Hunter S. Thompson teaches us that “the music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” But I live in a simpler musical world, a non-business facet where I get to play because I just like to, and some of the nicest people I’ve ever known are here with me. The music groups represented on this site receive help from many people; without that help, we could neither exist nor perform. I therefore tender gratitude to
ALL THE PARENTS for rearranging your schedules, clapping at performances, schlepping and hauling (especially parents with vans), and most of all for loaning me your offspring for another year. A special thanks to The Roisums and The Walkers, who as usual have gone well above and far beyond.
THE PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS who have shared rehearsal space and equipment, and trained the fine young musicians who play in these groups. And extra thanks to those who have performed with us: it is a glory and a wonder to find so many of you willing to share your talents by taking the stage with us. We thank:
JERRY HROVAT, for his superb reed skills and his calming presence
BRIAN VANDERBLOEMEN, for contributing hot sax lix, and for being there when we really need him
ANNE NICHOLS, for purposely inviting some of us to perform in public with her
MICHELLE NAEGELE, for smokin’ French horn work, for graciously allowing the AITDJB to rehearse in her band room, and for wearing the hat
BEN PETERSEN, for many things:
Giving us access to school instruments,
Loaning music stands to the Solstice Brass,
Loaning whole musicians to the float in the Family Festival parade,
Sitting in with the Dixie band to ride herd on Alex, and especially for
Graciously allowing the AITDJB to rehearse in his band room
THE MCFARLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Dr. Jim Hickey, for offering unbelievable support from, and access to, MHS
Jeff Mahoney, for trusting me, year after year, with your PA equipment
The MHS custodians, who remain cheerful and helpful even when we run late or get noisy
EVERYONE WHO HAS GIVEN US PERFORMANCE VENUES, ADVERTISING SPACE, OR FRIENDLY SUPPORT
ARLYN HALVORSON, for once again offering us a trailer to ride on, and a truck to pull it in the Family Festival/Homecoming parade – and for driving the truck without seeing any conflict of interest, even though he’s President of the School Board. And, this year, for building us an Instant Stage(TM).
THE MCFARLAND STATE BANK, for giving the SB a place to play indoors when the weather was cold, and for offering us cookies
NAZARETH HOUSE and HARMONY HOUSE, for providing us with captive audiences and a chance to play our Christmas tunes one last time, once we’d finally gotten pretty good at them
THE MCFARLAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, for Christmas in the Village, and for the not-to-be-sneezed-at opportunity to play metal instruments outdoors in really cold weather by a big fire
THE MCFARLAND FAMILY FESTIVAL, for offering the AITDJB two venues in a single weekend
THE HENRY VILAS ZOO, for inviting us back to perform at their fundraising event this year, even after what happened last year
BARNES AND NOBLE MADISON WEST, for optimism
MCFARLAND TRUE VALUE HARDWARE, for really wanting us
THE MADISON PARKS SYSTEM, for “30 on the Square”, which is a great place to capture listeners
The many LOCAL BUSINESSES who have been kind enough to allow us to hang advertising flyers in their windows. Thanks particularly to the McFarland Thistle for running our performance announcements, and to the MHS Marquis Masters. Thanks to the Wisconsin State Journal for free access to its “Rhythm” section, and to Google.com for this Web site.
The 2008 Wind in the Reeds at the
McFarland State Bank. L to R:
Isis Leonard, Gena Roisum, Maia Perez
who performed with us in 2009 for the first time:
Sam Bussan, Tyler McGraw, Scott Orme, Heather Traska, Alex Walker, and Nancy Walsh-Boeder
And finally, to all
THE RETURNING MUSICIANS
I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you, but I will try never to stop. Thanks to
Jerry Hrovat, Michael Jaggers, Autumn Leonard, Isis Leonard, Michelle Naegele, Glenn Nielsen, Beau Peregoy, Frank Ransley, Gena Roisum, Becky Rush, Ally Schmaling, Sara Siegmann, Brian Vanderbloemen, and Kolin Walker.
My heartfelt thanks to the many fine musicians who have given so enthusiastically of their talents and time to make these groups a success: ten years of the AITDJB, ten years of the Solstice Brass, seven years of The Wind in the Reeds, and intermittent bursts of Second String. It is always a delight to perform with you, and frequently to rehearse with you: age cannot wither you, nor custom stale your infinite variety. Farewell ’til the next chart.
ZACH STASZEWSKI AS “NICELY NICELY”
ON TOP OF THE WORLD IN THE
2005 MHS PRODUCTION OF “GUYS AND DOLLS”
Half of the 2010 Blue Notes
20 DECEMBER 2010:
BLUE NOTES GET INVITED
The MHS Blue Notes Vocal Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Anne Nichols, will compete in the annual Silver Stage Invitational show choir contest on Saturday 15 January 2011.
The event runs from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM, and will be held at Monona Grove High School. Among the Blue Notes are AITDJB members Michael Jaggers, Heather Traska, and Alex Walker.
MHS 2010 PIT OCHESTRA – “CURTAINS”
ANNE, MICHELLE, AUTUMN, QUINN, GLENN
Photo courtesy of Rod Johnson
13 DECEMBER 2010:
MUSIC FROM AMERICA
The MHS winter band concert (we dasn’t call it the “Christmas” concert) may seem an unlikely venue for a program showcasing American music, but this evening’s MHS band concert showed that the combination can work. The three bands performed an entertaining mixture of seasonal and national works.
(SB 2008, 2010)
obtained some very nice ensemble playing from the Concert Band. Her young musicians were clearly paying attention to one another, displaying coordinated changes in dynamics and good balance between sections. Kudos to standout clarinetist Westin Burke. Here’s the band’s program:
Cumberland Cross, by Carl Strommen
A Walk in the Morning Sun, by Pierre LaPlante
I’ll Be Home For Christmas, arr. Erik Morales
Jaggers gets in the zone
The Symphonic Band is too small. This is the fault of the MHS block schedule, of course. The change from a 7 or 8 period school day to one of 4 blocks with “skinnies” means that most classes are now offered during only one time slot, forcing whole masses of students into identical scheduling molds and depriving them of much of their freedom to choose classes they want rather than accepting those they can get. A secondary result was that when MHS adopted the block, it had to split instrumental music students into three bands instead of two; the alternative would have been to simply deny some students the opportunity to play an instrument. With each passing year it becomes increasingly obvious that a school our size cannot support three full bands.
This year’s Symphonic Band is the most painful example so far: it has only 25 members, one third of whom play flute. There are two trombones and one horn – not enough to cover the parts in a standard score. There are no clarinets at all, and of course none of the instruments that add richness and color to the tonal palette: no bassoon, oboe, bass clarinet, or bari sax.
Despite the groups crippling limitations, director
(AITDJB FamFest 2009)
has managed to find scores he can tackle, or somehow wrangle into a shape that the group, to some approximation, perform. The students themselves played admirably at this concert, especially lone French horn Clara Mcgowan and, of course, trumpet
(AITDJB 2009 – 2010; Solstice Brass 2010). But it seems to me that this whole cohort of musicians is being denied the full experience of performing in a complete ensemble.
Here’s what they played, with links to some recordings I made. The LaPlante piece sounded peculiar without clarintes, but note Mr. Jaggers’ fine “Shenandoah” solo.
American Riversongs, by Pierre LaPlante
New Wade ‘N Water, by Adolphus Hailstork
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, in a nifty 5/4 arrangement by Ed Huckeby
Ben Petersen also directed the better’staffed Wind Ensemble, which gave particularly fine accounts of the familiar Sousa and Anderson scores in their program. Jack Stamp’s arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner is more creative and less stunt-oriented than some of his other work, and the band clearly enjoyed its intensity. Wind Ensemble’s portion of the concert opened with a percussion piece, directed by
Brian Vanderbloemen (AITDJB 2005 – 2010);
it featured performers in the aisles, and lots of Lief Larson action. Here’s the whole program:
Kabe, a percussion feature by J. Michael Roy
The Star-SPangled Banner, arragned by Jack Stamp
The Pathfinder of Panama, by John Philip Sousa
The Blue and the Grey, by Clare Grundman
A Christmas Festival, setting by Leroy Anderson
PLAYIN’ ON THE GRASS: SOLSTICE BRASS 2001
L to R: JONATHAN ALDEN, AUTUMN LEONARD, QUINN LEONARD
6 DECEMBER 2010:
CHRISTMAS IN THE VILLAGE, AND ELSEWHERE
Solstice Brass 2010: L to R: Quinn Leonard, Autumn Leonard, Michelle Naegele, Michael Jaggers, Frank Ransley
There was no Wind in the Reeds group this year; all the Winds graduated and went off to college. But the Solstice Brass fielded this mighty lineup:
Frank Ransley, trumpet
Michael Jaggers, trumpet
Michelle Naegele, French horn
Autumn Leonard, Euphonium and trombone
Quinn Leonard, Tuba and euphonium
We were happy to perform at the McFarland State Bank as Santa’s Little Backup Band, on the morning of Saturday 4 December; Anne Nichols brought all the best and coolest of her choir students to sing carols there, too, and we accompanied them on some. Saturday was Christmas in the Village, so that evening we made music at the bonfire and treelighting ceremony, playing until our valves seized.
As part of this year’s reduced schedule, The Solstice Brass also performed at the Nazareth House and Harmony care facilities this weekend.
The weedend’s musical lineup finished with the 87th annual Madison Capitol Christmas Pageant, always a comforting and pleasant experience. As usual McFarland singers carried much of the weight, with Anne Nichols conducting, and Michael Jaggers among the rank and file.
CAPITOL CHRISTMAS PAGEANT 2005
Including ZACH STASZEWSKI, ANDREA BAKUNOWICZ,
and hundreds of their adoring fans
(“Follow the Voice”)
29 NOVEMBER 2010:
ALLY ON HOLST
Also during Kenyon’s Family Weekend in October,
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010)
and her group Colla Voce sang Holst’s lovely setting of
Ave Maria. The link gets you a QuickTime video of the performance, courtesy of Susan Schmaling; higher resolution versions are also available.
BASSOON RECITAL 2008
Choreographer Jaggers, managing his flock
22 NOVEMBER 2010:
A SPECIAL KIND OF PEOPLE
“There’s a special kind of of people known as show people,” sings Lt. Frank Cioffi in the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, at a moment when mayhem and bad reviews have left the show-within-a-show characters feeling downhearted. “They live in a world full of dreams . . . ” For three evenings last week, during the MHS Drama Department’s production of Curtains, some of McFarland’s own talented show people gave the rest of us an opportunity to share their dream.
The genre of the musical comedy mystery is not well attested; Curtains may prove to be the type specimen. The plot turns upon the troubles of people in the business, if not necessarily on the boards – most of the speaking roles are producers, directors, financiers, and so forth. For those needing it, there’s a pretty good
synopsis of “Curtains” at the online Guide to Musical Theater.
Heather Traska, as Carmen Bernstein
telling everyone the Way Things Will Be
A disclaimer: This year I was privileged to be a member of the pit orchestra for the show, under the direction of
(AITDJB 2005 – 2007, 2009),
McFarland’s musical nonpareil. The other musicians in the orchestra were wonderful; no one could ask for a nicer, more talented group of people. The music was a hoot, and I had the time of my life. However, my view from the pit was restricted to scenes played on the apron, so I neccessarily missed a lot of the show. I therefore cannot comment, by and large, on costumes, sets, lighting, blocking, business, etc. But when I wasn’t playing, I could hear the show very well. It was, mostly, a great delight.
(AITDJB 2009 – 2010)
has already proved that he can sing; now we see that he can act, too. And he can learn. His portrayal of talented, lovelorn choreographer Bobby Pepper improved each evening, becoming steadily more clean and assured with each performance. His musical abilities and onstage poise develop each year, making him exactly the sort of sophomore the drama program should want. After his strong performance in this large supporting role, I look forward to the leads he may be expected to land as an upperclassman.
took on the brassy role of Carmen Bernstein, and it is impossible to imagine anyone else at MHS who would be up to it. Carmen is a powerful songstress, a force of nature in the theater, ruthlessly good-hearted, and, as the song goes, seldom in doubt about what she feels. Remind you of anyone? Heather has the voice and presence to carry it all off.
Bakunowicz and Bristol:
A tough act to follow
Barry Bakunowicz is a true triple threat (the good kind, not the Jessica Cranshaw kind): equally adept at dancing, singing, and acting. He gave a warm, natural, and eminently charming performance as Lt. Cioffi, managing a very wordy role with apparent ease and a consistent, intelligent delivery. The part’s baritone range suited him well, and of course he sang like a master crooner. He even does good Fosse hands. Late in the second act, Ms. Traska’s Carmen pays Cioffi the compliment of calling him “one of us.” She could have been talking about Mr. Bakunowicz. For my money, he’s Show People.
Hayley Bristol’s portrayal of ingénue Niki Harris was graced with countless small details, from her pronunciation of the word “silly” to the precise angle at which she leaned forward when radiating earnestness, all skillfully adduced to the creation of a character so wholesome, and with such an open heart, that I for one never suspected her of being the murderer. I do not know Ms. Bristol personally, but what I do suspect her of is being both smarter and deeper than Niki Harris, and maybe just as nice; otherwise, she could not have played her so well: she showed such clear understanding of the role as a whole, and of each line in particular, that it was a pleasure simply to hear her speak. And she has a lovely soprano singing voice.
Alyse Weber shows the other
gals how to move it thataway
Alyse Weber has grown with each new role she’s brought to the MHS stage. Her performance as Georgia Hendricks was confident and capable, the product of a strong actress who has worked at her craft and learned to marshal her natural talent. Every Senior class has performers who will be particularly missed; Ms. Weber is one of these.
Anne Nichols co-directed the show with Eric Brehm, and also presented the role of conductor Sasha Iljinsky, whose main point of character development was a hunger for chowder. At any attempt to describe Ms. Nichols’ accent, words fail and wither away. It is also difficult to find terms fit to describe George Spelvin’s performance as Christopher Belling, director of the encapsulated play, a man who may have heard of self-restraint but wants no truck with it. I can, however, say without compunction that I do not believe Mr. Spelvin should be a student at MHS – though I am at a loss to suggest in which direction his maturity disqualifies him. (“George Spelvin” is the traditional pseudonym used in printed programs when an actor’s real name would, if given, tip off the audience to mechanics of the production that affect drama; it is also used by slumming Equity actors trying to avoid a bust. But there is no doubt in my mind that the man treading the MHS boards was the real an unimpeachable George Spelvin, for I knew him of old).
Kudos to Kate Zobel for her work in the role of the gender-swapped stage manager Jenny Harmon, not least for sustaining That Voice without doing herself any lasting harm. (Could the characteristic have been based upon another well-known backstage personality?) But Zobel’s Harmon was more than a single actorly tic; she was a character, and a unique one in the way she was not caught up in everybody else’s giddiness. The other characters’ pairings-off didn’t trouble, nor did murder and seqestration affect her routine in the slightest. Whether it’s riding actors to make a timely costume change, or herding suspects to comply with Cioffi’s latest police procedure, it’s all in a stage manager’s job description. Of the various murders, Ms. Zobel’s was the only one I was sorry occurred.
