With August nearly here, the music school has quieted down considerably. A few ensembles are smart, however, to schedule their performances for this interim period when the competition for audiences is scant.
First up is the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (IVE), which received attention today from Well-Tempered Ear blogger Jake Stockinger, who acknowledged the heavy UW-Madison School of Music influences in the ensemble. The IVE’s concerts are Friday, August 2 at 7:30 pm (Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue) and Sunday, August 4 at 3 pm. Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road. Tickets are $15 adults/$10 students and seniors. On the program: masterworks by Bach, Brahms, Mahler, Sweelinck, and Britten.
Jake interviewed founder Scott MacPherson, a former faculty member at our school who now resides in Ohio as director of choral activities at Kent State University and returns to Madison every summer to rehearse with the group. Jake writes: “This summer’s concerts, mostly a cappella although some pieces have organ accompaniment, are coming up this weekend on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Especially noteworthy is how the group emphasizes talent with local and regional ties -– the singers, the conductor, even the instrumentals and the composers. Many are alumni of the University of Wisconsin-School of Music.” One of those alumna is alto Linda Kachelmeier, a member of the Minneapolis-based Rose Ensemble, a 2005 recipient of the Chorus America Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and first prize winner in both sacred and secular music categories at the 2012 Tolosa Choral Contest in Spain.
You can read much more about the IVE in Jake’s post:
A couple of weeks ago, we received an email from a friend who sings in the ensemble who is particularly excited about the upcoming performances:
” Just been reviewing our music for this seasons Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (rehearsals start tomorrow). My god, this is fabulous stuff. Some Brahms that is absolutely sublime in its subtle nature of melody and chordal harmony. Ich lasse dich nicht by Bach is a wonderful double chorus thing. Very exciting. And an early music piece by the Flemish Sweelinck is just so much fun (in two choruses), in French! Got some Mahler in there and a couple of modern things too. This chorus – lauded by the critics of this town – is a direct result of the Fountain program at the UW. The conductor and music director (Scott McPherson) coming out of that tradition and the choral members being a core of singers from that era. You should meet him. I think that you would take pleasure in our concert this year, first weekend in August. So, two weeks of immersion chorus and we are there!”
Next up: Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, another seasonal group comprised of local students, assembled and conducted by UWSOM violist Mikko Utevsky. The concert will feature a brand-new composition by UW-SOM graduate Jerry Hui plus the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, performed by Ansel Norris, two-time first prize winner at the National Trumpet Competition and now a student at Northwestern University. Also on the program will be Vivaldi’s Oboe Concerto for Violin and Oboe (transcribed for trumpet, performed by Norris and his brother, UW-SOM graduate Alexander Norris) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. One performance, Friday, August 9, 7:30 pm, at Music Hall.
Never heard of the Color Field Festival? Well, here’s your chance to explore new shades of contemporary music, including a UWSOM vocal workshop and two performances by Madison’s Clocks in Motion percussion ensemble.
We received word of a special event happening in September, sent by Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, a soprano and member of the five-person Color Field Ensemble, a group devoted to contemporary music consisting of Bartlett; saxophonist James Fusik; pianist Karl Larson; percussionist Owen Weaver; and Jeff Weston, composer and string bassist. Here is what Amanda sent to us:
On September 4-7, the Color Field Ensemble returns to Madison to present their fourth annual Color Field Festival for Contemporary Music. Performances will take place at the Frequency, Audio for the Arts, and the Capitol Square. The 2013 festival will feature the performances of four newly commissioned works for the Color Field Ensemble as well as sets by the Anubis Saxophone Quartet from Chicago, the TIGUE Percussion Trio from New York City, Clocks in Motion from Madison, and the Brothers Grimm from Madison. A call for scores has also be release for pieces from Wisconsin student composers.
Currently in its fourth year, the Color Field Festival brings composers and performers from around the country to Madison. The purpose of bringing these creative minds together is both to create a rich cultural event in the city of Madison and to provide young musicians and composers with an opportunity to meet, collaborate, and build lasting professional relationships. Curated by the members of the Color Field Ensemble, the Color Field Festival ties together the group’s outreach, performance, and commissioning goals into a multi-faceted new music event.
