass Quintet performs Michael Tilson Thomas’s “Street Song.” For their October 25 concert, the WBQ will add percussion.
March 13, 2018
Katherine Esposito 608.263.5615
Celebrating a milestone with students, faculty and special guest, trumpeter Marquis Hill
This April, UW-Madison’s annual Jazz Week will celebrate the 50th anniversary season of the UW Jazz Orchestra, the first jazz ensemble at UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music.
Jazz Week 2018 will feature performances by the UW Jazz Orchestra, the UW Jazz Composers Group, the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, the UW High School Honors Jazz Band, and a faculty jazz quartet, all to be joined by special guest trumpet soloist Marquis Hill, the winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk Competition.
Hill is a Chicago native who now makes his home in New York City. “His music crystallizes the hard-hitting, hard-swinging spirit of Chicago jazz,” writes Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. “Hill commands a nimble technique, a fluid way of improvising and a pervasively lyrical manner.”
UW’s Jazz Week 2018 features three concerts:
- Tuesday, April 24: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Composers Group and the UW Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. Morphy Hall, 7:30 PM. Free concert.
- Thursday, April 26: Marquis Hill with a faculty jazz quartet led by pianist and Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann with Les Thimmig, saxophones; Nick Moran, bass; and Matt Endres, drums. Morphy Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.
- Friday, April 27: Marquis Hill with the UW Jazz Orchestra and the UW High School Honors Jazz Band. Music Hall, 8:00 PM. Ticketed concert: $15 adults, $5 non-music majors.
The UW High School Honors Jazz Band is an auditioned 18-member big band for high school students from about a dozen Madison-region schools who are looking for an additional opportunity to perform advanced jazz repertoire.
You may also purchase in person or at the door. For more information about ticketing and parking options, click here.
“We don’t want THAT word uttered in OUR school”: Listen to our audio stories about the history of jazz at UW-Madison and at American colleges. With university saxophonist and professor Les Thimmig, who arrived at UW-Madison in 1971, just as the jazz program was getting off the ground.
Episode 1 focuses on the origin of the UW Jazz Orchestra; Episode 2, how jazz got started in American colleges; Episode 3, jazz over the years at UW-Madison; Episode 4, descriptions of the six UW Jazz Ensembles. Episode 5 includes Prof. Thimmig describing his early career in Chicago and New York City; Episode 6, what it was like to gig in the 1960s.
Jazz at American colleges has a unique and colorful history, with UW-Madison no exception. In 1968, the music school created an informal swing band, a “Big Band,” that played dance music of the 1930s and 1940s. When composer and saxophonist Les Thimmig arrived in 1971, he changed it to a jazzier big band playing music more akin to the new Duke Ellington style.
Through the decades that followed, the band survived in one form or another, through staff transitions and musical tastes. Following the arrival of jazz studies professor Johannes Wallmann in 2012, the UW Jazz Orchestra became a core component of the expanded jazz ensemble offerings in the School of Music’s new jazz studies major. The orchestra now performs eight to ten times a year, playing classic and contemporary big band repertoire, often with visiting guest artists.
We invite you to join us for one or more of our Jazz Fest concerts!
We thank the Vilas Trust, the Anonymous Fund, and our many donors for supporting these concerts and other activities at the School of Music.
Podcasts produced by Kyle Johnson and narrated by Katherine Esposito. Many thanks to Les Thimmig for his thoughtful insights.
Riveting theater, achingly beautiful music abound in upcoming University Opera production of La Bohème
University Opera takes over the Wisconsin Union Theater for a three-day run of Puccini’s masterpiece
On February 23, 24 and 25, University Opera, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will present a special production of Giacomo Puccini’s timeless masterpiece, La Bohème, at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall. This marks the first time in over 15 years that University Opera has staged a production at the Union Theater and the first bona fide opera production in the space since the theater’s renovation in 2014. Conducted by interim UW-Madison Director of Orchestras, Chad Hutchinson, and directed by Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, the production will be performed in Italian with English supertitles. It will take full advantage of the many upgrades to Shannon Hall, in particular, the expanded orchestra pit which will accommodate the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Friday, Feb. 23 @ 7:30 PM
Saturday, Feb. 24 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday, Feb. 25 @3:00 PM
Arguably Puccini’s most beautiful work, La Bohème blends riveting theater with sumptuous music. The incomparable score accompanies the story of Rodolfo and Mimi, a penniless poet and a seamstress, who fall in love and suffer through heartbreak and tragedy. Along for the ride are Rodolfo’s fellow starving artist buddies, Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline, as well as Marcello’s sassy yet bighearted girlfriend, Musetta, all surviving on laughter and the promise of love.
Says longtime University Opera supporter Kathleen Harker: “I am excited to see opera return to Shannon Hall at the Union with the University Opera’s lavish production of Puccini’s La Boheme. I have fond memories of seeing my first opera, a touring Metropolitan Opera production of ‘Madama Butterfly,’ at the Memorial Union in 1965.”
La Bohème is chock full of memorable arias including Rodolfo’s “Che gelida manina” and Mimi’s “Mi chiamano Mimi” both from the end of the first act, when Mimi and Rodolfo fall in love; as well as Musetta’s Waltz, “Quando m’en vò,” which Musetta sings in the lively second act to arouse Marcello’s jealousy. It was also the inspiration for Rent, Jonathan Larson’s musical theater adaptation of the material, recently seen at the Overture Center in a national touring production.
