Tag Archives: may

Orchestras welcome a month of ‘May-thoven’

Something classical must be in the Wisconsin water supply. This May, Beethoven-lovers practically can’t walk out of the house on a given weekend without stumbling on an orchestra performing one of the composer’s epic, groundbreaking symphonies.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will take up programs featuring Beethoven symphonies in the weeks to come. Madison’s single concert series, running May 8-10, will highlight his Ninth Symphony, and serve simultaneously as a tribute to the 10th anniversary season of their performance venue, Overture Center (see sidebar).

Milwaukee’s orchestra, on the other hand, will be performing in a distinctly different location than usual. In two concert series running May 14-17 and May 21-24 (featuring Beethoven’s Eighth and Fifth symphonies, respectively), the company will leave their home at the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall and perform down the street at the historic Pabst Theatre.

It’s a venue audiences have seen the MSO traveling to more frequently of late and associate conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong says it’s perfect for programs like these two.

“The Pabst is this unique space, and these concerts are a chance to really try it out,” he says. “Every hall has its quirks and every hall brings out things in the music. One of the things we knew right away was that any smaller-scale, Classical-era stuff would sound great in the Pabst.”

Each of the two symphonies has its own character. Beethoven’s Eighth is short and simple, with a buoyancy to its four movements. The Fifth, on the other hand, is known for its powerful, forceful energy. 

While both concerts will culminate with the Beethoven works, Lecce-Chong says it was equally important to precede them with works by modern composers who share Beethoven’s progressive spirit and flare for innovation. He says the Pabst’s intimate atmosphere is arguably one of the most ideal locations to experience contemporary works like these.

“Acoustically you feel very close to the performance,” says Lecce-Chong, “and I think that is a great way to experience newer music. It helps bring the audience closer to the music.”

Newer compositions by the composers sharing the bill with Beethoven will include Vivian Fung’s Violin Concerto (May 14-17); “These Particular Circumstances,” a set of seven small pieces by Sean Shepard; Nico Muhly’s “So Far So Good” and the short work “Madame Press Died Last Week” by Morton Feldmen, written in memory of one of his earliest and most influential teachers (all for May 21-24). 

“Vivian Fung, Sean Shepard, Nico Muhly, Morten Feldmen … they are really the composers of today,” says Lecce-Chong. “If you come over these two weeks you’re going to hear how the sounds of the orchestra are being dealt with today.” 

In many ways, despite hundreds of years of historical displacement, the composers whose works will be performed across these weekends represent the fearlessness of creators who push the limits of sound design and find success in their willingness to go where others might not.

“Beethoven stood out because he was always pushing the boundaries of what people thought he was going to do,” explains Lecce-Chong. “Every time they tried to pin him down to something, he was off to the races, onto the next idea. You’re hearing music that was incredibly edgy when it first came out, paired with music now that we probably consider very edgy.”

Featured soloist Kristin Lee, who will appear over the first concert weekend, will perform Vivian Fung’s Violin Concerto. Fung’s concerto is heavily influenced by Balinese Gamelan music, which she incorporated into the concerto while on tour in Indonesia. Throughout this insanely virtuosic work, Fung combines the percussive presence of the Gamelan tradition with all of the virtuosity available to the violinist, resulting in a highly colorful showpiece for the violin. 

Kristin Lee will not be the only guest on the stage. The MSO will be led each weekend by a different guest conductor. Daniel Cohen will be on the podium for concerts featuring Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, followed by Edwin Outwater at the baton for the program featuring Beethoven’s Fifth.

“My great hope is that over these two weeks that this very adventurous programming around the Beethovens will heighten the senses because you’re going to be so close to the colors, the sounds of these contemporary composers,” says Lecce-Chong. “It will be a way to experience them up close, there’s an extra chance to really connect with this music.”


The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Eighth May 14 to 17 and Beethoven’s Fifth May 21-24 at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25-$90 and can be ordered at either pabsttheater.org or mso.org.


Milwaukee isn’t the only city getting in on the Beethoven action. The Madison Symphony Orchestra will conclude its season with Beethoven’s own concluding masterpiece, his Ninth Symphony.

The “Ode to Joy” concert, conducted by John DeMain, will feature a full performance of the choral symphony, with four guest artists singing alongside the Madison Symphony Chorus. Also on tap is Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade,” considered one of Bernstein’s own best works. Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz will perform the violin solos of the latter.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is considered one of the greatest works ever to come out of Western culture, but it took a bit of time to be recognized as such. As program annotator J. Michael Allsen writes, several reviewers who attended the 1824 premiere openly questioned whether Beethoven was too old and deaf to produce quality work, and the musicians were under-rehearsed on the day of the event. 