Praise is due Bridget Schwefel for her irrepressible, constantly optimistic performance as Bambi. Also, to Mallory Radney for singing so badly so well, a nontrivial feat. She was perfectly awful.
Now, our friends in the pit orchestra:
I can readily attest to Autumn Leonard’s
(AITDJB 2001 – 2010,
SB 2001 – 2010)
strong performance on bass trombone, since I was sitting right behind him, and splitting the part with him (I played tuba) gave me ample time to listen to him.
No one around plays a lovelier oboe than
Becky Rush (AITDJB 2001 – 2007, 2010); she took on some bassoon work for this show, too.
(AITDJB FamFest 2009) was characteristically enthusiastic and dynamic on percussion.
Brian Vanderbloemen (AITDJB 2005 – 2010) bypassed the low reed part to play clarinet and some saxophones, making him highly important to the singers.
Glenn Nielsen (AITDJB 2001 – 2010) played flute and I don’t know what all else – you know how reed players are – and was naturally delightful.
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010) got all the low reed stuff, including some rampant bari sax parts, and was visibly having a grand time.
(SB 2008, 2010) is the sort of French horn player who never plays an ungraceful phrase, even when the score makes her part so isolated that it seems to come out of thin air; it was also a pleasant change to hear the horn take the melody while the trombones played afterbeats.
Glenn Nielsen, Rebecca Rush,
Brian Vanderbloemen, Ben Petersen,
Jerry Hrovat, Anne Nichols
Jeff Wohlbach and David Naegele were superb trumpets, richer and more lyrical than those on the reference CD. Carrie Backman makes her trombone talk. Mikey Juszczyk wielded his banjo. John Mesoloras was precise and imperturbable on bass. Nothing can be said about Dave Heilman’s set work that could possibly be good enough; if you missed the show, that’s your tough luck. And Joy Bauman is both an astonishing pianist and a highly sensitive one, who knows when to lead and when to follow. I still don’t know how she changed the timbre of the aud’s old upright, to nail the rinky-tink parts.
And there was Anne Nichols, Goddess of the Pit. (Not a Dante reference. I don’t mean it like it sounds; it’s just business).
Those things that were less good about the production serve to point up the pressing need for drama to be taught as a class at McFarland High School. The lack of a formal instruction component to support the drama program is a failure of which the District should be ashamed. And a drama class would make MHS shows even better, by improving the qualifications of the pool of auditioners.
I do not mean to suggest that roles in productions should be limited to students who have received particular instruction. Rather, offering the class would leverage the talent already present in the school. The course should cover acting, voice training, technical theater, and anything else Mr. Brehm wants. The school will naturally develop a body of performers who have studied their craft systematically, as opposed to learning what they must for a specific show; productions should then have fewer instances of (for example) mispunched lines or jarringly concrete gestures. We should no more expect thespians to put on a good show without having really learned their art, than we would expect students to take an AP exam based only on a test-prep seminar, without having taken the relevant class.
Now, who can we get to teach it?
Photos courtesy of Susan Schmaling and Rod Johnson
Alyse Weber lives in the spotlight
MHS production of “Curtains”, November 2010
15 NOVEMBER 2010:
A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
Members of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band, the Solstice Brass, and the Wind in the Reeds do well after they leave MHS, but they do not go wholly unrecognized while they’re still in high school, either. A full list of medals at Solo & Ensemble would be impractically long, but here are a few highlights among the accolades our folks racked up before leaving for college:
2010 MHS Jack T. Pingel “Spirit of Music” Award (inaugural presentation): Isis Leonard
2010 MHS John Philip Sousa Band Award: Gena Roisum
2010 MHS Frederick Chopin Piano Award: Kolin Walker
2010 Wisconsin School Music Association Exemplary Solo Project winner: Ally Schmaling
2009 MHS John Philip Sousa Band Award: Nick Bakunowicz
2009 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Nick Bakunowicz
2008 MHS John Philip Souse Band Award: Eric Adams and Nora Hickey
2008 Wisconsin School Music Association Exemplary Solo Project winner: Nora Hickey
2008 Philharmonic Chorus of Madison UW Summer Music Camp scholarship winner: Beau Peregoy
2007 Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras Concerto Competition Winner: Nora Hickey
2007 MHS National Choral Award: Zach Staszewski
2006 MHS National Choral Award: Chris DuCharme
2006 Wisconsin School Music Association Exemplary Solo Project winner: Eric Adams
2005 MHS National Choral Award: Amanda DeBoer
2005 Wisconsin School Music Association Exemplary Solo Project winner: Autumn Leonard
2005 MHS John Philip Souse Band Award: Autumn Leonard and Becky Schultz
2005 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Brad Anderson
2004 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Kate Mackey and Tyler Mackey
2003 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Steve Thorson
2002 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Katie Hepler and Jonathan Alden
2001 MHS Louis Armstrong Jazz Award: Ben Freese
Of course the elder members of our group have a handful of Sousa, etc. among them, too; but that’s a different story.
BRAD ANDERSON, AUTUMN LEONARD, AND BECKY SCHULTZ
swept the 2005 Band Awards
AMANDA DEBOER took that year’s National Choir Award
JAGGERS WORKS THE GRILL
8 NOVEMBER 2010:
ONLY THE COOLEST OF THE ULTRA-COOL
attended the First Annual Dixie Band Music Picnic at Lake Kegonsa State Park on Sunday 1 August. All you others were missed.
Food, games, and frolicks were the order of the day. Frank brought his wicked guacamole. Autumn climbed a tree. Amanda journeyed south from the frozen tundra to play word games. Don’t you wish you had been there?
Knox County Orchestra
1 NOVEMBER 2010:
ORCHESTRA CONCERT AT NAZARENE U
The Knox County Orchestra draws its members from the students and faculty at Kenyon College, as well as from surrounding communities. On the evening of Saturday 30 October, we had the pleasure of attending their performance in the lovely Hodges Chapel at Mount Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Isis Leonard, principal bassoon, had juicy parts in Tchaikovsy’s 6th symphony. Here’s the bill of fare:
The Star-Spangled Banner – tune by John Smith; this arrangement by Arther Luck
Sinfonia No. 12 in G minor, by Felix Mendelssohn
Grave – Allegro
Concerto for Trumpet in E-flat Major, by Alexander Arutiunian; John Packard, solo trumpet
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, op. 74 (Pathetique), by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
II. Allegro con grazia
III. Allegro molto vivace
IV. Adagio lamentoso
The Women of Blue Notes
2003 WSMA State Festival
Becky and Brad,
Percussionists At Large
25 OCTOBER 2010:
Anne Nichols generally chooses great material for her choir concerts, and is adept at weaving it together into a program theme without asking the audience to go too far out on a limb of free association. “Earthsongs”, the choirs’ first program of the year, was presented on the evening of Monday 25 October, and stands as a good example. Most of the selections were interesting, entertaining, or both.
The Blue Notes Vocal Jazz Ensemble opened the evening with four fine songs. There are many strong young voices in the group, and they are sure to do well this year. Here’s the roster, with Dixie band members in bold:
Soprano I: Alana Pahnke, Rachel Stetenfeld, Alyse Weber
Soprano II: Hayley Bristol, Elise Gehrke, Kate Zobel
Alto: Heather Traska, Megan Davidson, Bridget Schwefel, Cassandra Washington-Law
Tenor: Ben Kregness, Adam Rowe-Johnson, Alex Walker
Baritone/Bass I: Barry Bakunowicz, Conley Potter, Sam Schutt
Bass II: Michael Jaggers, Alex Thomas, Keaton Williams
And here’s what they sang. Try the links; the recodings are pretty OK:
Blue Skies, by Iving Berlin; arr. Zegree
Lost in the Stars, by Max Anderson and Kurt Weill; arr. Rutherford
Africa, by David Paich and Jeff Porcano; arr. Emerson
Rachel Stetenfeld, vocal percussion – a really virtuoso performance. She
even distinguishes cleanly among different sizes of cymbal.
Amazing Grace, traditional; arr. Lojeski
The Concert Choir, which includes
(AITDJB 2009 – 2010; Solstice Brass 2010),
Nzwmbo na Mvula Zamba, by Fred Sturm and Blair Bielawski
For the Beauty of the Earth, in a gorgeous setting by John Rutter
Love the Earth, by Nick Page
Rebecca Rush (AITDJB 2001 – 2007, 2010) accompanied the first piece on percussion – yes, you read that right – and
Brad Anderson (AITDJB 2001 – 2009) accompanied the first and third. It is always a pleasure to meet old friends.
(AITDJB 2010) and
(AITDJB 2010) sing in the A Cappella Choir, which performed
La Luvia, by Stephen Hatfield; including Alex Walker on shaker
Earthsongs, by David Brunner
The program’s eponymous work was constructed in three sections, drawing inspiration from such sources as a lead miner and a United Nations committee. It was a dull affair, serving mostly as a reminder of the universal principle that social relevance does not guarantee artistic merit. However, the oboe accompaniment, performed by Becky Rush, was well worth listening to. Her playing grows richer, lusher, and more nuanced with every passing year. She is a delight.
Little Birds, by Eric Whitacre, all of whose choral works are intriguing and good to hear. This one is built on a pentatonic scale and includes improvised noises by the choir members – the latter being something of which I am not generally a fan, but Whitacre knows how to use such effects for more than just stunt appeal.
The combined choirs performed We Are . . . , by Ysaye Barnwell, once again making use of Rachel Stetenfeld’s excellent vocal percussion.
The 2005 – 2006 Blue Notes
Including Andrea Bakunowicz and Zach Staszewski
Isis and the Kenyon Winds, warming up
24 OCTOBER 2010:
A WEEKEND OF MCFARLAND IN KENYON
Students who perform in our groups always go on to do wonderful musical things in the real world, or at least in college. Two 2010 graduates,
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010) and
(AITDJB 2007 – 2010,
WitR 2003 – 2009),
are freshmen at Kenyon College this year, and both performed during the school’s Family Weekend of October 22 – 24.
Isis plays bassoon in the Kenyon College Symphonic Wind Ensemble, which performed under the direction of Professor Dane Heuchemer on Saturday afternoon. It was a fine concert, displaying excellent musicianship from talented group of young people. Here’s the program; these will become links to recordings:
Fanfare for a New Day, by Ted Buehrer
Chester: Overture for Band, by William Schuman
Ally pipes up in Ohio
Children’s March: “Over the Hills and Far Away”, by Percy Grainger.
The ensemble did a particularly fine job with this work, which is a seminal example of Grainger’s brilliant scoring: a catchy, original tune undergoes a kaleidoscope of textural, thythmic, and harmonic alterations while remaining relatively unchanged thematically. Good work by the pianist and the percussion section. The whole ensemble clearly had the heart to really feel the piece’s jolly exuberance, and the skill to translate it into performance. Also, the bassoon part is prominent.
Ballad for Band, by Morton Gould
Godzilla Eats Las Vegas!, by Eric Whitacre
Ally is a singer in two a capella groups at Kenyon, and on Saturday night we heard her perform two numbers with the Owl Creek Singers during the Family Weekend cabart show. Here they are:
(One of the songs)
(The other song)
The full Kenyon Symphonic Wind Ensemble
22 October 2010
18 OCTOBER 2010:
The McFarland High School drama department will present the smart, funny, sassy Kander and Ebb musical Curtains on the evenings of 18, 19, and 20 November 2010. Curtain time in the MHS auditorium is 7:00 PM each evening. Tickets are available at the door, if you’re lucky, or by calling 695-1960 right now, if you’re realistic; cost is $8 for adults or $6 for senior citizens.
The Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band and the Solstice Brass are particularly well represented in this production. Heather Traska and Michael Jaggers are on stage. The pit orchestra includes Anne Nichols (directing, conducting, and being generally wonderful); Glenn Nielsen, Brian Vanderbloemen, Becky Rush, and Jerry Hrovat, forming the most awesome reed section anywhere; Michelle Naegele, Autumn Leonard, and Quinn Leonard, providing brassiness, and Ben Petersen percussing, as does local superstar Dave Heilman.
Come see the show! It’s sure to be marvelous.
Nancy often finds herself overlooked
due to her shy, demure nature
11 OCTOBER 2010:
SPELLING BEE EARNS AN “A”
Nancy Walsh-Boeder (AITDJB 2010)
is currently appearing in a highly entertaining production of the slight but delightful musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, presented by the Stoughton Village Players (see my post from
20 September 2010,
below, for details). She is outstanding in the role of crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside Marcy Park. The show is a strong effort by a very creditable and talented community theater company. Everyone should go see it right away!
Nancy can sing, dance (she even breaks into tap for a bit), act, emote, and project; drawing, maybe, on her inner Good Catholic Girl, she turns in a vivid, physical performance that makes her one of the evening’s two standouts. Patrick Fernan, who also directs, takes on the role of Leaf Coneybear, a loveable if somewhat socially inept flower-grandchild. Fernan’s characterization is a collection of tics, lurches, tortured poses, and spitting lisps reminiscent of Sylvester the Cat, all deftly coordinated to draw a sharp portrait of a boy whose problems, if he even knows he has them, don’t interfere with his wide-open heart or the purity of his joyful good will.
Dan Prueher also deserves praise for his protrayal of the difficult William Barfee (I trust he will forgive my omitting the diacritical from his name), who exhibits a different set of personality disorders from Coneybear’s – closer to OC than to ADD. Prueher manages the repetitive and off-putting behavior with professional attention to detail, while finding range to imbue the character with enough touches of humanity and likeability to keep him alive and safely out of the caricature zone.
The night we saw the show, Sharon Brolin played several minor characters, mothers to some of the students in the bee. She has the grace, presence, and adaptability to inhabit much larger roles. She had only a few turns upon the stage in this show, but in each, it was a treat to watch her ply her craft.
From a technical viewpoint the production is neat and tidy, or so it appears from the seats – which amounts to the same thing, right? The mechanism of the spelling bee, with contestants stage right, adjudicators left, and the current speller centered, probably minimizes the opportunities to draw up bad blocking, or to screw up good blocking – not to suggest that the cast is static; these people jump around a lot. The setting requires minimal scenery and props, and for this production, no attempt was made to overreach a small budget. The stage was mostly bare, and what was on it looked like it had come from the five-and-dime or the cast’s basements – which was ideal: at no time did the trappings distract from the players. The same comments apply to costumes.