Above: Luciano Pavarotti sings “Che Gelida Manina,” 1961
University Opera’s production sets La Bohème in Paris of 1925, the period called les années folles, “the crazy years” – France’s version of the Roaring Twenties – during which time so many famous artists and intellectuals found themselves in the City of Light. Among the crowd at the Café Momus in the second act, audience members might be able to pick out characters inspired by some of these famous expats – F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Salvador Dalí, Simone de Beauvoir, Man Ray, and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few. “We’re so excited to be presenting this timeless, heart-wrenching story against the backdrop of the vibrant cultural and artistic milieu of Paris in the 1920s,” says director David Ronis. “The environment is a natural fit for generating the emotionally charged performances that really make La Bohème so fulfilling to see.”
This marks the first time in over 15 years that University Opera has staged a production at the Union Theater and the first bona fide opera production in the space since the theater’s renovation in 2014.
The transposition of the story to the 1920s also provides fertile ground for the imagination of set designer Joseph Varga, emeritus professor of scenic design in the UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama. For this production, Varga has designed a non-literal unit set that functions beautifully for both indoor and outdoor scenes, the background of which features a stunning roofscape view of Paris. Varga is joined by M.F.A. student lighting designer, Sruthi Suresan, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park and props designer Jennifer Childers. Completing the production team will be production manager Martie Barthel-Steer, technical director Greg Silver, scenic painters Teresa Sarkela and Yoshinori Asai, prop manager Jo Chalhoub, rehearsal pianist Sarah Williams, assistant director Sarah Kendall, and assistant stage managers Meghan Stecker and Delaney Egan.
This large production will involve over 80 UW-Madison students – singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew – as well as ten young performers who are members of Madison Youth Choirs. Most of the principal roles will be double cast. Shaddai Solidum and Yanzelmalee Rivera will split performances as Mimi. UW-Madison doctoral candidate and Madison Opera studio artist Benjamin Liupaogo will divide performances of Rodolfo with José Muñiz. Katie Anderson and Claire Powling will both perform the role of Musetta, Matt Chastain and alumnus James Held will be Marcello, Nicholas Damiano and John McHugh will perform Schaunard. Guest artist and alumnus Benjamin Schultz-Burkel will be seen as Colline, Jeremiah Gile as Benoit, and Jake Elner as Alcindoro. UW-Madison vocal coach, Dr. Daniel Fung, will be responsible for the musical preparation.
Tickets are $38 for premium seating, $30 general admission, $25 senior tickets, $15 non-UW-Madison students and $10 UW-Madison students and are available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/la-boheme/. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.
University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact email@example.com. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at https://www.music.wisc.edu/
Below, enjoy two more gorgeous arias from La Bohème. We will see you at the Union in late February!
Anna Netrebko sings “Si, mi chiamo mimi”
Maria Callas sings “Quando me’n vo,'” 1958
During his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, alumnus J. Griffith Rollefson embarked on several international research trips while writing his dissertation, “European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality.” Throughout Europe, he frequented hip hop shows, clubs, record shops, and open mic nights to observe and interview the people who consider this artform among the most politically conscious of all. Hip hop studies was then an emerging field in the United States, with institutions such as McNally Smith College in St. Paul, the University of Arizona, and Wellesley College in Massachusetts, offering coursework on the subject.
After graduating in 2009 with his PhD in historical musicology, Rollefson began writing Flip the Script, a book based on his dissertation, examining how the children of immigrants from the former colonies of Europe imagine hip hop as a way to both understand and voice their relationship to society. Flip the Script (which Rollefson defines as “to upend a situation and/or rap a text”) was recently published by the University of Chicago Press and is now available for purchase.
Rollefson is currently an associate professor of popular music studies at the University College Cork, National University of Ireland. The Mead Witter School of Music is pleased to feature the following Q&A with Rollefson about his increasingly relevant work in hip hop culture, a wide-ranging field that encompasses the studies of race, class, gender, nationality, and politics.
Interview conducted by Kyle D. Johnson, a dissertator in piano performance.
You write that hip hop studies should “engage more directly and systematically with the tools of postcolonial theory.” What is postcolonial theory and why is it important to hip hop studies?
Postcolonial studies involves understanding how the past resonates in the present. How the past is never past. In short, if the “colonial period” started when Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” over 500 years ago and ended a little over 50 years ago, we need to imagine how that period might have had some lasting impact. And of course, we then need to think about what we should do if that impact is a negative one, as is overwhelmingly the case. The resonances are profound and very real. In the US, for instance, colonial processes have resulted in the world-changing beauty of the spirituals, jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop, but they have also resulted in the seemingly endless systemic marginalization of the very people who created those most American of musics – marginalization “from the plantation to the penitentiary,” as Wynton Marsalis put it.
Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book.
Postcolonial theory helps us assess and address historical impact by focusing on the continuities between slavery and commercial exploitation, from Georgia cotton, Jamaican sugar, and Honduran bananas to South African diamonds, Indian textiles, and Iraqi oil. Of course, these theories also help us account for cultural fields like music. The idea of “the forest and the school” is a good starting place to describe how processes of colonization remove “the forest” – that is, the natural resources (including, let’s remember, people) – and leaves “the school” – be it a missionary school or a grammar school, both of which are training grounds for assimilation into Euro-American ideologies. There’s a famous quip attributed to Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of independent Kenya, that goes: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
How have current events in Europe, such as the refugee crisis, affected the state of modern-day hip hop in Europe?