History has proven those early critiques off-target. In addition to being a dynamic, captivating work in its own right, Beethoven’s introduction of choral elements to the symphony form (as he does in the fourth movement, with the poem “Ode to Joy” made famous by its inclusion) and its dynamic evolution over the course of the four movements served as an inspiration to artists of the subsequent Romantic period and beyond.

In this case, its selection is as much a tribute to the venue as it is the composer. In 2004, the Madison Symphony Orchestra ended its first season in Overture Hall with a performance of the work, which it hasn’t touched since. This time around, the symphony will conclude the MSO’s tenth season at Overture Center.

The program will be performed three times, at 7:30 p.m. May 8, 8 p.m. May 9 and 2:30 p.m. May 10. Tickets are $16-$84 and can be purchased at 608-258-4141.

— Matthew Reddin

World breaks monthly heat record 2 times in a row

The globe is on a hot streak, setting a heat record in June. That’s after the world broke a record in May.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month’s average global temperature was 61.2 degrees (16.2 Celsius), which is 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average. It beat 2010’s old record by one-twentieth of a degree.

While one-twentieth of a degree doesn’t sound like much, in temperature records it’s like winning a horse race by several lengths, said NOAA climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt.

And that’s only part of it. The world’s oceans not only broke a monthly heat record at 62.7 degrees (17 Celsius), but it was the hottest the oceans have been on record no matter what the month, Arndt said.

“We are living in the steroid era of the climate system,” Arndt said.

Arndt said both the June and May records were driven by unusually hot oceans, especially the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Heat records in June broke on every continent but Antarctica, especially in New Zealand, northern South America, Greenland, central Africa and southern Asia.

The United States had only its 33rd hottest June.

All 12 of the world’s monthly heat records have been set after 1997, more than half in the last decade. All the global cold monthly records were set before 1917.

And with a likely El Nino this year _ the warming of the tropical Pacific which influences the world’s weather and increases global temperatures — it is starting to look like another extra warm year, said  University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck.

The first six months of the year are the third warmest first six months on record, coming behind 2010 and 1998, according to NOAA

Global temperature records go back to 1880 and this is the 352nd hotter than average month in a row.

“This is what global warming looks like,” Overpeck said in an email. “Not record hot everywhere all the time, but certainly a reflection that the odds of record hot are going up everywhere around the planet.”

On the Web…

NOAA on June tempertures: http://1.usa.gov/1yQQQqb

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Boy Scouts unveil proposed “nondiscrimination” resolution

The Boy Scouts of America executive committee on April 19 unveiled a proposed a resolution that would establish a nondiscrimination policy and end the national ban on gay Scouts.

However, the resolution would lead the Scouts to keep discriminatory practices in place for gay and lesbian parents, Scout leaders and job applicants.

The resolution proposes “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone” and is national. Earlier this year, the BSA suggested that it might adopt a policy allowing individual Scouting organizations to decide whether to ban gay Scouts.

The resolution will be voted on by about 1,400 leaders of the Boy Scouts of America during the National Council Meeting set for May 22-24. 

Responding the BSA’s announcement, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said, “It is good news that BSA leadership is open to ending the ban on gay Scouts, but this resolution must go further. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans. What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a troop leader?”

HRC said the Scouts’ proposed resolution leaves unanswered the issue of employment discrimination. The BSA’s current application for employment explicitly states that gay people need not apply: “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.”

Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian mom who was ousted as the leader of her son’s Scouting group and an activist for changing the policy, also responded to the proposed resolution: “One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son’s leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough. My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders.”

At GLAAD, which has worked closely with Tyrrell and others seeking to overturn the BSA ban, VP Rich Ferraro said, “Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now.

“By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, called today’s news an important first step.

“This is a crucial step and Scouts for Equality will work to encourage members of the national council to vote to approve the resolution,” he said. “But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA’s ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children. But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward.”

On the Web… 

HRC has launched a petition and is asking its supporters to encourage local Scouting groups to support a policy that prohibits discrimination against both gay Scouts and gay adults who seek to work for the organization or serve as volunteers.

The petition is at www.hrc.org/BSA.

Delay in decision on Scouts’ gay ban

The Boy Scouts of America’s national executive board, which is meeting today (Feb. 6) in Texas, has delayed a decision on whether to lift its longstanding ban on gay scouts and leaders.

The BSA will take action on the resolution at its national meeting in May.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the BSA said, “For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing it’s youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization. 

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy. 

“To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.”

The organization said last week it was considering a shift of its policy, which has led officials to remove gay leaders and scouts. That announcement pushed years of debate over the policy to an even higher level.

President Barack Obama – Scouting’s honorary president – spoke in favor of letting gay scouts in. Others opposed a shift.

Protesters on both sides rallied at BSA headquarters in Irving, outside Dallas.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, wants the Scouts to lift the ban but not allow individual councils or troops to set membership policies.