Arts 2012: Isthmus critics rate the year in Madison culture

By John W. Barker Originally published in Isthmus, 12/27/2012 Surveying a full year of Madison’s classical musical life is impossible in this small space. Best just to recall some memorable moments. The Madison Symphony Orchestra had some outstanding soloists: violinists Augustin Hadelich in Prokofiev (January) and James Ehnes in Bartók (October), and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Tchaikovsky (September). The orchestra itself blazed in Strauss’ massive Ein Heldenleben (March) and shone inspiringly in two great symphonies, Brahms’s Fourth (October) and Schubert’s Ninth (November). The Wisconsin Chamber Continue reading →

Soon to be 1/1/11.

It’s been another fun year! As the last few hours of 2010 slip by, I can’t help but look back and enjoy all that’s happened. We composers don’t socialize… I haven’t written too many pieces this year, but for what I’ve done I really liked. HK Young People’s Chorus’ commission of “Salmo 150” was a really fun project in which I could exercise those Renaissance counterpoint muscles, while I get to go wild on “Song for Nobody” for Ambrosia Ensemble. Continue reading →

World Premiere: Salmo 150

Image via Wikipedia If you are in Hong Kong this weekend and if you are in the mood for choral music, please go to the concert of Hong Kong Young People’s Chorus! I’m honored that among many master pieces such as Duruflé’s Requiem, my setting of Salmo 150 (Psalm 150 in Spanish) will be premiered. While the text is taken from the “Reina-Valera Antigua” translation from the 16th century, I draw much influence from the Spanish Renaissance masters as well. The result is a piece Continue reading →

Watch your language

Image via Wikipedia Do you have a favorite language to sing in, or compose for? I recently received a commission from a good friend to write a short sacred piece. Now that we have finally settled on Psalm 150–who doesn’t love the exciting praises with every instrument?–I set off right away to study the text in ye olde trusty King James Version. The more I read it though, the less I feel connected with it artistically. Here it is in KJV: 1Praise ye the LORD. Continue reading → Continue reading →


It’s been a wild month since I came back to the US! My opera dissertation project is half composed. Still working with Lisa on completing the libretto, but for now the composition work has been held to make way for… My lecture-recital on Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King. Boy is this a wild ride! I’ve been spending last semester working on the vocal techniques off several recordings (including Roy Hart’s 1969 premiere recording). The ensemble began rehearsing at the end Continue reading →