Rappers will be the first to tell you that the “refugee crisis” is manufactured; they believe that Western Europe is slowly dying and needs immigration, but refuses to adapt for purely bigoted reasons. Sound familiar? I’ve talked to artists who’ve made this exact point – the Turkish German, Chefket and the Black Brit, Juice Aleem, for instance, who recognize foreign labor as a historical constant that gets conveniently forgotten in times of cultural navel gazing. Syria had been in crisis for years before it got widespread European attention as families began fleeing for their lives en masse. And notably, a quick look into the instability in Syria reveals deep and unresolved histories of colonization by France and the UK. This is why I say we need to listen to these voices. They really are on the front lines of history.
How is American hip hop related to European hip hop?
Through studying European hip hop we can see that “double consciousness”—the African-American feeling of “unreconciled” two-ness—is a particular American form of what is really a global postcolonial experience. This argument suggests that postcoloniality explains why hip hop was born in the South Bronx in the collaboration of African American, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean communities. In my class, Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Postcolonial Perspectives, I look not only at African-American artists, but at Puerto Ricans, Filipino Americans, Chicanos, and Native Americans to understand how the United States is a postcolonial nation – the first postcolonial nation, really. And to underscore another point I make to my students – the “post” in postcolonial doesn’t mean that the colonial resonances are over. In most cases, they’re just coming to the fore. Germany, for instance, is just now beginning to own up to its colonial history. And France and the UK are doing their darnedest to explain away, forget, or Brexit their way out of their colonial complicities.
You’ve asserted that hip hop artists have a better perspective on the conditions of their society, over governments or geopolitical authorities. What makes hip hop unique in its ability to offer that “frontline” perspective?
In the consensus view of the artists I interviewed, it’s political “consciousness” that attracted them to hip hop in the first place. Something resonated with them – the music “spoke to them.” Again and again, I heard rappers describe the artform as a “vehicle,” “channel,” or “opportunity” to grab the microphone and finally be able to say something to their own societies – societies that usually don’t want to listen. Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book. These artists are indeed humans and have all the complexities we all have. They might play to stereotypes, but in doing so they force us to interrogate our own misconceptions.
If someone wanted to explore the current world of European hip hop, which artists would you recommend?
I’d recommend starting with some of the classics, like MC Solaar (France), Roots Manuva (UK), Advanced Chemistry (Germany), and Scary Éire (Ireland). My current playlist includes more recent artists like Stromae, Les Nubians, Sidi-O, and Oxmo Puccino (France/Belgium); Juice Aleem, Lowkey, and Lady Leshurr (UK), Amewu, Chefket, and Samy Deluxe (Germany), and Lethal Dialect and Rusangano Family (Ireland). FauxSounds.com has actually just invited me to annotate a “Flip the Script European Hip Hop” playlist for their website. Check that out for a nice sampling and some brief background details: http://www.fauxsounds.com/faux-sounds/2017/10/18/professor-j-griffith-rollefson-flip-the-script-european-hip-hop
Now, for some background on you. How did you go from dissertation to Flip the Script? Why did the University of Chicago take an interest in your work?
Well, if you consider that I wrote my first seminar papers on European hip hop for UW-Madison Professors Susan Cook and Pamela Potter in 2003-2004, then we could say it took well over a decade. Back then word was that Turkey would become an EU member any day. Needless to say, a bit has changed since I started the research. At that time, the EU was providing an inspiring model of what an international community of the future might look like, and now we’re on the slippery slope to ethno-nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 2006, after my coursework, I started a yearlong fieldwork project funded by the Berlin Program for German and European Studies. That trip was centered in Berlin, but included multi-month trips to Paris and London where I worked with hip hop communities: going to shows, clubs, record shops, open mic nights, community centers, observing and doing interviews in any place where hip hop community happened. In 2008, I returned there with funding from the German Academic Exchange Service, known as DAAD, and then embarked on shorter trips until I moved to the UK and Ireland with my family in 2013. In fact, although Flip the Script centers on Berlin, Paris, and London, the book concludes with a look at what I call the “postcolonial whiteness” of Ireland’s brilliant hip hop critiques about their colonial past and neocolonial present. What’s interesting in this case is that it gets us thinking about race and colonialism together. As you may know, racial difference was a centerpiece in the logic of British domination of Ireland.
Elizabeth Branch Dyson at the University of Chicago Press showed interest in the manuscript early on and then held my hand throughout, encouraging me to get the book exactly right over the last five years or so. I suppose the lesson there is patience. I’ve had the privilege of being able to be patient, and it has paid off.
Outside of your work on Flip the Script, give us an update on what you’ve been up to since earning your PhD.
I’ve become a dad, served as a church choir director and an adjunct professor in Southern California, won an ACLS New Faculty Fellowship (which was, essentially, the “Great Recession Stimulus Plan for Young Scholars”) which took me to UC Berkeley, held a lectureship at the University of Cambridge and, finally, landed a tenure-track job at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. I should also say that spending the last four years as a European resident really helped me finish the research and added a level of personal understanding of the fragile realities of displacement and immigration.