The Stoughton Village Players’ performance space boasts adequate and precise stage lighting, good air handling, and sensible raked seating for above-par. Recent renovations have made it look and feel pretty spiffy. It’s also intimate without being tiny. Seating was unassigned the night we attended, and we sat just south of the footlights, but the sold-out house held enough breathing bodies to provide that special magic obtainable only from audiences within a certain size range: small enough that everyone’s enthusiasm is communicable to everyone else, but large enough that there’s at least one person who gets most of the jokes, and laughs at them. (There are many chortleworthy bits in this clever book). I should mention that the audience on our night was really wonderful, highly engaged in a way that suggested they were enjoying themselves for more reasons than simply that they knew someone in the cast. And, like any performers worth the name, the actors gave back the love they were getting.
The orchestra consisted of piano, synthesizer, ‘cello, set + percussion oddities, and a one-woman reed section. There being no pit, the musicians were located backstage somewhere, and provided support that was sufficient but undomineering.
The book’s plot is not overly complicated even for a musical, but I won’t reveal any spoilers, such as who might win the bee, or which superstar character from the world stage makes a slightly cranky guest appearance. The show is very funny, sometimes rich, and always breezy; the production would be a bargain at twice the price. Go see it!
BECKY SCHULTZ’S SENIOR RECITAL
27 FEBRUARY 2009, UW-STEVENS POINT
9 OCTOBER 2010:
MARCHING SPARTANS MAKE BIG “M” ON FIELD
On the evening on Friday 8 October, McFarland won its homecoming football game against poor little Edgerton in a 49-7 massacre. The marching band, and of course the Homecoming Court, were the evening’s main attractions.
Until recently, the McFarland Spartans football team competed in the Badger South conference. That meant that they played against bigger schools, who have bigger teams composed of bigger players. It also meant that McFarland’s teams regularly got the snot beat out of them: adding up the results from 2005, 2006, and 2007, the Spartans won a total of 4 conference football games in three years, while losing 13. Then, in 2008, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA) forced McFarland to move to the Rock Valley conference. Now our team plays against smaller schools with smaller teams composed of smaller kids, and regularly beat the snot out of them: in 2008, 2009, and 2010, our boys won a total of 15 conference games, and lost only one.* It seems the WIAA’s master plan to spread the beating around is working out just fine. All the teams our players crush can now feel a bit more humiliated, and our players’ victories are cheapened because of the reduced caliber of the opposition. But as many have pointed out, sport is merely surrogate warfare; and, hey, somebody has to be on the top and somebody on the bottom. What would be the point of a battle with no winners or losers?
In American high schools and colleges, art is the poor stepchild to sports; so when our footballers got shifted to a different set of enemies, some of our music programs got shifted to a different set of friends. That’s why our local Honors Band is now drawn from East Troy, Edgerton, Evansville, Jefferson, McFarland, and Whitewater. Of course this means a decrease in quality, relative to the days when our musicians got to perform alongside those from (say) Monona Grove. And here is a fundamental difference between sports and music: music is friendly, collaborative, and human. Our students are now in the roles of mentors and models for the other musicians. That can be good for them, and good for the smaller schools.
Marching Spartans + Alumni, Homecoming 2010
In music, everybody can win; but that’s not what I started out to say. During the pre-game show, the band displayed an “M” formation while playing Hail to the Victors, and shifted to an “E”, and faced the Edgerton stand while playing their school song, Loyalty. Over one hundred marching alumni joined the band on the field – more people, maybe, than are in the enrolled marching band. Friends included Brian Vanderbloemen, Michelle Naegele, and Ben Petersen, in charge; Becky Rush has been serving as an adjunct conductor to the band this year. Also marching were Autumn Leonard, Michael Jaggers, Anne Nichols, Brad Anderson, and Tonya Neumann. In addition to our school song, the massed band also performed Gimme Some Lovin’ while the McFarland High School Dance Team did what they do. Together, students and alumni formed a mighty sound machine.
The halftime show was titled “Spy Vs. Spy”, and included arrangements of the Get Smart theme, a James Bond tribute, Secret Agent Man, the Peter Gunn theme, Soul Bassa Nova, and the Mission Impossible theme. Peter Gunn was a stationary chart, augmented by the Dance Team. As usual for this point in the season, musicianship was higher than marching accuracy, but great strides have been made since the early practices. Curves were mostly fluid and dynamic; lines were creditable if not crisp, and there were only a few moments of freshman bewilderment on the field. Balance between high brass is the bugbear of school marching bands, it being easy for a few trumpets to overwhelm and everyone any number of timid clarinets, but the ration here was very good, and inner parts were generally audible. The band does need more or bolder Sousaphone players, though.
An offside trumpet solo during Get Smart, ably handled, was a welcome addition to the band’s toolbox.
The Homecoming theme was “Disney”. The band played spy music because they have to start rehearsals in late summer, which means the music must be obtained and charts drawn up earlier than that, while the Homecoming Committee doesn’t meet until school starts in the fall. The solution is for a committee of Juniors to choose next fall’s Homecoming theme in the spring, before school is out. Better coordination between the band and the school theme would result in more engagement schoolwide. Also, getting Juniors involved would strengthen their sense of ownership of, and connection to, Senior-year events. And Halftime would be even more fun!
* Data couresy of CBSPORTS.COM
A BYGONE BIG “M” ON FIELD
McFarland Homecoming, 15 September 2006
AITDJB – Disney Homecoming 2010
L-R: Autumn Leonard, Alex Walker, Jerry Hrovat, Quinn Leonard, Kolin Walker*,
Glenn Nielsen, Sara Siegmann, Heather Traska*, Michael Jaggers, Frank Ransley*
* Kolin and Heather are not wearing ears because they’re of a different breed, being vocalists.
Frank, of course, is in a class by himself.
4 OCTOBER 2010:
LET’S ‘EAR IT FOR BAND
The Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band’s tenth season came to an end last weekend, with performances at the McFarland Family Festival on Saturday night, and in the MHS Homecoming Parade on Sunday.
The Homecoming theme was “Disney” (although the MHS marching band did a spy-themed show; see next week’s entry), so the AITDJB wore Mickey Mouse ears: recognizably Disney, but no interference with playing our instruments. Our vocalists also threw beads from the float. I think people loved us.
I notice that I have not posted a full roster for the band yet this year, and now’s my last chance. Here then, as follows:
Frank Ransly, trumpet
Michael Jaggers, trumpet
Glenn Nielsen, clarinet;
also musical direction
Gena Roisum, clarinet and saxophone
Brian Vanderbloemen, clarinet and saxophone;
also musical direction
Jerry Hrovat, saxophone
Tyler McGraw, saxophone
Autumn Leonard, trombone and banjo
Scott Orme, trombone
Quinn Leonard, tuba
Alex Walker, drums
Ben Petersen, drums
Sara Siegmann, piano
Isis Leonard, piano
Becky Rush, piano
Kolin Walker, vocals and piano
Heather Traska, vocals
Beau Peregoy, vocals
Ally Schmaling, vocals and whistling
Thanks, everyone, for another great year!
Ally Schmaling and Beau Peregoy
MHS production of Oklahoma! 2008
The Band at the Zoo, getting ready to go to work
27 SEPTEMBER 2010:
DIXIE ANIMALS ON THE TERRACE
The Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band is morphologically complicated. We haven’t played two shows this year that had the same lineup of musicians, and often we don’t go two rehearsals in a row with the same people, either. As long as the cats are juggled in a way that covers all parts, that works out OK, and even adds a bit of variety – if any more were needed.
As noted in an earlier post, many members of the band graduated from high school this year, and have chosen to go off to college rather than stick around McFarland doing Dixie. There’s no accounting for such priorities. But with the unstoppable
Brian Vanderbloemen (AITDJB 2005 – 2010) to fill in on clarinet at KingFest, and the outrageous
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010
handling sax duties thereafter, we’ve done well enough without them. Which is not to say we don’t miss them.
Moving on, before I dig myself into a hole: On the afternoon of Sunday 26 September, the band got to spend some time in the little paradise of Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo, entertaining participants in, and cheerers for, the annual Zoo Run Run fundraising event. Last year we played in the shelter by the herpatology building, but it seems something that happened that day made the animals nervous. I don’t know if it was us or the Red Hot Horn Dawgs, who performed earlier. Let’s say it was them. In any case, we were invited back this year and the Dawgs weren’t. Maybe we’re just cheaper.
This year we performed on the terrace of the Visitors’ Center, which was also the terminus of the running course. Inasmuch as people who came to cheer their runners at the finish line had no choice but to stand there and listen to us, we had a captive and enthusiastic audience. Perfect weather and fine spirits made for a great three-set show. Having Scott Orme on hand meant Autumn got in some banjo licks. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed us that day; and to any who missed us – hey, better luck next time!
FREE CAROUSEL RIDE!
AITDJB at Henry Vilas Zoo, 20 September 2009
Nancy, expressing herself
20 SEPTEMBER 2010:
NANCY REVERTS TO CHILDHOOD
Nancy Walsh-Boeder, who sang so delightfully with the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band earlier this summer, returns to the angst- and hormone-addled world of Middle School in a production of the musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show will be presented by the Stoughton Village Players this October. Full details are below; everyone should go root for Nancy!
Nancy will play the role of Marcy Park, a transfer student who placed ninth in last year’s national spelling championship. Marcy speaks six languages, is a member of all-American hockey, a championship rugby player, plays Chopin and Mozart on multiple instruments, sleeps only three hours a night, hides in the bathroom cabinet, and is getting very tired of always winning. She is a poster child for overachievment, and attends a Catholic school called “Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows.” She is also not allowed to cry.
I have no doubts at all that Nancy will be superb at all this.
Here’s the official release information:
Stoughton Village Players
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
7:30 pm, 10/7-9 & 14-16 and 4 pm, 10/10
SVP Theater. $15-$12. 873-5100
Stoughton Village Players proudly presents the musical comedy
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
October 7-10th, and 14-16th, in its newly renovated theater in downtown Stoughton. This hilarious Tony Award winning show follows the quest of six super-achieving adolescents, along with several “guest” contestants, as they vie for the chance to compete at the national spelling bee championship in Washington DC. These unlikeliest of heroes will keep you laughing as they learn that winning isn’t everything, and losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.
Not only is SVP thrilled to be one of the first amateur theaters in the region to produce this show, it is also a chance for audiences to see the fruits of their recently completed renovation project. With new seats and carpet, fresh paint and trim, the group’s stalwart crew of members and supporters has transformed the space into a beautiful, and comfortable, venue for SVP’s new season.
Along with its upbeat tempo and quick fire comedy, this show does contain some mature themes, and will be most appropriate for adult or mature teen audiences.
Frank Ransley at the bonfire
McFarland’s Christmas in the Village, 2005
13 SEPTEMBER 2010:
NOTHING SAYS “COMMUNITY” LIKE COMMUNITY BAND
The McFarland Community Band performed its second and final concert of the 2010 season on the evening of Thursday 19 August, and it was a pleasure to see how many people came to listen in the lovely outdoor venue of Larson Park. The United Church of Christ sold ice cream treats, while the sold-out crowd gave every indication of enjoying the fruits of our labors and talents. Here are some recordings from the concert, courtesy of Tom Blankenheim and his digital device:
The Star Spangled Banner performed by The Treble Makers a cappella quartet;
lyric by Francis Scott Key; music by John Stafford Smith
The Liberty Bell by John Philip Sousa
Armed Forces Salute arranged by Bob Lowden
Interlochen Variations by Douglas K. Jones
Star Spangled Spectacular: The Music of George M. Cohan
by George M. Cohan; arranged by John Cacavas
Where Never Lark Or Eagle Flew by James Curnow.
Big Band Spectacular arranged by John Higgins
Arabian Dances by Brian Balmages
Model “T” by Sammy Nestico
Ride by Samuel R. Hazo
On Wisconsin by William T. Purdy
A few notes on Where Never Lark Or Eagle Flew: Here’s how the publisher bills it:
This impressive work for mature band is based on an inspiring poem written by an American pilot in World War II. The dazzling brass sonorities and sweeping woodwind lines reflect the young man’s love for flying and its release from the troubles of the world. A classic band work from the pen of master composer James Curnow.
The poem High Flight, which was the inspiration for the concert piece, was written by Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee, No 412 squadron, RCAF. Magee was killed in action, 11 December 1941. Bill Garvey read the poem to the audience before our performance; here is the text:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Plenty of AITDJB members were among the performers in this concert, including Autumn Leonard, Ben Petersen, Frank Ransley, Glenn Nielsen, Michael Jaggers, and Quinn Leonard.
Ally Schmaling sings “Vanilla Ice Cream”
from She Loves Me
WSMA State Solo and Ensemble Festival
24 April 2010
TYLER MCGRAW’S DEBUT
KingFest, 13 August 2010
6 SEPTEMBER 2010:
TYLER MCGRAW JOINS AITDJB
It always rains on the KingFest Smelt Fry – but people always come anyway. That’s our perception, anyway, and it proved true again this year.
The Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band played the longest show of its career on the evening of Friday 13 August, belting out four sets over a period of two hours. The extended show came about because at last year’s smelt fry the organizers noticed (little plug for the band here) that when we stopped playing, all the patrons left. So we were asked to play longer this year. It was a workout, but we lived to tell the tale.
We were joined by an old friend and a new one for this show. It’s always fun to play with Brian Vanderbloemen (AITDJB 2005 – 2010), who filled in for Glenn on clarinet; Brian is like a walking entertainment factory, and brings out the best in the rest of us. Our new friend was Tyler McGraw, joining us on tenor sax for Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans) – note the photo of his obligatory Pink Bowtie Moment, shot during this tune – and for American Patrol, for which he advanced, as they call it, to the coveted Red Bowtie.
I’d like to offer a thank-you to all the young people who came out in the rain to hear us play, many sticking around for all four sets. This year’s AITDJB has a large number of graduating MHS seniors; for many of them, KingFest was their final performance with the band – for the year, we hope; not forever. Lots of their friends are heading out into the world, too, and came to listing to their pals on stage have one more go at Dixie music. The MHS table in the smelt fry tent was faithful, vocal, and appreciative: a fine audience indeed.
Our crop of seniors is pretty rich this year. Tonight’s show was a farewell to:
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010),
(AITDJB 2007 – 2010, WitR 2005 – 2009),
(AITDJB 2007 – 2010,
WitR 2003 – 2009, Second String Violins and Bassoons),
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010,
SB 2007 – 2009),
and Sam Bussan.
(It would also have been a farewell to
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010), except that she had the night off because she’s recovering from wisdom tooth extraction, apparently having enough wisdom without them. In fact the plucky lass offered to try and sing with us anyway, but I won’t inflict unnecessary pain even on a vocalist.)
Fare thee well, good company all!
MHS production of
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
WYSO Concert in the Park
30 AUGUST 2010:
THE LAST WYSO CONCERT EVER
Well, the last one with
(AITDJB 2007 – 2010,
WitR 2003 – 2009) in it, anyway.
Let me start at the end, jumping ahead to mention the fireworks: the concert closed with an extended pyrotechnics display of the highest quality. While the orchestra played an encore number (a refreshingly clean arrangement of Mancini’s Pink Panther theme, a splendid display of shells and and mines launched from a field near enough to the audience that we could feel and smell the action as well as see it. There were some really superb ladder effects, a kind of cat-tail of golden sparks. Wonderful stuff.