About our Festival
The Color Field Ensemble formed in Bowling Green, Ohio, but the members are from around the country – Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin. We believe that good music should spread and be heard by as wide of an audience as possible, so early on we made touring a priority. We’ve toured the Midwest four times, and love exposing the music of living composers to our home states.
Karl Larson, the pianist of the Color Field Ensemble, was born and raised in Madison, WI, and still has strong ties to the area. His parents live in McFarland, and long-time friends runs the music program at his former high school. In fact, his father, Ron Larson, is a local historian, specializing in the history of the area, and we’ve loved learning about the region.
Before we organized our first festival in Madison, we performed at Bethel Lutheran Church, and the ensemble was so charmed by Madison, we decided to plan a whole festival in the city, celebrating new classical music and introducing artists from around the country to a town we’ve come to love.
This year, we’re bringing artists from Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Minot, and Omaha to work with amazing Madison-based groups. The only problem? Every time we bring groups of musicians to town, they want to come back the next year! We’ve had a lot of repeat guests… : )
Wednesday, September 4 @ the UW Music Hall (free event)
3:30 PM – Workshop with Prof. Mimmi Fulmer’s voice studio members. Members of the Color Field Ensemble discuss contemporary performance techniques and music entrepreneurship.
Thursday, September 5 @ the Frequency:
7:00 PM – The TIGUE Percussion Trio performs original works and Rob Honstein’s An Index of Possibility.
8:00 PM – Color Field Ensemble, TIGUE Percussion Trio, and Clocks in Motion perform Aaron Siegel’s Science is Only Sometimes Friend.
Friday, September 6 @ Audio for the Arts:
7:00 PM – Clocks in Motion perform works by Steve Reich, John Cage, and Marc Mellits.
8:00 PM – The Color Field Ensemble performs new works by Ryan Carter, Ravi Kittappa, and Chris Cerrone. Also, premiere of the winning piece of the student composer call-for-scores.
Saturday, September 7 @ the Capitol Square (free event):
12:00 PM – The Color Field Ensemble performs Anthony Marasco’s new composition derived from Twitter feeds.
Saturday, September 7 @ the Frequency:
7:00 PM – The Brothers Grimm perform a set of original material.
8:00 PM – The Anubis Saxophone Quartet performs music by Donatoni, Reich, and Weber.
About the Ensembles:
The Color Field Ensemble is dedicated to the creation, performance, and promotion of contemporary classical music. We commission, perform, and curate music of the 21st century by emerging composers from diverse artistic frameworks, focusing on multi-disciplinary experiences and works which reflect the interrelationship between the visual and performing arts. (www.colorfieldensemble.com)
We define ourselves as a post-modern chamber ensemble. Rather than conforming to a single aesthetic sensibility, the Color Field Ensemble commissions and performs works by artists and composers operating in a wide variety of genres and artistic philosophies. By doing so, it is our intention to enrich the American contemporary music society by continuing to break down stylistic barriers between various schools of composition and performance.
Anubis Quartet is dedicated to reshaping the saxophone quartet genre and reconceptualizing the way listeners experience the instrument through contemporary music. The quartet acts as a performer, presenter, and educator; through hands-on collaborations with composers, inventive programming and curating, and a business structure as a publicly supported nonprofit arts organization, Anubis Quartet forges a model to meet the demands of 21stcentury artists and composers while engaging new audiences with the saxophone through groundbreaking new works. (www.anubisquartet.com)
From instruments to garbage; from the composed to the improvised, TIGUE Percussion is focused on creating new sounds in every way. TIGUE is the latest project by percussionists Matt Evans, Amy Garapic, and Carson Moody. Founded in early 2012, TIGUE presents new compositions by themselves and their contemporaries through a lens of percussive elements. The three members have performed together extensively over the past 6 years during their studies together at The Ohio State University and the Eastman School of Music, highlighted by performances at PASIC and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This season, TIGUE has appeared at Spectrum, the Contagious Sounds Series at the Gershwin Hotel, and as guest soloists with Ensemble Contemporaneous.
Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion performs new music, builds many of its own instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program. With a fearless and uncompromising ear to programming challenging and adventurous contemporary percussion ensemble repertoire, Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts which involve performance art, theater, and often the construction of new instruments. (www.clocksinmotionpercussion.com)
For over a decade the Brothers Grimm have been performing string music together on Guitar, Cello, and Chinese string instruments. Separately, Brian studied Chinese music in Hong Kong and AJ studied Flamenco in Granada, Spain. They draw upon these experiences in addition to contemporary classical music forming flexible approaches in composition and improvisation practices.
Everyone says that summer is slower at the UW-Madison School of Music. Don’t believe them. June was the month of the two-week-long Summer Music Clinic. July is the Early Music Festival. Sandwiched in between them was a national award given to bassist Richard Davis, longtime professor of jazz here and director of the Black Music Ensemble, a student group that performs repertoire of black composers. Added to that is an award given just this week to Stephanie Jutt, UW-Madison professor of flute and co-founder of Bach Dancing & Dynamite, the three-week music festival that concluded two week ago. Jutt is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
We’ve already featured the SMC and we’ll offer up a story about Prof. Davis sometime soon. Meanwhile, Prof. Jutt has received the Margaret Rupp Cooper Award from MSO, “presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship.” The other winner is MSO hornist Bill Muir. Congratulations to all!
Back on campus, the 14th edition of the Madison Early Music Festival (“A Festive Celebration of the German Renaissance”) is underway and continues until Friday night. The Festival is based at the UW-Madison School of Music, and orchestrated by our own Chelcy Bowles (recently featured in the Wisconsin State Journal’s “Know Your Madisonian“), a harpist and Professor of Music and Director of Continuing Education in Music; Paul Rowe, baritone, Professor of Voice; and soprano and Grammy award winner Cheryl Bensman-Rowe. Each of the three bring impressive credentials, which you can read here.
The festival has already received extensive press coverage and full houses for its many offerings, which include Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, July 6; Parthenia: A Consort of Viols, July 7; Handel Aria Competition, July 8; The Dark Horse Consort, July 9; MEMF Participant Concert, July 11, 1 pm; Calmus Ensemble Leipzig, July 11, 7:30 pm; and All-Festival Concert, July 12, 7:30 pm. There are also multiple workshops and lectures. Obviously, several have already taken place, but you can still catch the Calmus Ensemble on Thursday night and the All-Festival Concert on Friday.
One of the highlights of the fest was the Handel Aria Competition, the first ever held at MEMF, sponsored by local businessfolk Dean and Carol (“Orange”) Schroeder. The competition was designed to encourage vocalists to explore the music of George Frideric Handel, and offered prizes from $1000 to $500 for first, second, and third places, respectively. Both local newsweekly Isthmus and blogger Jake Stockinger put time into reviewing this event; you can read their thoughts below.
In addition, WISC-TV Channel 3 produced a special segment about the festival for their “Live at Five” show. Click the link to watch. “Live at Five”
The SOM congratulates the organizers of and donors to the MEMF for all their efforts, and the competition winners and finalists as well. While School of Music vocal alumna Saira Frank (MM, 2008)was not among the winners, she received a nice compliment from Isthmus reviewer Marie Loeffler, who wrote: “One of the evening’s highlights was soprano Saria Frank’s precise technical work in “A Ruggiero crudel…Ombre Pallide” from Alcina, which featured beautiful intonation on the scales. Frank also commanded complex rhythmic passages, notably the measured dotted eighth notes that appear throughout “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s famous Messiah.” Saira will next appear with the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee during Festa Italiana on the Summerfest grounds, July 19-21.