Where can people go to get more information on you, Flip the Script, and possibly future projects you’re involved with?
The book’s companion website – EuropeanHipHop.org – is quickly becoming a clearinghouse for all sorts of links, syllabi, podcasts, and news.
January 31, 2017
Fresh from winning two major awards in the 2015-16 National Opera Association Competition, University Opera will present Benjamin Britten’s gothic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, to round out its season. In this, Britten’s last chamber opera, based on the Henry James novella of the same title, terror takes unexpected forms. Premiered in 1954, The Turn of the Screw tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in late 19th century England. She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways and she takes it upon herself to defend them. In so doing, she is forced to confront the demons she perceives as threats, as well as her own internal ones.
The Turn of the Screw will be presented in English for three performances, all with projected supertitles. March 3 at 7:30 PM, March 5 at 3:00 PM, and March 7 at 7:30 PM at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus. David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, will direct and graduate conducting assistant Kyle Knox will conduct the 13-member chamber orchestra. Musical preparation will be by University Opera’s new vocal coach, Daniel Fung.
Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online here.
Just as James’s novella is particularly notable for the ambiguity of its story, so is Britten’s opera. Are the ghosts real? Or are they creations of the Governess’s delusional mind? Are the children as innocent as they originally appear, or are they part of a larger, scheme of evil? What of Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, who reveals some information, but not enough to form a coherent backstory? And the ghosts themselves – Peter Quint and Miss Jessel – what motivates them? What do they have at stake? All these questions hover as this compelling psychological thriller unfolds.
Following each performance of The Turn of the Screw, there will be a talkback session with the cast and members of the artistic staff. Audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues raised by this opera.
Leading the cast and alternating the role of the Governess will be Katie Anderson and Erin Bryan. Alec Brown will play the roles of the Prologue/Peter Quint, Anna Polum will be Miss Jessel and Cayla Rosché will be Mrs. Grose. Elisheva Pront and Emily Vandenberg will alternate as Flora and guest artists Simon Johnson and Amitabha Shatdal will share the role of Miles.
The production will be designed by Frank Schneeberger with lighting design by John Frautschy. Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park will design costumes, Meg Huskin will be the assistant director, Holly Berkowitz the dramaturg, and the production stage manager will be Meghan Stecker. Other staff include Chan Mi Jean and Satoko Hayami, rehearsal pianists; Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Teresa Sarkela, scenic charge; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.
Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online here.
Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended.
If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.
The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.
University Opera is a cultural service of the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.
January 26, 2017
UW-Madison Musicians to present “Thank You” concert to Mead Witter Foundation
The University of Wisconsin Mead Witter School of Music will bring two quintet ensembles to the Performing Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids for a free concert on Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. The concert celebrates the Mead Witter Foundation’s $25 million gift to the University of Wisconsin for construction of a new performance center in Madison. The PAC is located at 1801 16th St. South, Wisconsin Rapids.
Following an afternoon of clinic sessions with local students, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Wind Quintet, and Scott Teeple, UW-Madison conducting professor, along with the Lincoln High School Wind Ensemble will present the free public concert designed to educate as well as entertain. The February 9 concert is open to the public free of charge. Besides thanking the Foundation for its support, the concert furthers the UW mission of public service through spreading the “Wisconsin Idea.” About 50 music students from area high schools are expected to attend the afternoon clinic sessions and evening concert.
In the fall of 2015, the Mead Witter Foundation commemorated a century-long relationship between the Witter and Mead families with the University of Wisconsin by providing major funding that enabled the UW-Madison to construct its new music performance building in one phase, rather than in multiple phases over time. In appreciation of the gift, UW-Madison named its music school the Mead Witter School of Music, and the large concert hall within the performance building will be known as the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. The new performance building will be sited at the corner of University Avenue and Lake Street adjacent to the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.
Wisconsin Brass Quintet
Regarded as one of the “superb brass ensembles in the USA” (Musicweb International) and praised for “remarkable musicianship and versatility” (International Trumpet Guild Journal), the widely acclaimed Wisconsin Brass Quintet (WBQ) has maintained a position at the forefront of brass chamber music since the group’s founding in 1972. WBQ is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. In addition to its regular concert series on the campus, the Quintet performs extensively throughout the Midwest and nationally, including appearances in New York at Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall. Current members of WBQ are John Aley and Matthew Onstad, trumpets; Daniel Grabois, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; and Tom Curry, tuba.
Wingra Wind Quintet
Since its formation in 1965, the Wingra Wind Quintet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music has established a tradition of artistic and teaching excellence. The ensemble has been featured in performance at national conferences such as MENC (Miami), MTNA (Kansas City), and the International Double Reed Society (Minneapolis). In addition to its extensive home state touring, the quintet has been invited to perform at numerous college campuses, including the universities of Alaska-Fairbanks, Northwestern, Chicago, Nebraska, Western Michigan, Florida State, Cornell, the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Paris Conservatoire, where quintet members offered master classes. New York Times critic Peter Davis, in reviewing the ensemble’s Carnegie Hall appearance, stated “The performances were consistently sophisticated, sensitive, and thoroughly vital. Current members of Wingra Wind Quintet are Stephanie Jutt, flute; Aaron Hill, oboe; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Joanna Schulz, horn; and Amy McCann, clarinet.