The orchestra was in good form – not so perfect as they were this spring, but really very fine for having got back together for only a couple of rehearsals, and certainly sounding grand for an outdoor concert. With the exception of Pink Panther, the concert was, understandably, a review or works prepared during the regular season: Mala Suite, Schubert’s Unfinished symphony, the Saint-Saens B minor violin concerto, Sinfonia India, Prism Rhapsody, and the first movement of Dvorak’s 6th symphony.
The mood was closer to party than concert, rather like a Concert on the Square with tables for the caterers. The audience was drawn from a much wider pool than is usual for a WYSO concert, and the admixture of reg’lar folks who came as much for the fireworks and ice cream as for the music diluted the concentration of WYSO parents. That was just as well. We all went through our letting-go moment at the final regular concert, with its aging-out ceremony; we didn’t need more bittersweet. Not packed shoulder to shoulder with other parents of seniors, we could simply enjoy ourselves.
DANE COUNTY FARMERS’ MARKET 2010
DIXIE BAND MEMBERS, HARD AT WORK
L to R: Sara Siegmann, Heather Traska, Beau Peregoy, Sam Bussan, Michael Jaggers
IN BACKGROUND, TOP RIGHT, GOLDBRICKING:
Isis, Frank, Gena, Quinn, Autumn
23 AUGUST 2010:
DIXIE ON STATE STREET
The Dane County Farmers’ Market is a treasure, offering good things to eat, colorful people-watching, and plenty of worthwhile street entertainment. It’s also one of the best performance venues around, and the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band loves to go there and strut our stuff. (Note the neat segue, implying that we qualify as worthwhile street entertainment.)
Over the lunch hour on Saturday 7 August, we played three sets at the “20 on the Square” round stage. It’s an excellent location, at the corner where State Street meets the Capitol square; with thousands of people flowing past us, we’re sure to attract some who like our music – see the couple dancing, above. We had fine weather and hot cheesy-bread. We even sold a CD or two. Who could ask for more?
Dane County Farmers’ Market, September 2010
L to R: Vocalists Beau Peregoy, Kolin Walker,
and Heather Traska (plus Isis Leonard)
ALLY, RADIATING EMOTION
16 AUGUST 2010:
“STARMITES” FUN WHEN AUDIBLE
Spirit and enthusiasm surged high during a production of the musical Starmites at MHS, which ran 29 – 31 July, offering some extraordinary performances and some inaudible ones.
AITDJB vocal star Ally Schmaling played Eleanor, a nerdy teenager upon whose adventures the story turns. Eleanor distresses her mother by not caring about normal girly pursuits, such as brushing her hair to attract boys. But Eleanor doesn’t need boys; she has a rich inner life rooted in the comic books she incessantly reads (and quotes, chapter and verse – you know the type). Presently Eleanor escapes into a parallel universe where the Starmites, a band of heroes, struggle to defend All That Is Good from the megalomaniacal Shak Graa, who must be prevented from getting his hands on a magic guitar called The Cruelty. Complication comes in the form of Diva (AITDJB crooner Heather Traska), a bad-but-not-really-evil gal intent on subduing everyone by bludgeoning them with her weighty ego. It turns out that Eleanor, in this universe, is the Chosen One who alone can set things right. *
Heather Traska = Diva
Diva = Heather Traska
Ally was marvelous as Eleanor, of course, playing her geeky but not shy, and delivering with neat emotional accuracy songs ranging from the gentle Afriad of the Dark to the Partridge-family perky Superhero Girl. Heather jumped all over the role of Diva (I did not say, “was suspiciously natural at it”), especially when bringing her very considerable vocal power to bear on Hard To Be Diva. Beau Peregoy, a mainstay of the AITDJB vocals department, appeared as Dazzle Razzledorf; his character bumblingly let slip crucial information that drove the entire plot. Hayley Bristol, in the role of Bizarbara, was another clear standout: she can act, and showed every sign of having put thought and preparation into her performance.
It is frequently the case that, if Sam Siegmann is in a production, any honest review must give him a paragraph to himself. Sam embodied the double roles villain and jester; it hardly needs mentioning that either of these alone amounts to nearly criminal typecasting. As the villain, Shak Graa is automatically the most inherently interesting character, although through most of the show he appears only as video footage. When he does step onstage in the flesh, he gets to be slimy. Also he dies. What more could an actor want? But the other half of the role is Trinkulus, who serves as the good characters’ sidekick-guide. He is a sort of human/lizard highbrid, which meant, as interpreted by Sam, that there was a lot of crouching, scrambling, and rolling going on. Sam also employed an idiosyncratic, high-pitched voice, half ingratiating and half adorable, and he did it very well – which is to say, consistently and intelligibly – a nontrivial achievement. The resulting highly physical performance was astonishing, one of the two or three most accomplished sustained efforts I have seen on the MHS stage. Note, however, that the big reveal at the end was no reveal at all to anyone who has been hearing Sam practice his characteristic Villain Laugh for the past decade or so.
Sam Siegmann as Trinkulus,
in a rare stationary moment
The show was billed as a fundraising event for the MHS Theater Department. Here’s something that needs funding: the school badly needs to offer a class in drama and acting, if for no other reason than to train students not to rely on sound system technology. There is no substitute for voice training! We’ve learned that lesson over and over again on the MHS stage, but Starmites drove it home with a heavy hammer. The miking and audio were terrible, and under such circumstances young actors who have never had to rely on their own powers of projection cannot be expected to suddenly make themselves audible – nor did they. There were only five performers whose every line, spoken or sung, was clean and intelligible: Hayley Bristol, Beau Peregoy. Ally Schmaling, Sam Siegmann, and Heather Traska. Everyone else ranged from occasionally clear to consistently muddy.
Beau Peregoy, Force for Good
Hayley Bristol as Bizarbara
I do not blame the actors. It was evident that most of them had never been taught, rigorously and systematically over an extended period, how to deliver lines. Probably, most of them had had no direction except encouragement and praise. Somewhere, some time, someone needed to tell them that they could not be heard or understood, and to teach them how to go about it. As it was, much of the dialogue was simply lost. Too bad.
Barry Keating wrote the show’s music and co-authored the book, with Stuart Ross. The simple but highly effective pit for this production consisted of the talented Johnny Mitchel on set, and Lief Larson on piano. Lief is rather ridiculously gifted, and a gift to the MHS stage. While the actors were mumbling, I often simply gave up on them and listened instead to his sensitive, spirited piano work. Bravo! And another good thing about this show: assigned seating! That has not been seen at MHS for many a year, and it solved so many problems I won’t even bother to list them. I hope it’s an idea that’s here to stay.
* If this sounds to you a lot like the storyline of the 1980’s DC comic book series “Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld”, then you must be one of that type, too. The musical was written in 1987.
ALLY SCHMALING (left) and HEATHER TRASKA
9 AUGUST 2010:
It seems we are as locally famous as ever: Audience turnout was tremendous for our 29 July “Sundaes on Thursdays” gig. The McFarland United Church of Christ sold ice cream, with proceeds benefitting the Act8 Aids Ride and the McFarland Food Pantry; the AITDJB provided entertainment. We had perfect weather, a couple of hundred people listening to us play, and ice cream. What could be better?
Plenty, as it turns out. The band made three new friends that evening, welcoming new performers to our ranks.
Scott Orme joined us for the first time (in public), taking a couple of numbers on trombone. He describes himself thus:
I am debating between an aria and a rap . . . I started college as a jazz composition major, finished undergrad with a degree in music therapy. Played piano since 4th grade and have added several other instruments… but piano is still my first love. I currently play in a popular wedding band, Whoz Playing?, and have played in many jazz and rock bands over the years. This is my first dixieland experience. I have had the honor of playing as a side man for Chuck Berry and getting to perform on national television in South Korea and with the Mexican National Symphony . . . each, vastly different gigs. I am looking to improve my horn playing and my actual horn . . .
Vocalists tend to be migratory; for this concert, all of ours were busy with the opening night of Starmites, about which more later. But that gave us the opportunity to perform with the incomparable Nancy Walsh-Boeder. She’s multitalented and vocally fearless; she put on a great show, and hope we have the chance to perform with her again.
Samantha Bussan also joined us for a piccolo solo in American Patrol. Sam has been playing flute since 6th grade, and piccolo since 9th, in various IMMS and MHS bands, including jazz band. She “maintains that flutes” and piccolos “can too be jazz instruments!” (emphases mine).
2 AUGUST 2010:
A BROWN PINAFORE
Sometimes posture is everything, and
Alexander Brown (Wind in the Reeds 2009) has raised on-stage body language to a high art. Alexander chorused in the
Madison Savoyards’ recent production of HMS Pinafore; or, The Lass that Loved a Sailor, posing crisply in the crow’s nest through much of the show. The highly visible position let him demonstrate that stage presence doesn’t depend upon spoken lines.
Pinafore is one of the most beloved comic operas born of the collaboration between composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W. S. Gilbert. The Savoyards’ production ran 23 July – 1 August in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus. It was a delightful rendition, splendidly delivering every nuance of zany satire.
There are at least three ways to screw up a G&S show on purpose: “improving” the music, thereby unhitching the witty songs from their apt vehicles; relentlessly improvising dialogue, thus betraying the hubris that one is funnier off the cuff than was Gilbert at his most refined; and larding things up with pratfalls, on the dunderheaded notion that the libretto is not entertaining enough on its own. The Savoyards committed none of these sins. Their show was clean, intelligent, and spirited. Most of the performers gave richly creative interpretations, managing without mugging, wallowing, or stravaging about. Stage business and gestures were well thought out and often devilishly clever. And – contrary to the Cap Times’ opinion – the superb orchestra did not seem to me to be struggling, but rather brightly atop the action.
The ways to screw up unintentionally are legion, but surely the one to which G&S operas are most often prey is sloppy enunciation. There are lots of words going lickety-split, and most of them are funny – but only if they’re heard. The company shot in the gold on this count, too. One person with a rubber tongue may pull off the patter songs, but the Savoyards’ whole chorus delivered rapid-fire gems with glittering intelligibility. That takes depth of talent, and a director with a gift for leadership.
Among the principals the upper voices were the most capable, which is fine; since the soprano always falls in love with the tenor, we must listen to them sing a great deal. Amalia Goldberg is a skilled actress as well as a fine soprano; her Josephine was heartfelt and believable down to her toes. Ralph Rackstraw, her sailor lover, was sung by Heath Rush, who does not have, perhaps, quite the look or mannerisms of a romantic lead. But Mr. Rush’s astonishing tenor voice, the audible equivalent of a prime steak, so gratified the senses that no fault could be found with his appearance. Ryan Thorn’s Captain Corcoran was a manly man, yet wore his heart on his sleeve; the role was deftly acted and sung. And it is hard to see how Andy Abrams’ portrayal of Sir Joseph Porter, the pompous, self-absorber Admiral of the Queen’s Navy, could possibly be bettered. If his manners had been any more sumptuous he would have been impossible to converse with.
The lower voices were not so well accounted for. Though presented by accomplished actors who milked their roles well, neither the villain Deadeye Dick nor the gypsy bumboat-woman Little Buttercup were backed up by enough vocal clout.
The company gave a singing preview at Madison’s Art Fair Off the Square on 10 July; follow the link to enjoy it on YouTube. Alexander is visible.
“. . . I know how
and what a
wave must be.”
26 JULY 2010:
A HOT TIME AT THE RED SCHOOLHOUSE
Alex Walker picks
The Sun beat down without mercy, and humidity any higher would have mandated diving gear, but our sweating audience gave every sign of thoroughly enjoying themselves while the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band performed at the oddly-named “Evening in Paoli” on the afternoon of Saturday 17 July.
Debbie Schwartz, owner of the Paoli Schoolhouse Shops and Cafe and an organizer of the event, invited to perform on the patio outside the Schoolhouse. Guests and visitors strolled among Paoli’s several shops, galleries, and restaurants, listening to music while partaking of local delicacies and browsing the wares. The Schoolhouse Cafe served drinks during our gig, and a goodly selection of patrons braved the heat to listen to our gig.
We were pleased to welcome two new performs to our growing family of Dixieland artists. Alex Walker made a distinguished debut, taking over sole responsibility for the critical spot as drummer. Alex has quickly cottoned on to the Dixie style, and looks likely to become a mainstay and linchpin. Heather Traska owns a voice well suited to jazz; she sang Basin Street Blues and Tin Roof Blues with a soulfulness of which we hope to make much future use.
Our thanks to the Bussan family for providing equipmemnt transport, even though Sam was unable to perform on Saturday.
Gena and Autumn play Hot Jazz
“Evening in Paoli” (notice the sunlight), 2010
19 JULY 2010:
A PATRIOTIC COMMUNITY
Happy Community Banders
The McFarland Community Band, now in its twentieth season of the New Era, performed a free concert in McFarland’s Larson Park on the evening of Thursday 15 July 2010. The United Church of Christ sold ice cream treats, with proceeds benefitting local charities.
The weather was fine, turnout was excellent, and the band performed many pieces rather well. Recordings will follow. Here’s the program:
The Star-Spangled Banner, by John Stafford Smith
Manhattan Beach, by John Philip Sousa
The Spirit of Orpheus (A Sinfonisn Celebration), by Robert W. Smith
My Fair Lady medley, by Alan Jay Lerner; arranged by John Cacavas
March of the Belgian Paratroopers, by Pierre Leemans
Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo, by Malcolm Arnold (Originally “Little Suite for Brass”)
America, the Beautiful, setting by Carmen Dragon
Novo Lenio, by Sammy Hazo
A Vision of Majest, by James Swearingen
The Stars and Strips Forever, by John Philip Sousa
Almost In Time Dixieland Band members performing in the concert included Michael Jaggers, Autumn Leonard, Isis Leonard, Quinn Leonard, Glenn Nielsen, Ben Petersen, Frank Ransley, and Gena Roisum.
12 JULY 2010:
(AITDJB 2008 – 2010) and Heather Traskawill be performing alongside Ally Schmaling in the upcoming production of Starmites. Ally and Heather have landed to two female leads; they appear, respectively as “Eleanor” and “Diva”. Eleanor is a shy teenager whose imagined superheroine alter ego gets into scrapes that provide the show’s action; Diva, Queen of the Banshees, is the antagonist who drives the plot. Come see the show, everyone – it is sure to be a hoot.
5 JULY 2010:
HEATHER TRASKA JOINS THE AITDJB
Heather Traska, whose naturally bluesy voice has enriched many McFarland High School choral events and local musical theater productions, will join the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band later in the 2010 season.
Heather is an intense performer with a magnetic stage presence and a natural feel for the dramatic line of a song. We look forward to making music with her.
Is Ally the next Wonder Woman?