“Talent to burn.” That’s how Barnaby Rayfield referred to UW’s Laura Schwendinger, composer of contemporary classical music, in his January 2013 feature story about her in Fanfare, the classical music magazine. And that was before her new CD had come out.
Now, with its debut on Centaur Records, the advance reviews are in, and very positive. While Rayfield had referred to Schwendinger’s music as “not girly music” (meant as a compliment), Fanfare’s Colin Clarke said: “I would go further and add an emphatic this is ‘so not girly music.’ Punchy, imaginative, subtle, stirring, evocative … all these terms apply. She studied with John Adams, which doesn’t seem to have harmed her much. Schwendinger’s music is worth more than anything Adams has churned out so far.”
Schwendinger’s CD, “High Wire Acts,” is comprised of a five-movement chamber work of the same name performed by the Oklahoma-based ensemble Brightmusic, as well as “Nonet,” performed by the Chicago Chamber Musicians;“Sonata for Solo Violin,” played by Katie Wolfe; and “Two Little Whos,” performed by husband and wife team Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould and Matt Gould. “High Wire Acts” was composed in 2002, and also has been performed by eighth blackbird, the Grammy-winning new music ensemble, among many other groups.
In his Fanfare review, Rayfield offered his views of why “High Wire Acts” works so well. “…It is her unusual pairing of instruments that intrigues; flute and cello, violin and guitar. Poise, structure, lyricism. ‘Nonet’ is a riot of colorful trills, with Schwendinger’s demonstrating a wonderful ear for clarity of texture and balance. The second movement (suitably tagged ‘Tenderly’) is an assured and poised work of beauty and color that really ought to be better known.”
In a review of eighth blackbird’s performance, Chicago Tribune music critic JohnVon Rhein wrote: ” ‘High Wire Acts’ achieved more by attempting less. Inspired by the wire circus figures of sculptor Alexander Calder, the four character portraits, with their high twitterings, undulating arpeggios and rippling figurations, evinced an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft. The piece was beautifully played by eighth blackbird.”
The Washington Post’s Joe Banno also enjoyed “High Wire Acts,” performed in Washington D.C. at a Kennedy Center concert of the Left Bank Concert Society. He wrote, “[Schwendinger’s] harmonically free-ranging, tintinnabulary scoring — with its canny use of violin harmonics and flute phrases played directly into the open piano, to suggest aerialists in flight — evokes Stravinsky’s early ballets.”
Schwendinger, who came to UW from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2005, is savoring this moment, which dates to 2002 when she first wrote High Wire Act. “It’s taken ten long years but it has left me with a sense of accomplishment. I’m proud and honored to be in such company.” she says. Over the years, she’s won many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy in Berlin Prize (she was the first composer ever awarded the prize), and a Romnes Faculty Fellowship from UW-Madison. In 2010, her music colleagues nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize in composition.
Many iconoclastic chamber groups have performed Schwendinger’s music, including the Europe-based Arditti Quartet, which premiered a string quartet in 2003, and now the “alt-classical” JACK Quartet out of New York City, frequent performers at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. With JACK, she’s now recording two quartets, financed by two grants from NewMusicUsA and Ditson.
At UW, Schwendinger directs the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, which offers UW musicians opportunities to play newer music; at last spring’s concert, the program included a performance of Schwendinger’s “The Violinists in My Life” by Eleanor Bartsch, a 2011 SOM grad and current member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, to whom the first movement was dedicated. Bartsch will return to UW this fall as a Collins Fellow, working toward her master’s degree.
It’s not the first time UW-Madison has been featured prominently. Last year, Albany Records released “Three Works,” a CD of three concertos for, separately, cello, violin, and flute, performed by a student and faculty Sinfonietta and the UW-Madison Chamber Orchestra conducted by James Smith. The soloists were Matt Haimovitz on cello, Curtis Macomber on violin, and Christina Jennings on flute.
Future UW collaborations include a recording of “Song for Andrew” (a quartet performed in 2010 by the New Juilliard Ensemble and premiered by UW’s Sally Chisholm and Young Nam Kim in Minnesota) with professor/pianist Christopher Taylor, plus a recording of the song “Sudden Light” with the JACK quartet and soprano alumna Jamie Van Eyck.