University Opera scores again with national recognition
Awards for two shows in 2015-2016
UW-Madison’s University Opera is on a roll. Both shows from last year, Transformations and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, have won awards in the National Opera Association’s (NOA) Opera Production Competition for 2015-2016. It is the second year in a row that UW-Madison has garnered an award from NOA, and the first time that each production was separately recognized. University Opera produces only two operas each year.
October 2015’s Le nozze di Figaro, with orchestra conducted by James Smith, placed second in Division IV, and March 2016’s Transformations, conducted by graduate assistant conductor Kyle Knox, garnered a first place award in Division III.
Both productions were directed by David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, who is now a six-time winner of the competition. His previous awards occurred while he worked at Queens College in New York.
The two winning UW-Madison productions carried casts and crew of different sizes and strengths and were produced at different budgetary levels, hence their separation into distinct categories.
In 2014-15, University Opera won third prize in NOA’s Division III for Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring.
Ronis accepted the awards at the NOA convention in Santa Barbara last weekend. “Needless to say, I’m very proud,” he said. “While last year’s award put University Opera on the national map in a very public way, these two wins firmly establish us among the premier collegiate opera producing organizations in the country,”
The competition is blind, meaning that performing companies are not identified to judges. Those eligible include small professional opera companies and opera training programs from academic institutions, music conservatories, summer opera training programs, and opera outreach programs. Entries are separated into seven divisions by the judges; the criteria include the size and scope of institution’s music and opera program and the level of vocal training of the singers in the cast.
Though judging is always subjective, Ronis says he isn’t surprised that both shows won awards. “I was very proud of Figaro – the production was elegant, the storytelling clear, and it was well-sung, well-played, and well-conducted,” he says. “Transformations was definitely more of a challenge artistically, but very rewarding to produce. The students involved became quite personally engaged with telling Anne Sexton’s fairy tale settings, and the result was a wonderfully creative, funny, yet moving production which packed a deep emotional punch.”
Although both winning productions received praise in the local press, Transformations, a dark yet humorous opera based on Grimm’s fairy tales as re-imagined by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, was singled out as being particularly imaginative.
“Ronis’s direction (he also serves as visiting director of the opera program) is richly inventive, with snippets of choreography throughout, including a conga line and a parody of the Supremes. The staging is delightful, using the full height of the set to frame and reframe action. This entire production would easily compare well to any professional opera company,” wrote author Jay Rath in Isthmus.
University Opera’s next production will be The Turn of the Screw, Benjamin Britten’s operatic setting of Henry James’s novella. Premiered in 1954, the composer’s final chamber opera tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in mid-19th century England. She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways. University Opera’s telling of Britten’s gothic horror opera chillingly challenges audiences to consider the very existence of ghosts.
The production will be directed by Ronis and conducted by Kyle Knox, with musical preparation by Daniel Fung, assistant adjunct professor of vocal coaching. Members of the cast will include Erin Bryan and Katie Anderson, who will split the role of the Governess, Alec Brown (Prologue and Quint), Cayla Rosché (Mrs. Grose), and Anna Polum (Miss Jessel). The roles of the children in the opera will be played by Elisheva Pront and Emily Vandenberg (Flora) and Simon Johnson and Amitabha Shatdal (Miles). Set design will be by Frank Schneeberger; lighting by John Frautschy, and costumes by Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park. Additional staff include Greg Silver, technical director; Meg Huskin, assistant director, and Meghan Stecker, stage manager.
Performance dates are March 3-7, 2017. Buy tickets online or at the Memorial Union box office.
ALSO IN JANUARY: Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino and pianist Christopher Taylor team up for an afternoon of exquisite sonatas from Fauré and Corigliano. Sunday, January 22, 4 PM. Learn more here.
Join pianists Martha Fischer, Bill Lutes, and friends on the stage and seats
of Mills Hall for January’s “Schubertiade,” an intimate homage to the music,
loves and life of Romantic composer Franz Schubert.
The concert will take place Sunday, January 29, at a new time, 3:00 PM.
Fischer is a UW-Madison professor of collaborative piano and piano and Bill Lutes is emeritus artist-in-residence.
The concert will be followed by a reception (included in the ticket cost) at the University Club. Tickets are $15 per adult and $5 for students. The concert is sponsored by Madison resident Ann Boyer, an admirer of Franz Schubert’s music and the musical talents of Fischer and Lutes.
Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.
The evening will include a special guest, the much-acclaimed soprano and UW-Madison alumna, Emily Birsan. Among other works, she will sing Schubert’s Epistle to Josef von Spaun, D. 749 – a brilliant and humorous send-up of the Italian operatic style that was all the rage in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime.
Other performers will include Mead-Witter School of Music faculty Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Paul Rowe, baritone; School of Music alumni Daniel O’ Dea, tenor and Benjamin Schultz, baritone; and current graduate students Anna Polum, soprano, Rebecca Bechtel and Jessica Kasinski, mezzo sopranos, and Wesley Dunnagan, tenor.
Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, and lived only 31 years. In his day, his music was cherished, but mostly by his personal circle. UW-Madison’s “Schubertiade” extends that circle to include the entire seating chart in Mills Hall.
The theme for this year’s Schubertiade is “Circle of Friends,” says co-organizer Lutes.
He writes: “Moritz von Schwind, a important German painter of the 19th century, was a young man when he became part of the group that was present at the first Schubertiade — those social gatherings given over to charades, poetry reading, dancing and imbibing – but most particularly to the performance of Schubert’s music, often with the composer himself at the piano.
