The Milwaukee contemporary music ensemble Present Music presents Made for Milwaukee, a celebration of commissions that premiered in Milwaukee by local musicians. The concert features such past contributors as Michael Torke, Kamran Ince, Jerome Kitzke and Sean Friar, as well as a world premiere by Ryan Carter.
7:30 p.m. on Sept. 3 at UW–Milwaukee’s Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee; single tickets are $15, $25 and $35, student tickets are half-price with a valid student id; presentmusic.org
It’s been a good year for Present Music, and the company has lots of reasons to celebrate. So they’re going to do just that, inviting you and a wide range of guests to their Finale concert, June 3 at Turner Hall Ballroom.
“We’ve got a great lineup for the evening,” said Present Music artistic director Kevin Stalheim in a recent phone interview. “The event features a lot of young, up and coming musicians, which we are really excited about.”
Stalheim says the concert’s most notable guest is conductor David Bloom. Based in New York, Bloom is a rising young star in the world of conducting. The founding co-artistic director of 21-member new music ensemble Contemporaneous, Bloom has already conducted over 120 premieres in major North American venues.
Bloom is not the only “young blood” that will be featured at this event. Several other “young” colleagues performing new and recent pieces will join Bloom. “A lot of this concert came from David’s feedback and suggestions,” explains Stalheim. “Many of these pieces have never been heard in this area before so it’s exciting that audiences will get to hear them for the first time at our season finale party!”
Those pieces will include work by composers Andrew Norman, Missy Mizzoli (recently heard by attendees of her opera Songs from the Uproar, produced by Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Wild Space Dance Company) Matthew Evans, David Lang, and Jeremy Podgursky. Milwaukee-based psychedelic surf rock band Painted Caves will present post-concert entertainment.
Even as he prepares to close out the company’s 34th season, Stalheim is looking ahead to their 35th. “We have a big year planned,” explains Stalheim. “Every five years, we try to do something bigger than before. This year is going to be no exception.”
Stalheim’s goals for the 35th season include branching out into the Milwaukee community more often, with collaborations planned with the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee Public Museum. Perennial PM favorite shows, including the Thanksgiving concert, will still be in the mix as well.
And the 35th season premiere will focus on the company’s musicians, he says, with a program that revisits some of the favorite pieces from the past along with a new premiere.
But before all that, Present Music must first say farewell to their 34th season, with a Finale to remember.
Present Music’s Finale concert is at 7:30 p.m. on June 3 at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $15, $25 and $35. Visit presentmusic.org to order.
Present Music celebrates the return of spring with this multimedia concert event. Live art will be created by UMW faculty artist Brooke Theile with visual artists Shannon Molter and Dean Valadez, the Hearing Voices vocal ensemble will return, and PM will perform a brand-new commission: Luminescence, by rising composer Molly Joyce.
At Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $35, $25 or $15, with half-off for students, and can be purchased at presentmusic.org.
7:30 p.m. March 20
Present Music has produced no shortage of successful collaborations and commissions, but one of the standouts is always the annual Thanksgiving concert. Held this year on Nov. 23 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Present Music’s latest version of the concert gave audiences another reason to be thankful this season.
The company began the evening by shattering the audience’s anticipatory silence with the rhythmic drumbeats of “Opening Song,” performed by the Buck Native American Singing and Drumming Group. A regular partner at PM’s Thanksgiving concert, the troupe is made up of men from various tribes in the Milwaukee area. Their entrance song echoed through the halls, combining voices and percussion in a perfect marriage of sound.
Equally in sync was the next piece on the program, Cathy Mocklebust’s “Towers.” Composed in 2000, the piece is written for a handbell choir but intended to replicate the ringing of church bells.
Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble was up to the task, filling the cathedral with a delightful, pristine timbre. While the low tones of the bass bells served as a foundation, the ensemble’s upper bells played a descending stepwise pattern — ironically creating a feeling of climbing upwards like in a tower.
Arguably the concert’s most ambitious work was “Hammers and Whistles,” a work by Karman Ince with text by Izzeddin Calisar that required nearly every guest, including the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and PM’s vocal ensemble Hearing Voices. Longtime Present Music attendees may have recognized this work from a 2006 performance; it was originally commissioned by the organization for its 25th anniversary.
Running roughly twenty minutes in length, the single work was a tour de force for all involved. Mr. Ince described the piece as “about the wonderment of creation and the act of experiencing and sharing the creation.” The piece truly exemplified that, combining bombastic horn sounds with lush symphonic and vocal harmonies. The only weakness: an occasional lack of balance between the combined vocal ensembles and the instruments.
But a work magnitudes simpler proved the most poignant and touching moment of the concert. “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” by Gavin Bryars, was built from a recording Bryars took in 1973 while living in London and working on a film about homeless people living around Waterloo Station. The recording is just a few lines sung by an unnamed man, nothing remarkable vocally. Bryars put it on a loop, and created an orchestral and vocal accompaniment that flowed in and out over and over. The voice reminds the listener of the joy of singing purely for the love of song, another reason to give thanks.
Present Music’s Thanksgiving Concert reminds us to be thankful for the small things that we have in life. Whether it is the beauty of the sounds we make each day, the clanging of a church bell or the sound of drum, there is something to be grateful for.