Schwendinger also sponsors visits by other notable performers of contemporary classical music; for this next year, those will include two appearances by musicians from the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa as well as Michael Norsworthy, clarinet professor at the Boston Conservatory and another champion of new music. (The CNM is scheduled to perform at Mills on September 21 and April 11; Norsworthy on October 20.)
Working on “The Violinists in My Life” was an “amazing experience,” says Eleanor Bartsch. “I feel a special connection to the piece, not only because the first movement was written for me, but also because through Laura’s unique musical language, I feel I am easily able to express my own personal voice.”
For the final two weeks in June, UW-Madison was host to a horde of teenage music enthusiasts at the annual Summer Music Clinic who honed their music chops during lessons, rehearsals and concerts while forming friendships and cultivating new ideas. Camp counselor Jacob Wolbert, an incoming senior in percussion who was one of last spring’s Concerto Competition winners, offered to chronicle events and, while doing so, found himself considering just how much the camp means to him personally. Jacob’s now in Rio de Janeiro, studying Brazilian culture and music in preparation for writing a thesis on samba music. Fanfare wishes to thank Jacob for all his thoughtful commentary.
“Today, I had the privilege of hearing Peter Deneen, a band teacher from Traverse City, inspire his Michigan Band students before their final concert at Summer Music Clinic. Deneen drew from two relentless pursuers of excellence: Vince Lombardi and Ludwig van Beethoven. At one point, Lombardi told his Green Bay Packers, the best football team of the era, “…we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” Meanwhile, Beethoven once said that “Power is the moral principle of those who excel…” As Deneen shared these two quotes, I watched as the middle schoolers sat with their eyes wide open, their mouths closed, completely enraptured, in the cavernous rehearsal room. Subsequently, the campers, after playing together as a band for only ten hours of their lives, proceeded to Mills Hall to astonish the audience. Their parents, family, and friends gave a vigorous standing ovation, bringing Deneen back on stage twice.
“Pete Deneen represents just one of the many world-class music educators making up the faculty of the UW Summer Music Clinic, but his credo transcends to the entire program. SMC excels symbiotically, in the sense that every contingent of the camp helps one another in striving for excellence. Some of this help is more evident, such as the instruction of campers by teachers, or the properties staff providing instruments, chairs, and music for every class. The campers, although in a lower position of authority, help everyone else just by enthusiastically making music, learning, and having fun. As an ensemble assistant, I have grown from the help of these campers, whether they know it or not. In helping eager, young percussionists, I see their mental gears turning as they adjust their posture in playing bass drum or their stick height for the snare drum. This, in turn, informs me on how others learn and how I can teach.
“What makes these kids special is that they honestly want to learn more during this week, a week that for many of them is one of the first of their summer. Many campers that I have talked to during meals or free time tell me how they can’t wait to play or sing in their ensembles, but also relate their excitement for non-performance classes, such as Jazz Legends, Music Theory, or Yoga for Musicians. The soon-to-be eighth graders I worked with approached music with a maturity beyond their years. Although they sometimes showed their young age during free time, one could barely tell when they executed such difficult repertoire as Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby or Frank Ticheli’s Abracadabra. Whether listening to Pete Deneen share his wisdom on how to perform well (“People come to see concerts, not to hear them”) or to counselors telling them the procedure for checking out (“Don’t forget to fold your comforters and put them at the foot of your bed”), the campers listened, and this was reflected in their excellence over the week.
“One of the yearly traditions of SMC, the student recital, offers the campers both the opportunity of dazzling their peers with their talents, as well as learning concert etiquette as a means of expressing respect and friendship. Jacob Rose, an eighth-grade trumpet player from Heritage Christian Academy in Maple Grove, Minnesota, spoke with me on the experience of playing in this recital. It took Jacob about four months to prepare G. F. Handel’s Aria con Variazione, and even after this time, he was very nervous to play in front of three hundred fellow middle school musicians. However, he highly valued the experience and used his years singing in a choir to combat the natural stage fright. (For the record, Jacob’s performance sent chills down my spine.) For this brilliant young musician with such high potential, the most irksome part of Jacob’s experience was having to wait in the vestibule as other students performed. He plans to continue playing trumpet all of his life and emphasized that he trusts his private teacher with helping to achieve his goals.