“These almost legendary occasions were immortalized by Schwind in his famous painting ‘A Schubert Evening at Josef von Spaun’s,’ created in 1868, when these glorious moments had become distant and cherished memories. Schubert is indeed at the piano, with the great baritone Johann Michael Vogel seated to the composer’s right. Depicted are many of the poets, artists, lawyers and civil servants, and close friends who first heard Schubert’s music. In some cases, they are individuals with whom Schubert collaborated in the creation of songs, and our program will include a many settings of poetry by Schubert’s friends: Schober, Mayrhofer, Spaun, Schlechta and others.
“In addition we will include a group of songs that Schubert assembled in 1816 and presented to Theresa Grob, a young soprano whom he had hoped to marry. Other highlights will be a Cantata written for the birthday of Vogl, for soprano, tenor, baritone and piano and a great piano duet composition, the Theme and Variations in A-flat major, D. 814.
“Emily Birsan will perform the ‘flower-ballad’ Viola, D. 786, and two Italian canzonas, D. 688 and the previously mentioned Epistle to Josef von Spaun. She will conclude the program with one of Schubert’s best-loved songs, Ellen’s 3rd Song from Scott’s The Lady of the Lake….also known as Ave Maria.”
“The concert will close with an audience singalong of ‘An die Musik.’
“We offer this program of musical collaboration in a spirit of camaraderie, good will, and love for Schubert and his music, in celebration of the composer’s 220th birthday on January 31. From Schubert’s Circle of Friends we reach out to our own Circle of Friends, including the sponsor of these Schubertiades: Ann Boyer.”
Tickets may be purchased online, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.
Read this news story about our Schubertiade in 2015.
Two violinists, one pianist, one trumpeter, and one vocalist will solo with UW Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Smith. In addition, the music of composition student Nathan Froebe will be performed.
The concert is in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM. There will be a free public reception immediately following at the University Club, 803 State Street.
Ticketed: $10 adults; students & children free. Buy tickets here or at the door.
The winners are:
- Violinist Shing Fung (Biffa) Kwok, a doctoral student of Prof. David Perry and recipient of a Collins Fellowship. He will perform Tzigane by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
- Violinist Matthew Lee, an undergraduate senior who studies with Prof. Soh-Hyun Altino. He will perform the cadenza from the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, opus 77 of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).
- Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, a master’s student of Prof. John Aley. He’ll perform the Trumpet Concerto in F Minor, Op. 18 by Oskar Böhme (1870-1938).
- Soprano Anna Polum, who will sing “Amour, ranime mon courage,” written by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) for his opera adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Anna studies with voice professor James Doing.
- Pianist Shuk-Ki Wong, to perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Shuk-ki studies with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson.
- Composition student Nathan Froebe (not pictured) is the winner of this year’s composer’s contest. More information coming soon.
A native of Hong Kong, Biffa Kwok began his violin lessons at the age of ten, studying with Chu Tong Lo. In 2004, Kwok entered the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of music degree in violin performance. Kwok also holds a master’s degree in violin performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Mikhail Kopelman, former leader of the Borodin and Tokyo String Quartets.
Kwok has received many awards, including the ExxonMobil Scholarship, Chan Ho Choi Enchanting Music Scholarship during his studies at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; the Eastman Graduate Assistantship during his master program at the Eastman School of Music, and the James R. Smith Orchestral Leadership award during his studies at the Mead Witter School of Music.
Kwok has collaborated with many artists such as Trevor Pinnock, Uroš Lajovic, Perry So, Kokman Liu, Neil Varon, Brad Lubman, Zhu Dan, Nobuko Imai, and John Demain. A strong advocate of chamber music, Kwok actively participated in many chamber performances, including masterclasses with the Chilingirian; the Endellion; the Penderecki; the Ying, and the Dover string quartets. Kwok also actively performed in orchestral performances including participation in the Academy (Hong Kong) Symphony Orchestra; Eastman Philharmonia; Eastman Graduate Chamber Orchestra; Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes (Elmira, NY), the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra, and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of Sound Out Loud, an ensemble based in Madison that specializes in performing contemporary music.
At UW, Kwok studies violin performance and arts administration. The ten-minute work he will perform, “Tzigane” by Maurice Ravel, is a Hungarian-styled rhapsody written in the early 1920s and first played by the Hungarian-English violinist Jelly d’Aranyi—a great-niece of the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim— in 1924. The name “Tzigane” is derived from the generic European term for gypsy, and it shows Ravel’s interest in violin showmanship in the manner of Paganini and Sarasota.
Violinist Matthew Lee is a Madison native and former member of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra is is majoring in music performance and biology. Matthew began playing the violin at age 6 and studied with Hiram Pearcy for eleven years prior to entering college. He performed with WYSO orchestras for eight years, serving as concertmaster for the Youth Orchestra from 2011-12, including during their Eastern European Tour in 2012. He was a winner of the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2013, received honorable mentions in the Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz concerto competition. At UW-Madison, his teachers have included Eugene Purdue and Prof. Altino.