28 JUNE 2010:
Can Ally Schmaling save us all from utter destruction? Will the Starmites, Guardians of Innerspace, keep the universe’s most powerful musical instrument from falling into the clutches of the evil Shak Graa? Dare a shy teenage Earth girl hope to find true love with Space Punk, the trippin’ leader of the ‘Mites?
Come find out, as Ally takes on the lead role in a local production of the musical Starmites, in the MHS auditorium on 29, 30, and 31 July. Curtain time is 7:30 PM.
Alex (low res)
21 JUNE 2010:
ALEX WALKER JOINS THE AITDJB
Alex Walker, MHS percussionist, has joined the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band for the 2010 season.
Not having submitted either a head shot or any biographical information, Alex must eat whatever I dish out. We are free to imagine that he received his drum instruction while battling Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and that he only uses drumsticks made from heartwood of the Tumtum tree, which he harvests himself from the tulgey wood, risking the great personal peril of being consumed by Bandersnatchi or the Jabberwock.
Alex is a founding member of the Kitten’s Mittens vocal jazz ensemble at MHS, and a repeat offender on set with the MHS jazz bands.
Isis, radiating Stage Presence
14 JUNE 2010:
THE BEST WAY TO SPEND A SUNDAY AFTERNOON . . .
. . . with the best of all possible daughters.
On Sunday 6 June, Isis Leonard gave a Senior musical recital, joined by several of her instrumental friends. About 60 people gathered in the MHS auditorium to hear a varied program of solo and duet works for violin, bassoon, piano, and clarinet, comprising seven sterling performances interleaved with Isis’ engaging introductions and comments. Here’s the bill of fare:
Sonatina for piano four hands Carl Czerny op. 156 no. 2 (c. 1829)
I. Allegro con brio
Isis Leonard, piano primo, and Kolin Walker, piano secundo
Isis and Kolin have been performing music together for at least ten years. In 2006, they entered this sonatina in the WSMA Solo and Ensemble Festival, earning a *1 at District and a 1 at State. (In the interests of brevity, let’s just note right off the bat that every piece Isis ever entered in a WSMA contest with one of her recital co-performers – and over the years there have been many – earned a *1 at District and a 1 at State.) Sara Siegmann and Bria Mason performed this same sonatina at Sara’s Senior recital in 2004, with Sara on the Isis part.
Isis and Kolin digging in
Sonate for bassoon Paul Hindemith (1938)
I. Leicht bewegt
Isis Leonard, bassoon, accompanied by Michelle Naegele, piano
“I hope you like it,” said Isis in her introduction to this piece. “I’m sure many of you will.” With the work’s atonal repetition and other rather modern peculiarities, the caveat was justifiable, but her performance went over well with an audience that was, admittedly, fairly musically sophisticated. Also note: The piano part is a real rotating son of a bear. Kudos to Michelle, who brought it off with apparently effortless grace!
for clarinet and bassoon Francois Devienne op 21 no. 1 (c. 1800)
Gena Roisum, clarinet, and Isis Leonard, bassoon
“All right!” quoth Isis. “Next we have this terribly pleasant little woodwind duet by Francoise Devienne. Actually Gena and I first started looking at this piece because on the cover [of the score] there was an engraving of a shepherd and a shepherdess sort of sprawled under a tree, surrounded by a sea of conviviality and sheep. A lot of you in the audience know my opinions on the Rococo, I think, but Gena and I just really needed this very pleasant piece during a stressful week.”
The two friends play very well together, seeming to find themselves readily at one; the performance was charming. Gena’s tone is lovely and pure; Isis’ bassoon flights, deft and sure. “Terribly pleasant” is terribly accurate: the piece made an excellent palate cleanser.
Gena during Duo I
Sonatine in G Major, for violin and piano Antonin Dvorak op. 100 (1893)
Isis Leonard, violin, and Kolin Walker, piano
I. Allegro risolute
“Kolin Walker and I have played several pieces over the years for Solo and Ensemble,” commented Isis. “The one I used to start this concert was the first, in 8th grade. I would now like to play with him the latest, but hopefully not the last. This is a piece by my favorite composer, Antonin Dvorak.”
Kolin has the ability to communicate to the audience, through his body language, the belief that he is manipulating the piano’s sound by force of will, and Isis of course has a highly developed sense of violin as drama. This spring the two musical friends added another movement to the two (of four) they had performed for WSMA events in 2009, making this performance even more engrossing for being more crosslinked. It is a wonderful piece, and they played with great sensitivity and flair.
Pine Apple Rag Scott Joplin (1908), arr. Kelley
Nora Hickey, bassoono one-o, and Isis Leonard, bassoono two-o
“And now for something completely different,” Isis warned us. “Next, Scott Joplin on bassoons.
“I can’t quite remember when it all started, my playing music with Nora Hickey, because we’ve done so many things together over the years. I think it says in the program that she “convinced” me to play bassoon. I think how it actually happened was that she told me that if I did not choose to play bassoon for school band, she would hunt me down and shoot me.”
Nora and Isis have gotten a lot of use out of Pine Apple Rag. In 2005 the two highly unique instrumentalists gave the piece what was probably its McFarland premiere, at least in this form, as between-sets entertainment with the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band in a Larson Park Gazebo concert. That was a warm-up for an audition to the McFarland Family Festival Talent Showcase in September 2005; they were accepted, and no one in the audience threw food at them. In the spring of 2006 they entered the piece in the WSMA Music Festival as a Miscellaneous Woodwind Duet (because, surprisingly, it was not on the approved lists), since it was more or less ready to play and they each had only 4 or 5 other contest entries. They took it to State because, well, why not? It earned a first rating, naturally. Most recently, Isis and Nora reprised the rag at Nora’s Senior recital in June 2008.
Of course, both performers have grown musically since 2005, and it was a real treat to hear them give this old chestnut the benefit of their new, enhanced powers. I wrote then that their performance was “excellent, both free in interpretation and accurate in rhythm . . . it turns out that Ragtime and bassoons are a match made in Heaven, or at least St. Louis.” That’s still true, and ever so much more so, too.
Isis and Nora in 2005
American Pastoral Isis Leonard (2009)
Isis Leonard, violin, and Gena Roisum, clarinet
“Next I’m going to play a piece that I wrote for Gena Roisum for her birthday last year; and she’d 18 now, so I guess we’re getting a lot of mileage out of it.” So Isis modestly billed her very lovely and pleasing composition, and indeed they have gotten mileage. Isis and Gena have performed the piece at MHS concerts, by invitation at a WSMA executive meeting, and at District and State WSMA Festivals.
Allegro Brillant Willem Ten Have op. 19 (1898)
Isis Leonard, violin, accompanied by Michelle Naegele, piano
“I saved my flashiest, loudest piece for last. But before I play that, I like to thank the people who played with me today by giving them chocolate – continuing in a Leonard family tradition.” With this, Isis rewarded Kolin, Gena, and Nora with noms. Then she said, “Except for Mrs. Naegele” – and walked off the stage. Before the audience rose up to condemn Michelle’s shoddy treatment, Isis popped back out of the wings and announced, “. . . who instead gets a twelve-pack of Dr. Pepper.” She handed over the purple carton, and launched into a fiery, personal rendition of Ten Have’s exhilarating violin showpiece.
After thunderous applause, Isis concluded her recital by announcing, “Thank you all again for coming. I ask you all to please move out to the cafeteria to enjoy a reception with wonderful food brought to you courtesy of three days of my Mom’s life.”
A bandana’d, war-painted
Gena Roisum solos in “Birdland”
7 JUNE 2010:
PETERSEN PICKS A PECK OF PEPPY PERFORMANCES
A sleeker, quicker Pep Band Concert rocked MHS’s B gym on the evening of Friday 28 May, marking the second year that
(AITDJB FamFest 2009)
has been at the helm. Petersen was noticeably more at ease this year, but not even slightly less energetic. It was a great show.
Following traditional format, the concert began with Juniors, Sophomores, and Frosh mounting the bleachers, leaving an open swath down the middle to accomodate their late-arriving presumed betters. Next came a Senior Video duller than any in the last decade; notable chiefly for the appearance of
in a hat, it reached its finest moment when it ended, and the Seniors streamed into the gym to welcoming cheers.
The massed MHS bands launched into a thunderous performance of the sort that typifies Pep Band Concerts, and Petersen went into a conducting frenzy from which he never recovered. His energy was contagious; the kids really let ‘er rip. Here’s the lineup:
Opening Medley (massed bands): Victors/On Wisconsin Fanfare; Victors; Hot Time
Alexander Brown, taking
Rock Medley I (massed bands): Rock and Roll Part 2; 25 or 6 to 4; Disney Magic
A number billed as a “Leif (sic) Larson Creation” on the video monitor, but introduced as Perspective of a Cat (changed, maybe, from the previous rumoured title of “Blah”). This was a percussion ensemble piece written by Lief, and performed by the Wind Ensemble Percussion Ensemble (One more time: C’mon, people; let’s fix the klunky names of these performance groups!) with the composer on piano. It is a very intriguing work, reminding me of George Winston in the way it built up emotional textures through repetition with small variations, and of Michael Nyman for its obsessiveness, but with a personality more accessible than either. Unfortunately it was staged with an electric piano which had its own sound source at one end of the gymnasium, but was also routed through remote speakers, while the rest of the ensemble was not miked and routed; the resulting delays and disconnects were distracting. I would very much like to hear this work , under whatever name, performed in a proper venue under better conditions. Kudos to Lief.
Pep Band Favorites I: Blister in the Sun; SHBOOM; Pirates of the Caribbean
Smooth, performed by the Symphonic Band / Concert Band Jazz Band. (Please rename this group! It should not take three uses of the word “Band” to identify them). Alex Walker was on set, and Michael Jaggers on trumpet. A dandy performance; I’m looking forward to the DVD.
Stinkin’ Garbage, this year’s glow-in-the-dark Percussion Ensemble feature, performed on plastic buckets.
Rock Medley II: Magnificent Seven, Crazy Train, Land of a Thousand Dances
Watermelon Man, performed by MHS’s notorious unnamed jazz combo, including Lief Larson on piano, Johnny Mitchell on set, and James Hickey and Michael Gray on sax. These guys are maybe the only performance group from MHS ever to have been publicly scolded at a WSMA festival for having too much style and stage presence. They are dangerous.
Dance Medley: Apache; Thriller; Beer Barrel Polka. The Spartan mascot danced with my wife. (Does he have a name, BTW? The MHS office says no. Shouldn’t he be Sparty Spartan, or something?)
Birdland, a perennial favorite of the Early Bird Jazz Band (now there’s a great name!) Alexander Brown played sax. The group did a solid job, but I couldn’t record it: I was sitting right in front of them, and the sound levels exceeded the physical capabilities of my microphones. Hope the DVD recording is good.
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
had a solo, of course.
Ben Petersen, all decked out as a
Marching Band Show: Can’t Turn You Loose; Sweet Home Chicago; Boom Boom; Everybody Needs Someone To Love
Senior Medley: Hey Baby; Build Me Up Buttercup; Don’t Stop Believin’
2010 Preview: James Bond Theme, Secret Agent Man. This is a taste of next year’s marching band music, and it sounds mighty!
Closing: Finally Victors; You’ve Said It All
Miscellaneous comments: The lighting was nice; I hope it wasn’t too expensive. Lief Larson put in several distinguished stints on lead set, during the Senior Medley for example; the guy was on fire. Gena Roisum did a graceful job presenting the music faculty with gifts. V has been on paternity leave and was in the audience instead of on the front lines; to judge by the firing rates of Silly String during the show, his policing skills were sorely missed. And then there is the costume forced upon Ben by the band . . . I guess it must be a sign that he’s loved.
31 MAY 2010:
ISIS AGES OUT
The annual Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras
(WYSO) concerto concert, more formally known as the Eugene Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concert Series, is a festival of tears and virtuosi. Virtuosi, because it showcases the winning perfromers from WYSO’s concerto competition. Tears, for this is the final regular WYSO performance for the orchestra’s High School seniors. This year it was Isis Leonard’s turn to say farewell, after five years spanning all four WYSO orchestras. Members who are aging out wear red flowers on their lapels; Isis’ is not quite visible in the blurry photo at right.
This year’s musical offering, presented on the afternoon of Sunday 23 May 2010, consisted of the following:
Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, by Mikhail Glinka.
According to the program notes, Glinka composed this overture “at the last minute” for his opera, which was a “resounding failure.” But the overture is rich and vivacious, and includes some nice bassoon licks.
Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major, by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Mvts. II: Andante and III: Rondo, in an apparently effortless performance by Ansel Norris
Violin Concerto No. 3, B minor, Op. 1, by Camille Saint-Saens
Mvt. I: Allegro no troppo; Tony Oliva, precise upon his violin
Prism Rhapsody, by Keiko Abe
Greg Riss, marimbist in an engagingly non-concertolike piece
Rainbow Body, by Christopher Theofanidis
This densely-patterned work includes references to the Gregorian chants of Hildegard von Bingen, and I expect it to repay relistening when the CD comes out.
MHS choirs in the 2010 Cabaret “Lion King” medley
24 MAY 2010:
MHS LION KING A ROYAL TREAT
Axiom: The best thing about the Lion King franchise, in any of its incarnations, is the puppetry in the stage version; many of its other elements are forgettable. As it turns out, the property’s combination of faults makes Lion King ideal source material for a great choral/dance medley. I very much enjoyed the performance given by the combined McFarland High School choirs at the 2010 MHS Cabaret show, featuring just such a medley, on the evening of Saturday 22 May. For my money, it was better than the film. Reasons follow.
Blue Notes, including Kolin ‘n Ally
Cabaret’s overall title this year was The Circle of Life, but that referred only to the medley section. There was no integrated dramatic arc as with 2009’s ambitious (and perhaps harrowing to supervise?) A Spartan’s Story, which followed a script written by Ally Schmaling. The quality of Saturday night’s student acts was high, and though the program was as usual a bit heavy on ballads, there was a good deal of stylistic variety among them, both as compositions and in the performances. At no time did I find myself longing for a change of pace or mood. One lack: there were no skits this year. We need at least one, to help us parse the songs. Who’s up for it next year? Michael Jaggers? Tag! You’re it.
Here’s a list of acts. Song titles in blue can be clicked on if you care to hear recordings. (Video of many acts is also available on the MHS Facebook page.)
I Wish by Stevie Wonder; performed by the Blue Notes, including Ally Schmaling, Kolin Walker, and Beau Peregoy of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band.
Somebody to Love by Freddy Mercury; also performed by Blue Notes. Soloists: Ben Psyk, Bridget Schwefel, Kolin Walker, Heather Traska (uncredited in the printed program), and Ally Schmaling.
The program suggests that both Blue Notes pieces were a la Glee, but I can’t vouch for I Wish. Both performances were excellent; check out the recordings!
Eternity of Light Waves, from one of the Final Fantasy video games I think; performed by Kayleigh Coloso
Everything, performed by Kyle Kubicek
Don’t Stop Believin’, by Journey (it was on their “ESC4P3” album, the one with the lava beetle breaking out of a Christmas ornament), also via Glee; performed by Concert Choir, including AITDJB member Michael Jaggers. Bandstrations of this song don’t work very well, because saxes don’t sound like guitars, but in this vocal version there was no expectation of guitar noises, and the performance sounded great. Soloists: Chris Virtue, Allison Blaser, Ben Kregness, Hayley Bristol.
Rain, by Patty Griffin; performed by Ally Schmaling, who accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. Before she started she apologized for her guitar skills, which was totally unnecessary: she is good at everything she does, and this was no exception. Her voice was beautiful and her interpretation insightful, as always.
Syndicate, by Isaac Slade of The Fray; deftly performed by Kolin Walker. Accompanying himself on piano, Kolin made the song very much his own.
The Climb, by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe; Danie Jo Larsen sang along with the Hannah Montana video.
Kolin Enters Syndication
Lean On Me, by Bill Withers, also a Gleeification; performed by the A Cappella Choir, including AITDJB members Isis Leonard and Ally Schmaling. Solos by Lindsey Elmer, Keaton Williams, Karin Hansen, Cassandra Washington-Law, and Heather Traska.
Maybe This Time, by Kander and Ebb (written for “Golden Gate” and used in the film version of “Cabaret”, not from “Chicago” as listed in the program, although – little trivia note here – you can sing “Funny Honey” to the same accompaniment as “Maybe This Time”); performed by Kate Zobel
Yesterday, performed with characteristic power and bravura by Heather Traska.
I’m All Over It, by Jamie Cullum; a tour-de-force performance by Barry Bakunowicz, who sang and played the piano. Barry belongs on a Las Vegas stage. He was accompanied by Alex Olson on set.
Don’t Know Why, performed by Alyse Weber, who was totally channelling Norah Jones – every breathy, coolly dispassionate turn was spot on. Charming!
A Cappella Choir
Whenever You Call – Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight sang it first; I don’t know who wrote it. At Cabaret we heard Heather Traska and Ben Psyk singing, accompanied on piano by Kolin Walker. Listen to the track!
Secondary Characters, by Bowen and Bell, from the musical [title of show]; performed by Hannah Polipnick and Ally Schmaling. You know the scene in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox is playing guitar at a dance in 1955, and everything goes great until he turns into a Van Halen stage monster? Ally pulled a Van Halen toward the end of the song, prompting Anne Nichols to come on stage and give her THE LOOK (TM); Ally and Hannah slunk away. It was hilarious.
La Valse d’Amelie, by Yann Tiersen, from the soundtrack to the film Amelie; performed on piano by exchange student Audrey Monfouga, to a slide show of images from her native France. Moving, different, and cool – what more could one ask for?
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It, by several people including Beyonce, who sang it. Several sources have correctly pointed out that Beyonce’s saucy video for the song is mostly lifted from Gwen Verdon’s performance of Bob Fosse’s choreography in Mexican Breakfast; the Beyonce version is similarly shot against no background to speak of, although in black and white, and includes a pair of Beyonce look-alikes. At cabaret we saw an unspeakably accurate, campy re-inactment of the video by three beauties clad in swimsuits and curve-hugging silver shorts: Ally Shmaling, Hannah Polipnick, and Ben Psyk. It’s always funny when a guy dresses up as a gal, but Ben had a lot more going for him than that: He was struttin’ his stuff and slappin’ his booty with the best of them. All three dancers hit that fine edge of parody at which a performer shows that they can do it like the original, but looser and funnier. This number was a show-stopper, and rightly placed last on the bill of student acts.
Bustin’ Some Moves
Which brings us back to Lion King, the evening’s penultimate act. The medley began and ended with The Circle of Life, with tastes of I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Chow Down (from the Broadway show), Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, and others. Special-effects props included glow sticks, streamers, young children, and eared hair arches. The whole effect was exuberant and joyful.
Choreography by Rachel Stetenfeld suited the musical numbers well, and made good use of the size of the company. Dancers credited in the program were Hayley Bristol, Michael Jaggers, Emily Grassl, Sam Stenbroten, Eva Radomski, Mallory Radney, Brandon Zimmerman, Libby Robb, Cassandra Washington-Law, Gabriella Cristobal, Alex Olson, Rachel Stetenfeld (Nala), Ben Psyk (Simba), and Bridget Schwefel. But company numbers were frequent, so really everyone got a turn to dance, jump around, and sit on each others’ knees. It was a hoot.
Here, then, are the Top Ten Reasons Why the MHS Cabaret Lion King Medley was better than the Lion King:
10) The plot is much more interesting told as representational dance than as dialog
9) The songs are lots of fun when they don’t last long enough to wear out their welcome
8) Even Chow Down works well when you know enough of the performers personally
7) Ally, Heather, Brittney, and Bridget all singing at the same time? Fuggidaboudit!
6) The massed choirs of MHS are mighty!
5) Ben Psyk actually is Simba in a parallel universe
4) Little kids on stage
3) Glow sticks in the dark
2) Mark Lundin: he’s a keeper
1) Anne Nichols!
Some music awards were re-announced at Cabaret: the National Choral Award for Ben Psyk, the Frederic Chopan Piano Award for Kolin Walker, and the inaugural Jack Pingel Spirit of Music Award for Isis Leonard. Mark Lundin and Anne Nichols were presented with goodies. And then it was time for tearful farewells to the astonishingly talented class of 2010.
Casting my eye back over this review I see that its opening is somewhat curmudgeonly; I may as well go in for the whole pound and say that I don’t really care for Rent. Sure, the characters are sick, dying, and despised. But why does this absolve them of all responsibility? As much as the next guy, I like to see landlords as villains, but we’re never given much reason to see this one that way. The characters never even try to earn money to pay their rent, they just whine about how they obviously shouldn’t have to pay it – because they’re sick, dying, and despised. Who cares? La boheme was at least entertaining. But that quibble aside, No Day But Today was a fine choice for an ending number, and gave the departing seniors an emotional send-off.
Isis and Anne
17 MAY 2010:
ISIS EXEMPLIFIES THE “SPIRIT OF MUSIC”
At the Fifth Annual McFarland High School Music Awards Ceremony, held on the evening of 12 May, MHS instituted a new music honor: the Jack T. Pingel “Spirit of Music” Award. The man for whom the award is named, and who it honors, was band director at MHS from 1962-1970; a force for good and a spirit of humor; the cause of countless anecdotes; and, certainly not least, father of our own beloved Anne Nichols. With deepest pride, I report that the inaugural winner of this award is
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2003 – 2009)
Here are Anne’s words from the presentation:
“The Jack T. Pingel Spirit of Music Award – Given to a student who displays exemplary passion, dedication and enjoyment in the area of music; to a student that is involved in music beyond the walls of the school by participating in community groups, Madison area music organizations, private lessons, musical volunteering, and the personal pursuit of music for the soul . . . I am proud to present this award to Isis Leonard.”
The Frederic Chopin Piano Award is an honor not conferred every year at MHS, because many years no one merits it. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to tell you that it was earned this year by
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
SB 2007 – 2009).
Quoting Anne again:
“For outstanding ability and achievement as a pianist, as well as for contributions to the school music program; for demonstrating a high standard of conduct and a cooperative spirit – by the general consent of the music faculty, school officials and students, the Frederic Chopin Piano Award is hereby conferred upon Kolin Walker.”
Also at the Awards Ceremony, Gena Roisum
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
received the paraphernalia (desk medal, pin, and certificate) marking her receipt of the 2010 MHS John Philip Sousa Award, announced at last week’s band concert.
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009) has a lovely, powerful, expressive voice, and the intelligence to use it well. Others think so too; at the WSMA State Solo and Ensemble Festival, Ally earned the highly presitgious Exemplary Solo Recognition Project award (known to old-timers as “a pink slip”) for her astonishing performance of Gluck’s O del mio dolce ardor. You may be able to read more about the award
here. Cheers, Ally!
It is as usual an honor to note that these top award-winning musicians are all members of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band. The Band may be famous only locally, but our alumni have a way of going on to greater glory. My best wishes to each of them.
Two other MHS students also received pink slips at this year’s WSMA festival: Brittney Leemon, for her soproano solo, and Johnny Mitchell, for his parade drum solo, which he also composed. Three Exemplary Soloists is a signal honor for a school McFarland’s size, a further indication of the quality of our music faculty.
The National Choral Award, given “in recognition of singular merit, ability, and achievement, of outstanding contributions to the success of the school vocal program, and of an unusual degree of loyalty, cooperation and high qualities of conduct”, was presented to Ben Psyk at the MHS ceremony. Trent Thomas was chosen to receive The Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, given “in recognition of outstanding achievements in the field of jazz as demonstrated through superior musicianship, character, and individual creativity.” Both were well earned. The selection of recipients for all awards must have been particularly difficult this year; this senior class is packed with talent.
The MHS ceremony honored all participants in the WSMA Solo and Ensemble Festivals, for which medals were awarded. School letters in music were also awarded to students accumulating the required number of performance and participation points, as were were bars and certificates associated with those letters.
Gena, receiving some other awards
10 MAY 2010:
GENA JONS THE RANKS OF SOUSA ELITE
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009),
clarinetist extraordinaire and an all-around marvelous musician, has earned the 2010 McFarland High School John Philip Sousa Band Award. The award was announced at the MHS band concert on the evening of Thursday 6 May. (The photo at right is from the Music Awards Ceremony on 12 May.)
The Sousa Award was inaugurated in 1954, with the cooperation of Helen Sousa Albert and Priscilla Sousa, daughters of the famous composer and bandmaster, and is now used by thousands of high schools to honor their top band students. The pinnacle of achievement in a high school band program, the Sousa Award recognizes outstanding dedication and superior musicianship. The award has become a nationwide symbol of excellence in musical achievement.
At MHS, it is given to the most outstanding instrumentalist in the senior class, who receives a medal, a pin, and a certificate stating that the award is bestowed “in recognition of outstanding achievement and interest in instrumental music, for singular merit in loyalty and cooperation, and for displaying those high qualities of conduct that school instrumental music requires.” I am delighted to be reporting this award. Gena has made signal contributions to the instrumental music program at McFarland, not to mention to the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band– starting her very first year, when we threw her to the wolves. A more deserving Sousa recipient cannot be imagined.
The concert which was a prelude to which Gena’s award consisted of the following works:
Flourish for Wind Band by Ralph Vaughn Williams
Chaconne & Festive Aria by Bach (arr. Daehn)
Dinosaurs by Daniel Bukvich
Fortress by Frank Ticheli
Voices of the Sky by Sammy Hazo
Village Sketches by Jacob De Haan
“Village Sketches holds the memory of that small town in the Netherlands: Dinxperlo; where the Batavians race, smugglers steal, and people run about the market.” – Erin Campbell
Tempered Steel by Charles Young
“Tempered Steel reminds me of the inside of a steel plant, except shiny and unmarked by industrialist oppression. The forte pianos, accents, and metal percussion surround the audience with sounds of steel being struck, and the hemiola and crisp articulation add to the intensity.” – Isis Leonard
Amazing Grace setting by Frank Ticheli
“Amazing Grace is a simple piece that gradually builds throughout to a powerful peak. It is unusual for a Ticheli piece as it is straight-forward and largely without fluorish.” – Gena Roisum
The Phantom of the Opera Andrew Lloyd Weber (arr. Barker); video edited by Jacob Barleen
“This piece, with so many obvious changes in mood seems almost schizophrenic. Since this feel is consistent with the mentality of the musical itself, it keeps the listener engaged. Erik’s obsession with Christine is well illustrated by the alternating gentle and violent passages, as well as the key changes.” – Becca Funk
Currant and former members of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band and The Wind in the Reeds are often chosen to expound in the program notes.
3 MAY 2010:
AIN’T IT GRAND TO BE BLUE?
The Kitten’s Mittens Vocal Jazz Ensemble at Blues in the Night 2010
Michael Jaggers, 2nd from left; Kolin Walker, conducting
To quote Jim Hickey (your imagination will have to supply his intonation and cadence): “Does it get any better than this?”
McFarland schools’ annual Blues in the Night shows feature instrumental and vocal jazz ensembles from MHS and IMMS in an evening of good food and great music that is not to be missed. This year’s show, on the evening of 1 May, was the best ever; Blue Notes and Early Bird are the hottest they have been in years. Here’s the lineup:
7th Grade Jazz Ensemble
Michael Jaggers (AITDJB 2009) and
on trumpet, and
Ben Petersen (AITDJB FamFest 2009) on trombone:
– Sunday Morning, featuring a fine tenor sax solo by Maria Hilgers
– Take the ‘A’ Train, with a dandy solo by Michael
– Blues Machine
– (A Latin piece; I missed the name)
– In the Midnight Hour
8th Grade Jazz Ensemble
Including Ben on bass guitar and Leif Larson on set:
– Born to be Wild (Ian Jones played a solid alto sax solo)
– Blues at the Gate
– Vertical Vision
– Blue Skies
– Poco Loco: as much fun as I’ve ever had listening to an 8th grade band
– Final Countdown
Kitten’s Mittens Vocal Jazz
Including Michael Jaggers and
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
SB 2007 – 2009)
Yesterday, which sounded even better than it did at State – click to listen!
This Is the World I Know, with Alex Walker in excellent voice
McFarland High School Concert/Symphonic Band Jazz Ensemble:
(This is where Michael Jaggers actually lives)
– Trofeo de Bolos (“Bowling Trophy”)
Bye Bye Blackbird (wicked muted-trumpet lead by Michael)
– True Blue (Michael again)
– Mercy, Mercy, Mercy – Michael yet again; also Tyler McGraw with a tenor sax solo that sounded pretty good, but it was hard to tell: In this band the guitar was both too loud and grindingly detuned all night long.
Blue Notes Vocal Jazz
Ally Schmaling (AITDJB 2008 – 2009),
Heather Traska, Alex Walker,
Beau Peregoy (AITDJB 2008 – 2009), and
Detour Ahead; solo by the incredible Heather Traska
Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, with Ally’s trademark whistle
– I Wish
Early Bird Jazz Ensemble
(WitR 2009)) and
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
– Sweet Georgia Brown, by Bernie, Pinkard, and Casey; clarinet solo by Gena; sax solo by Alexander
– Come Fly With Me, by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn; awesome, perfectly-styled vocals by Barry Bakunowicz; tenor sax solo by Gena
– Soul Man, by Isaac Hayes and David Porter; tenor sax solo by Gena again
– Blue Serge, by Duke Ellington; a truly lovely tenor sax solo by – who else? – Gena
– A Minor Excursionby David Caffey; tenor sax solo by – oh, you know
– Mambo Swing, originally by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (I think; correct me if I’m wrong!); solo – (do I need to write it?)
It will be noted that the roster of soloists was heavily populated by members of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band. They make me proud.