“Jacob Rose’s seemingly innocuous comment on trust sheds light on one of the main pillars in achieving the excellence that Pete Deneen was referring to when talking to the Michigan Band. For the collective whole of the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic to excel, every contingent has to trust each other and work together. In doing so, the campers, counselors, staff, and faculty all reach a heightened sense of what is important in life, and express the power of music to the utmost extent.
“If the junior session of SMC achieves excellence, then the senior session raises the stakes. Although the age difference between the weeks can be as small as one year, the maturity witnessed of the high schoolers really leaves a lasting impression. This year, I encountered some returning campers for whom it was their first time attending the second week; I had been their counselor last year when they were about to enter high school. Apart from being taller and visibly older, the kids’ ability level ascended dramatically, making them able to tackle such gargantuan repertoire as Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony or Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino. Assisting in the Georgia Orchestra with Michael Alexander, I greatly enjoyed watching the progression of the orchestra from stumbling through note accuracy and rhythms on the first day (although not nearly as sloppily as the first-week campers) to acing the tricky violin runs and brass bombardments on the day of the concert. By Friday, the group honestly sounded like a world-class youth orchestra that had played together for many months. Mr. Alexander encouraged this level of musicianship, stressing on the first day that note accuracy would come naturally, but the mature communication required of seasoned orchestras was a skill that had to be actively cultivated in order to excel. Again, one should detect the pattern of excellence among the exceptional conductors who attend this camp.
“During the high school week student recital, I had the chance to talk to Anne Aley. The director of SMC, Anne’s hard work (along with that of her co-director, Julie Welbourne) has provided tens of thousands of kids (myself included) with the most memorable week of their summers, year after year. Watching the masterful performances (some of these kids, although not old enough to drive or vote, would fit right in in collegiate music studios), Anne turned to me and remarked how amazing the change was between the first and second week, but not necessarily in terms of musicianship. Along with having more years at their instruments, the kids have also fomented a stage presence, a professional demeanor, and a captivating sense of communicating the importance in their music to the audience. This concert also sent chills down my spine, but for different reasons.
“This musical communication, while potentially the most visible change between the two weeks, is also what makes the counseling staff such a cohesive, caring unit. Ben and Allison Jaeger, the dorm supervisors and heads of the counseling staff, stress that we open ourselves up to each other, to the kids, and to the camp, sharing what makes us special and extraordinary human beings. While this level of communication may be easy for some of the virtuosic musician counselors to achieve in playing and performing, it can be very hard to bare your soul to those around you on an interpersonal level. Our supervisors trust us to reveal as much of ourselves as we see fit, and this results in counselors helping the kids and each other as we traverse the uncertainties of the world. For many counselors, college has just started, just ended or will be ending soon, and the transitional statuses can make it difficult to cement an identity. Luckily, our belief in each other, and especially in the campers, carries us through our own self-doubt and makes us strong, helping us put aside any negativity in our own lives to just be there for the campers. Over the past two weeks, our staff formed a strong bond, one that left a lasting impact on everyone involved. The kids could see this too, and many of those eligible filed prospective counselor forms for next summer.
“In a world of doubt, turmoil, and anxiety-inducing events occurring almost daily, the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic represents a breath of fresh air. For the students who attend, this means that they can finally have an open musical dialogue with their kindred spirits, free of judgment or prejudice. For the staff, this means that for two weeks, they can build a family and learn valuable life lessons in selflessness. For everyone, excellence is the result of total communication and we are able to say the most powerful things in the world. I hope to continue communicating with you through music next year at the 2014 UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic.”