“I chose this piece because I love Shostakovich’s work in general,” says Matthew. “His violin concerto is significant because it was written during a time when Shostakovich was scrutinized carefully by the Soviet government, in a time of increased arrests of people who wrote in an anti-Soviet manner. The violin concerto was therefore hidden from the public until after Stalin’s death. I love the whole concerto, but the cadenza and fourth movement stand out because of the desolate, barren quality of the cadenza transitioning into the exaggerated, frenzied movement of the burlesque.”
Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, who hails from Beaver Dam, is pursuing a master’s degree in trumpet performance, studying with Prof. John Aley. He is a member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and recently won the post of principal trumpet with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, where he holds the Francis Neiswanger Memorial Principal Trumpet chair. Aside from his duties with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Matthew has been a member of the 132nd US Army National Guard Band since 2012, and has performed with the Madison and Oshkosh Symphony Orchestras. Matthew received his bachelor’s of music degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he studied with Marty Robinson and Robert Levy.
“The Böhme is one of the very few well-known trumpet concerti that was written in the Romantic era of music,” Matt says.”Although it is not a ‘standard’ in the trumpet repertoire, it certainly deserves the title, with all of the different colors it offers to the audience. It’s outer movements demonstrate virtuosic and acrobatic technique, while the inner movement possesses such beauty and sensitivity, thus making it one of my favorite pieces of music to perform.”
Soprano Anna Polum is a native of Kodiak, Alaska, and is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance, studying with Prof. James Doing. She holds degrees in music education and voice performance from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Anna has won or placed in competitions offered by the National Organization of Teachers of Singing in both Alaska and Wisconsin. Recently, she sang Contessa Almaviva in University Opera’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro, and next spring will sing Miss Jessel in University Opera’s production of The Turn of the Screw. For the 2016-2017 season, Anna is the soprano studio artist for Madison Opera and covered the roles of Juliet in the company’s performances of Romeo and Juliet; Chan Parker in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird; and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). She will also sing the role of Papagena in the same production of Die Zauberflöte.
Gounod’s operatic adaption of Romeo & Juliet premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. While Gounod is now better known for Faust, Romeo & Juliet was a bigger success at its premiere, and has stayed in the repertoire for 150 years due to its beautiful music, genuine passion mingled with wit, and exciting fight scenes.
“I covered Juliet with Madison Opera this past November, so this role is fresh for me,” Anna says. “The setting is quite dramatic, especially in the middle recitative section, where Juliet envisions Tybalt’s ghost coming for her and Romeo. Between her fear of losing Romeo and her love for Romeo, she decides to take the poison that Friar Lawrence gives her, claiming ‘je bois a toi!,’ meaning ‘I drink to thee (meaning Romeo).’ I love the dramatic flair to this piece, especially since the rest of the opera is quite mellow, flowing in and out of love duets and party scenes.”
Hong Kong native Shuk-Ki Wong is a doctoral pianist who studies piano performance and pedagogy with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. She was a winner of the 31st Annual Beethoven Piano Competition at UW-Madison as well as the Exhibition Award from Trinity College London, and has appeared as soloist at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong City Hall and Verbrugghen Hall in Australia. During her studies, Shuk-Ki was invited to perform at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and the Asia-Pacific Music Summit, and she has participated in master classes with Colin Stone, Sa Chen, Stephen Savage, Murray McLachlan and Jack Winerock. Shuk-Ki is also on the piano faculty at the School of Professional and Continuing Education in Madison Technical College, where she teaches students with diverse interests and abilities.
Shuk-Ki obtained her bachelor of music degree and diploma of music from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts with the support of the First Initiative Foundation Music Scholarship and Grantham Scholarship. She subsequently received the Molly McAulay Memorial Scholarship to fully support her graduate studies at the University of Sydney, Australia, under the tutelage of Mr. Clemens Leske.
“The brightness, energy, and the blend of ‘light-hearted and brilliant’ qualities and jazz music in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major have drawn my interest, and I am excited to perform this masterpiece with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra,” she says.
New opera sheds light on Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the Baroque’s most respected female painters
By Michael Muckian
Artemisia, the recently completed opera by the University of Wisconsin’s Laura Elise Schwendinger, has been scheduled for its world premiere performance January 7 in New York City as part of Trinity Church Wall Street’s 2016-2017 performance season.
A concert performance from the opera about 17th Century Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi by Schwendinger, professor of music composition at the UW’s Mead Witter School of Music, will be part of the ensemble’s Time’s Arrow Festival. Schwendinger’s composition will be one of four world premieres to be performed during the free concert series. Schwendinger has written large vocal works before, but this is her first opera.
“This is a magnificent group of musicians, and maestro Julian Wachner is a gifted composer and conductor who is always challenging himself,” Schwendinger said. “It is an honor to have my work presented by them.”
The annual festival, which features music spanning three centuries, will take place at St. Paul’s Chapel, located at 209 Broadway. The concert series will help celebrate the 250th anniversary of St. Paul’s, Manhattan’s oldest church whose doors first opened October 30, 1766.
The January performance of Artemisia, co-commissioned by New York’s Trinity Wall Street Novus and San Francisco’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, will feature mezzo-soprano Patricia Green as Artemisia, Marnie Breckenridge as Susanna, baritone Andrew Garland as Tassi and tenor Andrew Fuchs as Tomasso. The performance is free.
“The story of Artemisia hit me when I was an artist-in-residence in Rome (in 2009),” said Schwendinger, who herself paints. “I visited a lot of galleries and was struck by her works, including “Judith Slaying Holofernes.” There weren’t very many acclaimed women painters at the time.”
