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 →

An exciting fall

Even after finishing with degree work, a new school year always still mean a new season of performances and work. I have just updated my gig calendar, with some exciting events coming up within a week! Some highlights: Eliza’s Toyes opens its season with a concert of music by Ludwig Senfl (1486-1543), with sacred and secular music from Martin Luther’s time. Senfl is an under-appreciated composer, whose colorful tapestry of polyphony is pure fun to perform, and a spectacle to hear! I’m part of a Continue reading →

Your help to produce a new opera needed!

Wired for Love, my first comic opera (also my DMA dissertation), needs your help to get off the ground! We have a webpage for it (, and a Kickstarter project page that currently seeks your pledge. Let’s hope we can reach the goal of $6,500 to make this fun opera possible! Check out our promotional video–with me is Jennifer Sams, who will play the role of Ethel Wormvarnish, the British anti-scammer’s online avatar who is supposed to be an underwear supermodel/exotic snake dancer. 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 →

Only half a year ago…

…I was deeply involved with Peter Maxwell Davies‘ fabulous (and hard) piece Eight Songs for a Mad King. Here’s an excerpt from the performance; enjoy! To be frank, I still haven’t watched through the entire video just because I creep myself out. Eight Songs for a Mad King: A DMA Lecture-Recital Morgann Davis, flute Ching-Hsie Hsu, clarinet Mary Perkinson, violin Emily Gruselle, cello Ian Disjardin, percussion Jeff Gibbens, piano Ching-chun Lai, conductor Jerry Hui, voice