Great credit for the evening’s success goes to directors Mark Lundin, Michelle Naegele, Anne Nichols, Ben Petersen, and Brian Vanderbloemen; also to
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
SB 2007 – 2009),
founder, director, and beating hear of the Kitten’s Mittens all-guy vocal jazz ensemble.
Kudos to the event organizers, too! The nosh was swell, the the ol’ IMMS Vomitorium never looked so grand.
Ally: Not Just Vanilla
26 APRIL 2010:
THE BEST OF THE BEST
The WSMA State Solo and Ensemble Festival, held Saturday 24 April on the UW-Whitewater campus, was as usual a resounding success for McFarland students in general, and for our musicians in particular. Earlier, I posted a
partial list of events in which members of the Almost In Time Dixieland Jazz Band, the Solstice Brass, and the Wind in the Reeds advanced to this top performance event. I won’t bore you by reiterating details, but let me shout out that ALL OF THOSE PERFORMANCES earned a 1 rating! You people rock!
Credit goes to our wonderful music faculty:
Anne Nichols (AITDJB 2005 – 2007, 2009),
Brian Vanderbloemen (AITDJB 2005 – 2009),
(SB 2008), and
BEN PETERSEN (AITDJB 2009).
Here’s who did what, including some audio clips recorded that day:
Ally Schmaling: (AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
Soprano Solo: O del mio dolce ardor by Gluck; PINK SLIP AWARDED!
Musical Theater – Female Role: Vanilla Ice Cream from the Masteroff/Harnick/Bock musical She Loves Me
Mixed Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Blue Notes, including Beau and Kolin): Trickle, Trickle by Clarence Bassett, and Detour Ahead mostly by John Frigo
Vocal Duet (with Beau Peregoy):
Beau Peregoy: (AITDJB 2008)
1*Vocal Duet: Now With Rejoicing and Laughter by J. S. Bach
1*Musical Theater: I Am the Very Model, from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance
1* Mixed Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Blue Notes, including Ally and Kolin): The Way You Look Tonight by Jerome Kern, and Fugue in C minor by J. S. Bach, as arranged by the Swingle Singers;
1* SATB Quartet (including Ally): Kyrie Eleison from Mozart’s Missa Brevis
(WitR 2003 – 2007): Saxophone Choir
Gena Roisum (AITDJB 2007 – 2008,
WitR 2005 – 2008):
1* Clarinet Choir: the Rondo from Mozart’s Diverimento in B flat Major
1* Clarinet Solo: Concertino for Clarinet by von Weber
1* Miscellaneous Duet (clarinet, with Isis on violin): American Pastoral by Isis Leonard
Isis Leonard (WitR 2003 – 2008, SS 2004 – 2008, AITDJB 2007 – 2008):
C/O Bassoon Solo: Andante e Rondo ongarese by Carl Maria von Weber
1* Violin Solo: Czardas by Monti
1* Violin and Piano Duet (with Kolin): Sonatina in G by Dvorak
1* Miscellaneous Duet (violin, with Gena on clarinet): American Pastoral by Isis Leonard
SB 2007 – 2008):
1* Violin and Piano Duet (with Isis): Sonatina in G by Dvorak
1* Musical Theater: Luck Be A Lady from Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls
1* Vocal Solo: O Del Mio Dolce Ardor by Gluck
1* Vocal Duet: Pie Jesu from Webber’s Requiem
1* Misc Percussion Ensemble: Pire by Vazquez
1* Mixed Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Blue Notes, including Ally and Beau): The Way You Look Tonight by Jerome Kern, and Fugue in C minor by J. S. Bach, as arranged by the Swingle Singers; 1*
Maia Perez (WitR 2008): Oboe solo
Nick Bakunowicz (AITDJB 2006)
1* Brass Quintet: Die Bankelsangerlieder arranged by Carl King
Trickle, Trickle, performed by the Blue Notes Vocal Jazz Ensemble
Detour Ahead, sung by the same glad crew
Allegro Brilliante, by Willen Ten Have, a violin solo performed by Isis Leonard
More good stuff will follow.
Alexander Brown Employs
An Aid To Memory
19 APRIL 2010:
WE COULD USE A FEW MORE STOUT ALEXANDER BROWNS
Much art is built around the gimmick of its consumers being in the know. All of David Letterman’s jokes are insider jokes; we laugh even when he’s not funny, pleased with ourselves for catching his sly references. The Marx Brothers stood the convention on its head, and made careers of being outsiders: if anyone in their films knows what’s really going on, it’s never them. But they show us how shallow the insiders are, and make us love to be shown – even though the insiders are us. If this sort of cognoscenti entertainment is arranged in a spectrum from pablum to ambrosia, with Trivial Pursuit near the bottom and Silverlock at the top, then John Guare’s overstuffed play A Few Stout Individuals falls, on its own merits, somewhere in the upper third. Exact positioning depends upon production.
In the recent staging at MHS,
(WitR 2009) elevated the quality several notches every time he spoke or moved, delivering a crackling, majestic performance as the Emperor of Japan. In his best moments he transcended his material, drawing by subtle interpretation a clear portrait of a character who did not, technically, even exist, but was certainly the most substantial persona on stage.
When MHS Social Studies teacher and drama director Eric Brehm selects works for production, he does not necessarily base his choices upon the tastes of McFarland audiences: he does not stage plays we’ll like; he teaches us to like the plays he stages. He’s willing to take the chance that some material is more bleak, or intense, or intricate than the fare parents may expect to see their little darlings presenting in a school drama. His production of A Few Stout Individuals demonstrates that he’s also willing to tackle plays that are powerful but flawed, and that the exercise of staging an ambitious work may be of great value even if some of its aspects prove to be beyond the company’s reach. Mr. Brehm is a valuable, uncomfortable public asset, like grit in an oyster. I hope he survives here, and is not spat out.
A Few Stout Individuals is a play of ideas, a heady mixture of thought, argument, and history. It is about memory and denial; oblivion and endurance; right vs. correct; the tensions among social relevance, artistic merit, and commercial value, and how creators juggle them – and it’s about a lot more, too; but that’s enough to be going on with. Attempting to explore all these ideas at once, the playwright marshals a goulash of fact and fancy, packed with telling minutiae and learned allusions. The feast is exciting, challenging, intriguing – but sometimes frustrating and overblown. Most of the specimens embedded in the logorrhoea of quotes and references support the themes neatly enough, but others seem inserted merely to keep the audience from laughing (and the script is frequently very funny) for fear they’ll miss the next Bartlett’s moment. For example, so many of the lines are Mark Twain quotes that, even though Samuel Clemens is a character in the play, he doesn’t get to speak all of them. I think.
One way for a reviewer to approach a work this chock-full of allusions is to make sure his readers know how many of them he understood, thereby burnishing his reputation for erudition. Did you catch the Epictetus quote? And the advertence of Jamshyd’s hubris? And how do you like the way this reviewer has already plugged John Myers Myers twice? If you find this paragraph tiresome (I do), you have an idea of one of the things that needs improving in this play.
Repetition is another. In the play’s sandier spots I found myself wishing the dialog carried more authorial voice, more cement to bind together the countless nuggets of Great Words. One reason there was not more room for the author to speak to us directly, is that the script is obsessively repetitive: Guare seems to feel that any point worth making is worth making a dozen times more. Ruthless pruning is needed.
Though reiteration can be germane to a drama making an inquiry into memory, the demands it places on performers are very high. On the stage particularly, phrases repeated without sufficient insight and development quickly come to be anticipated by the audience with the same degree of pleasure that greets the onset of a chronic itch. Alexander Brown rose well above this problem. His character is a felonious repeater, but Brown took the lines as an opportunity to display impeccable timing, technical prowess, and a very natural human warmth.
Guare’s Emperor of Japan is an interactive hallucination discontinuously inhabiting the mind of Ulysses S. Grant: a mind tormented by doubts and buried self-recriminations. Grant’s central crisis is an inability to come to terms with the bloody battle of Cold Harbor; to avoid it, his train of thought runs in loops, or leaps back to its starting point, in ways familiar to anyone who knows an Alzheimer’s patient. Whenever the Emperor is not the focus of Grant’s attention, Brehm’s staging calls for the actor playing him to back away and stand motionless against the scenery – an apt device, leaving the character absent from attention but not from our perception. The Emperor comes downstage again each time Grant strikes up another of his many imaginary conversation with him. These frequently begin as if Grant’s mind has just undergone a full reboot, which requires the Emperor’s initial lines to be delivered in precisely the same manner every time. Brown didn’t just get this right; he nailed it to the barn, intoning I am memory with exactly the same matter-of-fact grandness of tone and dignity of stance at each repetition.
Yet each dialog between General and Emperor follows a different evolutionary course, so that the Emperor must gradually develop from an icon into a personality. This too Brown managed flawlessly, really showing his dramatic chops. An actor is often called upon to demonstrate a character’s growth, but usually only once per show, in an arc from the rise of the curtain to its fall. Brown gave us natural, believable character development many times over, in the course of one evening, each time Grant reconstituted him. It was an astonishing achievement.
Brandon Zimmerman did a fine job as the conflicted, wheelchair-bound Ulysses S. Grant, successfully sustaining a collection of old-man tics that were delineating but not cartoonish. His gyrations of mood, mental capacity, and degree of denial were the pivot on which other characters’ motivations turned, and he bore the central role well. On the night I saw the show, 16 April, Sam Siegmann was clearly bluffing his way through the role of Samuel Clemens, sometimes visibly struggling to recall lines. But Sam’s own personality is close enough to Twain’s that even his extemporaneous moments were carried off well, and I chose to view his performance as a depiction of a wildly clever man who is not “on” as often as he’d like to be. This he did admirably, even maintaining a convincing accent and Clemens’ awe-shucks affectation of countrification. Kudos, Sam!
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
had the perhaps-underappreciated role of Adelina Patti, a beautiful opera diva with a luminous voice and spectacular stage presence, who inspired popular frenzies and critical raves wherever she went. Need I mention that Ally was perfectly suited to the role? She sang a lovely rendition of The Last Rose of Summer, played in this context more as camp than art, but which I found very moving. Cheers, Ally!
Blocking was often rather stiff and inanimate; more ferment and chewing of scenery might better have matched the roil of ideas. Granted, the central character was stuck in a wheelchair, but that could serve to make him the eye for a hurricane of action, which did not materialize in this production. Lighting was adequate and apparently simple. For this show Brehm again extended the stage with an apron, used mostly for the delivery of soliloquies. The spare set stood upon a knock-your-eyes-out chequered floor; appositely, the most attention was lavished upon things that were not there: outlines on the wallpaper showed where paintings and furniture had stood, before they were sold by Grant and his wife to maintain their income. The missing items, like the Emperor upstage, were ghostly presences reminding us that the insubstantial may be of more import than the real.
Alexander Brown in the saxophone choir
5 APRIL 2010:
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING DELIGHTFULLY DIFFERENT
It’s not that I don’t like to hear the High School bands perform – I really enjoy noting the spectrum of quality that shows the students’ steady improvement as they move up through the three ensembles over the course of their careers at MHS, and the directors always make lively, balanced programming choices. But the annual instrumental music concert featuring WSMA Solo & Ensemble performers is a standout among my favorites. The chance to hear solos and small ensembles is one more way in which our excellent school music program offers us variety and quality.
On Thursday 18 March the bands played the following program:
On Parade, by Edwin Franko Goldman (arr. Lisk)
Rhythm Stand, by Jennifer Higden (very cool)
The Lion King, by Elton John & Hans Zimmer (medleyized by Higgins)
Michael Jaggers – brass choir
Postcard from Singapore, by Philip Sparke
I. Gelang Sipaku Gelang
II. Di-Tanjung Katong
III. Lenggang Kangkang and Munnaeru Vaalibaa
Magnificent Seven, by Bernstein (improved by Philippe)
Americans We, a grand old Filmore march
Five Scenes from Melville: Of Sailors and Whales, by W. Francis McBeth
Brian Vanderbloemen, narrator
III. Father Mapple
V. The White Whale
Solo and Ensemble events included:
Gena Roisum’s quartet
Mambo Schmambo, by Chris Brooks; performed by the Concert Band Percussion Ensemble
Il Guarnay, by Gomez and Johnson; performed by the Saxophone Choir, including
(WitR 2009), under the direction of Brian Vanderbloemen
Toreador Song, by Georges Bizet (arr. Vosbien); performed by the Symphonic Band Brass Choir, under the direction of Michelle Naegele
Petit Quartet, Mvt. 1, by Crosse; performed by a clarinet quartet gracefully led
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
Duet No. 1 Op. 74, by Devienne; performed on clarinets by Drew Kloes and Alex Roberts
Tripple T’s, by Giovannini; performed by the Trombone Choir, under the direction of Michelle Naegele
The Drunken Silor (arr. Vosbien) ; performed by the Concert Band Brass Choir, including
under the direction of Michelle Naegele
Duo I, by Devienne; performed on clarinet and bassoon by Gena Roisum and
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2003 – 2009), respectively.
Antiphon, by Combs; performed by the Wind Ensemble Percussion Ensemble (!), including
(AITDJB FamFest 2009)
Canzone per Sonare No. 2, by Gabrieli (arr. King); performed by the Wind Ensemble Brass Choir, under the direction of Michelle Naegele
Mexican Murals, by Brown; a marimba solo performed by Leif Larson
WYSO Youth Orchestra in Mills Hall: Too Big for the Frame
29 MARCH 2010:
AS GOES DVORAK, SO GOES THE NATION
Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO)
“Winterfest Concerts” occur in March, making the name difficult to defend on the basis of either astronomy or galoshes. But perhaps the orchestra needs to spend the winter building endurance. What other youth group performs a whole symphony as merely the second half of their program? The WYSO Youth Orchestra (“Youth” is one of four orchestras in the WYSO program, the others being “Sinfonietta”, “Concert Orchestra”, and “Philharmonia Orchestra”, so there’s no good way to refer to Youth specifically without sounding redundant) gave a really superb performance of Antonin Dvorak’s 6th Symphony, a work neglected in the Classical CD department at Barnes and Noble, but very rich and rewarding to hear. Here’s the whole program, including notes written by Youth members:
WYSO Member Program Notes
Winterfest Concert. March 14, 2010
Dmitri Shostakoich (1906-1975) Festival Overture
by Cindy Cai, viola
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was born on Sepember 25, 1906 to Dmitri Boleslavovich and Sofia Vasilvcvna. The Shostakoviches were passionate lovers of music. Ironically, they did not recognize their son’s gift until almost his ninth birthday. On November 12, 1954 Shostakovich made a rare appearance as
conductor in Gorky, Russia at a concert devoted to his compositions. This was his second and final experience on the conductor’s podium. At this concert, he conducted his Fesival Overture and the Cello Concerto No. 1.
Shostakovich received the commission for this work literally days before the intended concert, at a gathering at the Bolshoi Theatre on November 6. 1954, celebrating the 37th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. Shostakovich wrote the Festival Overture (1954) in only three days. Lev Nikolayevich Lebedinsky, who was a friend of Shostakovich, described the Festival Overture as a “brilliant effervescent work, with its vivacious energy spilling over like uncorked champagne.”
Festival Overture opens with a brass fanfare that continues to build until the first theme. The brass section can later be heard in restataments of this primary theme. In contrast, the second theme emerges in the conventional key of the dominant E major, in a lyrical melody led by the horns and celli. The upper strings (violin and viola) join and develop the melody. The musical line then moves into a section of pizzicato, serving as a transition back to the primary theme. The presto theme then builds into the first climax which is a combination of earlier themes in counterpoint. Elements of the first theme appear again, before moving onto the final climax of the piece – a recapitulation of the opening brass fanfare. Finally, the overture ends in a relentlessly fast and energetic coda.
Manuel dc Falla (1876-1946)
El sombrero de tres picos
Spanish composer Manuel de Falla studied in Madrid for three years with Felipe Pedrell, who imparted the doctrine that a nation’s music should be based on folk song. However, it was to the spirit rather than to the letter of Spanish folk music which Falla turned. In 1907, after teaching piano for two years in Madrid and winning both the Madrid Academy of Fine Arts prize for the best lyrical drama and the Ortiz y Cusso prize for Spanish pianists, Falla went to Paris, where he became the friend of and was greatly influenced by Dukas, Ravel, and Debussy. Falla’s fame was established in 1919 by the London production of the ballet “El sombrero de tres picos” (The Three-Cornered Hat). “El sombrero de tres picos” is a one-act ballet based on P. A. de Alarcon’s story “El sombrero de tres picos” (1874), about a magistrate who has become infatuated with a miller’s faithful wife and his attempts to seduce her. Throughout the ballet Falla uses traditional Andalusian folk music.
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 6
by Sarah Prescott, clarinet
The son of a butcher from a small town near Prague, Antonin Dvorak began his career as a struggling young composer, earning his living through playing viola in a local orchestra and teaching piano lessons. He received early recognition by winning, three years in a row, a contest for poor but talented artists and composers. Johannes Brahms, who was one of the judges, warmly praised Dvorak’s work and assisted him in being published; thus began Dvorak’s friendship with the composer who was to have a profound influence on his musical voice.
Dvorak composed Symphony No. 6 in D Major during the fall of 1880. He dedicated it to his friend the director of the Vienna Philharmonic, expecting that the prestigious ensemble would premiere the work. In fact, this did not occur, for a governmental change giving culturally diverse regions of Austria more autonomy had resulted in a subtle backlash of anti-Bohemian feeling, making the orchestra members disinclined to perform the symphony. Instead, the work was premiered in Prague; the Vienna Philharmonic did not perform it until forty years after Dvorak’s death.
Dvorak’s sixth symphony is a beautiful work, and was one ofthe first to establish his reputation as a symphonic composer. The first movement, Allegro non tanto, is gentle yet insistent, with sweeping strings and a lovely secondary theme introduced by the oboe. The second movement, Adagio, is predominantly given to the winds, and is filled with lyrical color. A sharp contrast is provided by the third movement, Scherzo (Furiant), which pulses with the throbbing, frenzied energy of the traditional Czech “furiant” dance, in which 3/4 and 2/4 meters alternate; after a brief period of calm, with the piccolo floating above gentle chords, the furious dance resumes. Finally, the fourth movement, Finale: Allegro con spirito, brings the symphony triumphantly and joyously to a close.
Isis Ten Have
22 MARCH 2010:
The WSMA District Solo and Ensemble Festival for McFarland was held at Evansville High School on Saturday 13 March. Every member of the AITDJB who entered received at least one starred 1st rating (typically, several!) and will be advancing to the State Festival at UW-Whitewater. Is anyone surprised? Here’s a list of who’s advancing; I hope I’ve left nobody out:
Beau Peregoy: baritone (voice) solo; vocal duet with Ally Schmaling; all-guys vocal jazz ensemble; musical theater solo
Isis Leonard: violin solo; bassoon solo; bassoon/clarinet duet with Gena Roisum
Alexander Brown: saxophone choir
Ally Schmaling: musical theater solo; classical soprano solo; Blue Notes; vocal duet with Beau Peregoy; female vocal ensemble; SATB quartet
Gena Roisum: clarinet solo; clarinet quartet; clarinet/bassoon duet with Isis Leonard
Kolin Walker: Blue Notes; all-guy vocal jazz ensemble
Michael Jaggers: all-guy vocal jazz ensemble
All the best to all of you, and we’ll see you at the Double Dip Deli!
Beau, channelling Charlie
15 MARCH 2010:
BEAU UP A TREE
(AITDJB 2005 – 2007, 2009), billed on the program for the 2010 MHS Spring Choral Collage as Anne R. Pingel-Nichols, is a gifted performer, inspirational teacher, and exciting concert programmer. The Collage on 8 March showcased the latter two accomplishments particularly, bringing us a rich stream of performances bound for the upcoming WSMA Solo and Ensemble festival, interleaved with meaty works for the full choirs.
Among our members, Michael Jaggers, Isis Leonard, Peau Peregoy, Ally Schmaling, and Kolin Walker were on stage. The Blue Notes Vocal Jazz Ensemble gave a fine rendition of Herb Ellis’s Detour Ahead, with a solo by the wonderful Heather Traska, and a perky take on Trickle, Trickle of Manhattan Transfer fame. (I got good recordings of both pieces, and expect to get more at District, State, and Blues in the Night; I’ll post the best tracks eventually.) Ally and Heather anchored a nine-woman ensemble singing Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes. Brittney Leemon was all over Green Finch and Linnet Bird, one of the nice pieces from “Sweeney Todd”.
But the recording I gotta post right now is Beau Peregoy singing The Kite from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, by Clark Gesner. Can a more perfect pairing of performer and persona be imaginged? But Beau nailed the piece to the barn because he has inherently Charlie-like qualities (sorry, Beau – but I had in mind earnestness, openness, and honesty – honestly!) Really he sang and acted very well. This one’s sure to get to State.
So, W/oFA, here’s
(AITDJB 2008 – 2009)
flying with The Kite.
Devienne among the stacks
8 MARCH 2010:
MCFARLAND MUSICIANS STACK UP WELL
Last week was Arts Week, or something of the sort. Students displayed their graphic art efforts at the McFarland Public Library, and on the evening of 4 March, select McFarland entrants in the upcoming
Solo and Ensemble Festival performed their contest pieces. Of course, members of the
AITDJB were among them.
(AITDJB 2009) performed his trumpet solo, El Torero, by a mysterious composer known only as Thomas.
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
led her clarinet quartet in Crosse’s
And Gena and
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2003 – 2009) performed an off-the-list duet, François Devienne’s
Duet No. 1. The two friends perform very smoothly together; it is a delight to hear them, and wistfull-making to think that their musical paths will soon diverge.
1 MARCH 2010:
GOT MUSIC? TEN HAVE!
On Sunday 28 February the violin students of Diana Popowycz (aka “Force of Nature”), and of her fellow teachers, gave a recital at Oakwood Village Retirement Community in Madison. The highlight of the afternoon (from my possibly-biased point of view) was Isis Leonard’s performance of Allegro Brilliante by Willem Ten Have.
Click here to listen to Isis playing
22 FEBRUARY 2010:
Nora Hickey is a bassoonist in the pit orchestra for a Harvard production of Tosca, which runs February 24, 26, 27, 28, and March 3, 5, 6 at the Lowell House Opera. Here’s the blurb from the theater’s Web site:
Floria Tosca is heroic in love, savage in hate. See this tempestuous diva, the painter who loves her spirit, and the police baron obsessed with her body, in Lowell House Opera’s fully staged production of that most tortured of operatic stories, Puccini’s Tosca. The soaring, anguished melodies will be sung in Italian (with projected English translations) by emerging young opera professionals and students. Stage Director Michael Yashinsky brings the opera to the Deco-meets-Caesar world of 1930s Italy, where the powers of Fascism, liberty, and romance collide. Channing Yu conducts the Lowell House Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Ryan M. Kichler is Producer. Two rotating casts in seven performances: February 24, 26, 27, and 28, and March 3, 5, and 6, 2010, at 8:30 pm in the Lowell House Dining Hall, 10 Holyoke Place, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
The Harvard Gazette also provides a video slideshow as an introduction to the production.
25 January 2010:
HOW WAS IT?
Last weekend was the McFarland/Middleton schools’ Jazz Cabaret, which I unfortunately had to miss. If anyone can send me photos, or a review, I’ll be very grateful.
At Beloit Turner
18 January 2010:
MHS ROCKS THE VALLEY
Saturday 16 January was the Honors Band program for what I still think of as McFarland’s new conference (Rock Valley); I am no more sure what a sports klatch has to do with music than I ever was, but there it is. The event took place at Beloit Turner High Schoo. MHS was of course well represented: Sam Bussan on flute; Matt Herold and
Gena Roisum (AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2005 – 2009)
(AITDJB 2007 – 2009,
WitR 2003 – 2009)
on bassoon; Michelle Johnsen and Trent Thomas on trumpet; Wyatt Nordstrom on horn; and Joey D’Amatto and Molly Pechmann on percussion.
Here’s the program:
Triumphant Fanfare, by Richard L. Saucedo
Three Pieces for American Band, Set No. 2, by Timothy Broege
With Quiet Courage, by Larry Daehn – an exemplar of the truism that social or personal relevance does not automatically make a work of art any good
Courtly Airs and Dances, by Ron Nelson
II. Basse Danse (France)
III. Pavane (England)
IV. Saltarello (Italy)
V. Sarabande (Spain)
VI. Allemande (Germany)
Gallop, by Dmitri Shostakovich
11 January 2010:
FOR YOU, O LORD, I LONG MY WORD ORDER TO REVERSE
Early each year, the combined choirs of MHS sink their teeth into a “major work” – an extended choral composition, usually in several movements, showcasing the performers’ ability to convey a range of emotions using a variety of styles while supporting a central organizing premise. This year’s choice was J. S. Bach’s Cantata No. 150, “Nach Dir, Herr, Verlanget Mich” (“For Thee, O Lord, I Long”). If a music program is going to include a Bach cantata and present it as primarily a choral piece, No. 150 is the one to pick: the orchestra is unusually small, and the work is nearly unique among its brethren in the prominence Bach gave to the choir. While serving as a fine example of what was possible for music required to meet the strictures of early Lutheran liturgical function – texts drawn from the day’s Scriptural lessons, the arc of musical development and climax subjugated to the rules about who sang what when, and so forth – No. 150 embodies notable freedoms which make it accessible and satisfying outside its original context. For example, only three of the seven movements employ Bibilcal texts; the others are poems by an unknown author, extolling the joy and security which come through faith. The final movement, normally a congregational singalong, is here a ciccona, providing a more emotionally satisfying conclusion to the work than would something constructed to be singable by the unwashed masses.
Here’s what’s in it:
Mvt. I (Sinfonia) We should note the fine little orchestra, which included our own Joe Dever on violin.
Mvt. II (Chorus): “Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich”. The A Cappella Choir.
Mvt. III (soprano aria): “Doch bin und bleibe ich vergnügt”. Generally I deplore the use of professional performers in MHS musical programs – sure, the students learn something from working with a more advanced musician, but I’d rather hear a student do something well than hear a ringer do the same thing very well. Perhaps there was no soprano in choir this year who was equal to the challenge of this movement?
Mvt. IV (chorus): “Leite mich in deiner Wahrheit”
Mvt. V (alto/tenor/bass trio): “Zedern müssen von den Winden”. Altos: Elise Gehrke, Hannah Polipnick, Ally Schmaling, Heather Traska. Tenors: Kayleigh Coloso, Ben Psyk, Alyse Weber, Alex Walker. Basses: Barry Backunowicz, Kyle Kubicek, Trevor Pike, Sam Siegmann. Now this is more like it! Many people got a piece of this one, and while some went better than others (of course), the overall effort made me proud to be a Spartan.
Mvt. VI (chorus): “Meine Augen sehen stets zu dem Herrn”.
Mvt. VII (chorus – ciaccona): “Meine Tage in dem Leide”. Brittney Leemon, soprano; Heather Traska, Alto; Ben Pysk, tenor; and Kyle Kubicek, bass. About Heather and Brittney nothing need be said; their excellence is well known. Ben aquitted himself very admirably, as did Kyle.
The movement numbers that look like links, are. They’ll get you .mp3s recorded on my Teac gadget.
Afters: Several students performed works of Bach in the cafeteria over light refreshments, after the concert. Notable was Isis Leonard who, with Karin Hansen, jumped into the Double Violin Concerto and landed on her feet.
Sam Bussan up front
in the Wind Ensemble
4 January 2010:
AFTER THE SNOW
The Great Blizzard of ’09 wreaked havoc with commuters, shut down businesses, closed the UW – and postponed the MHS winter band concert. But when the snow finally went on, on 21 December 2009, the wait proved to have been well worthwhile. Michael Jaggers, Gena Roisum, and Isis Leonard were on stage. Here’s the program:
The Visionaries by Brian Hogg
“The Visionaries was written as a tribute for the opening of a women’s college in Australia. It has a slow, almost lullaby-like beginning but turns upbeat in the end.” – Adam Rowe-Johnson.
Droylsden Wakes by David Stanhope
“Droyslden Wakes makes you think of nature paradises.” – Clara McGowan
Finale from Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger (arr. Vinson)
“The song Finale from Lincolnshire Posy is about a story of a lost lady. In the piece you can tell when she is lost, when she is found and the struggle of finding her in the middle.” – Jordan Kroneman
Valdres by Johannes Hanssen
Air for Band by Frank Erickson
Air for Band is slow, and soft, and the beginning is like a prayer.” – Eric Vela
Three Scenes for Band by Timothy Broege
“This song combines many emotions translated into music. The first part is full of suspense while the second is complete mystery. The third part includes hope and joy.” – Drew Kloes
Fanfare Prelude on Joy to the World by Jim Curnow
“The trills, dramatic dynamics, and the splitting of the melody between different instruments will keep your mind racing with joyful Christmas memories.” – Allison Bolstad
Florentiner March by Julius Fucik
“The Florentiner March gives us the sound of the circus or the Italian street player. The dense chromaticism and power of the low brass feature enhance the spectacle.” – Isis Leonard
The Sussex Mummers Christmas Carol; setting by Percy Grainger
“This piece reminds me of the stillness of the night before Christmas and the stars in the sky. It is smooth, gently, and bright.” – Elise Gehrke
Alligator Alley by Michael Daugherty
“Based on an actual highway in Florida, Alligator Alley brings a little anxiety to the listener.” – Claire Blankenship
Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis by Claude T. Smith
“While the notes and rhythms are not very challenging, it forces us to stay on pitch and be sure we are listening to the whole band. It is an energetice twist on the classic Christmas carol we all know and love” – Taylor Eveland