Schwendinger and librettist Ginger Strand, essayist and author of The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2015), hope that Artemisia will change the historical perception of Gentileschi, who lived from 1593 to 1656.
Schwendinger, the first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize, read a biography of the artist, who like many of her contemporaries worked in the style of Caravaggio. It was during discussions with Strand, a former college art history major who was aware of Artemisia and her work, that the idea of an opera based on her life began to gel.
“This is the kind of project that mixes my love of art with the story of an important women artist,” Schwendinger says. “It’s a nice connection.”
While Gentileschi holds the high honor of being the first female member of Florence’s prestigious Accademia di Arte del Disegno and was a respected artist in her time, history books remembered her more as a teenage victim of rape by her tutor, fellow artist Agostino Tassi.
Following the assault and the older Tassi’s ultimate failure to marry the 16-year-old girl as promised, Gentileschi’s father, the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi, pressed charges against Tassi for taking his daughter’s virginity. The lawsuit, highly unusual for the time, resulted in long, protracted proceedings, during which Gentileschi was subject to gynecological exams and torture to verify her testimony.
The proceedings also revealed a plot by Tassi to murder his wife, adding to the sensationalism of the lawsuit. Tassi eventually was sentenced to one year in prison, but never served any time.
Gentileschi would go on to have a long and successful career, rare for a female painter in her time. But later generations would obscure her contributions to the Baroque period, and some of her work was even attributed to other artists.
In recent years, that perception has begun to shift back, with Gentileschi again credited as one of the period’s greatest painters. Schwendinger hopes her opera can spread Gentileschi’s story, further righting the wrong done to her by historians.
Born in Mexico City to a pair of U.S. foreign exchange students and raised in Berkeley, California, Schwendinger began making up melodies at age 4 and playing the flute at age 8.
When she applied to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to study flute, her application included several compositions as well, which caught the eye of composer John Adams, best known for his operas Doctor Atomic and Nixon in China. He invited her to study composition with him, and she afterward went on to receive both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in music from the University of California-Berkeley, where she studied with her mentor and thesis advisor Andew Imbrie.
Her career has since seen her music played extensively both here and abroad, including at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall in London and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and has been toured as well as recorded by some of the leading musicians of our time, including the singer Dawn Upshaw. She has been a professor at UW-Madison for more than a decade.
The University recently awarded her a $60,000 Kellett Mid-Career Award, a grant sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and awarded to nine other faculty members for the 2016–17 academic year.
Schwendinger also received $16,500 as part of OPERA America’s $200,000 Discovery Grants for Female Composers, awarded to seven women and seven opera companies, which she will use in addition to the Kellett Award to mount upcoming productions of Artemisia. The entire opera will be fully produced by the award-winning Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in San Francisco in 2018.
“I hope that Artemisia resonates with those there and beyond, but that is not something a composer can predict,” Schwendinger said. “The composer creates the best art she can and hopes that it will mean something to the public and move the people who experience it.”
Wisconsin Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society Presents “Wisconsin Day of Percussion”
January 21, 2017 at the Mead Witter School of Music
Hosted by Anthony Di Sanza, professor of percussion, and the UW-Madison Percussion Studio
On January 21, 2017 the Wisconsin chapter of the Percussive Arts Society will present the all-day Wisconsin Day of Percussion in the Humanities Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead-Witter School of Music. The Wisconsin DOP is an annual event, hosted this year by Anthony Di Sanza and the UW-Madison Percussion Studio, that showcases the diversity of percussion, including drum set, Brazilian drumming, marching percussion, orchestral percussion, timpani, cajon, keyboard percussion sight reading, drum circle, and much more.
The day will include multiple performances, clinics, and presentations, starting at 8:30 AM and ending at 7 PM. Percussionists of all experience levels are encouraged to attend. In addition, there will be many sessions that non-percussionist band directors will find helpful to understand and teach the percussive arts. An all-day pass is available for $15 and are purchased at the door.
Headlining the day’s events will be Doug Waddell, who performs with the Chicago Lyric Opera and Grant Park Symphony, and Dave Stanoch, a percussionist with notable singers including George Clinton, Sheryl Crow, and Bonnie Raitt. Stanoch is an alumnus of UW-Madison.
Other concert performers will include the UW-Madison World and Western Percussion Ensembles; the Percussion Ensemble of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra; the College All Star Percussion Ensemble, college soloists and selected high school percussion ensembles.
In addition, a high school and middle school Percussion Ensemble Festival will be held in conjunction with the DOP. University faculty will coach the participating schools in 30 minute sessions, providing each school with a meaningful and rich educational experience.
Each year the DOP is held on one of Wisconsin’s college/university campuses, inviting percussionists of all ages and experiences to attend and participate in the myriad clinics, concerts and presentations. Past DOP events have been held at UW-River Falls, UW-Whitewater, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Oshkosh. The last time the DOP was held on the UW-Madison campus was in 1999, with Professor Emeritus James Latimer serving as host. This was during professor Latimer’s final semester at UW-Madison prior to his retirement after more than three decades of service to the School of Music.
For more information regarding the Wisconsin Day of Percussion and the HS/MS Percussion Ensemble Festival, please visit the Wisconsin PAS home page: