Pro Arte Quartet opens Midsummer’s Concert Season, May 5, 2014

Midsummer’s Music Festival presents the Pro Arte Quartet

Midsummer’s Music Festival presents the Pro Arte Quartet

The legendary Pro Arte Quartet, in continuous existence since 1911-1912, will present an evening of classical chamber music at the Ephraim Moravian Church on Monday, May 5 at 7:30 pm. Featuring David Perry, violin; Suzanne Beia, violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, violoncello.

Pro Arte never fails to delight audiences with classic string works like those of Mozart, an archetype of the Classical style.

Tickets are priced at $30 for adults and $10 for students. Reservations are recommended, as the Pro Arte Concerts are always popular and often sold out events.

Midsummer’s Music Festival also provides audience members with an opportunity to meet these world renowned artists after the concert, sharing refreshments and conversation. The May 5 concert is the first of two opportunities to hear the Pro Arte Quartet in Door County. A second appearance is scheduled for Friday, September 12 at Woodwalk Gallery in Egg Harbor.

You can review the entire 2014 chamber music concert schedule and buy tickets online at: www.MidsummersMusic.com or by calling 920.854.7088.

Door County’s Midsummer’s Music Festival Features Composition Written By Zachary Preucil

A Look Inside a Composer’s Brain: The Composition of “Fanfare for a Summer Evening”

 

How does a composer write a piece? The question is simple, but its answer is complex. To a person who hasn’t dabbled in the noble art of composition, I could imagine the task seeming to be quite daunting; with no other tools at one’s disposal but a piano, pen, and manuscript paper, how can one find the inspiration within oneself to conjure musical ideas that not only adhere to proper theoretical conventions but emulate a definitive character as well? How does one decide which instruments to write for, which ones play the melody and which ones accompany? How soft or loud are they? What mood? Tone? Expression? And above all, how does one ultimately come up with a piece that is not only satisfactory in all of these areas, but relatable to its audience as well?

Although I’ve written a number of works over the years, I still found myself asking these same questions as I sat down in early May to begin composing, “Fanfare for a Summer Evening” for Midsummers’ opening night gala. All I had to go on was the type of piece I had agreed on with Jim–a fanfare for string quartet–and the title I had come up with back in April when Kathleen had needed it for the “Sneak Peak” brochure (due to the stringent demands on my free time that came with the end of my senior year of college, I was unable to start the piece until after that brochure had actually gone out–I must say that seeing my yet-to-be-written composition advertised in attractive cursive lettering certainly motivated me to get going!). I knew that I wanted to write a piece that was simple yet substantial, one that was clearly a fanfare but also had some less boisterous moments, and most importantly, one that embodied the spirit and purpose of the occasion: a prelude to five weeks of concerts and celebration in a Door Peninsula exuding the essence of midsummer. So, after my senior recital was over on May 6th and I was at last able to direct my attention to other matters, I began to brainstorm musical ideas that might be suitable for such a work.

For me, much of the compositional process takes place entirely in my head; while I’m usually able to come up with something after fooling around on a piano to the extent that my mediocre keyboard skills will allow, I’ve always found that my best ideas come from imagining music while I’m going about my day-to-day activities. In fact, most of the fanfare’s main melodies were “written” while I walked around the streets of Boston in the weeks preceding my graduation from the New England Conservatory, feeling the rhythm of my feet on the cobbled sidewalks and taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling city around me. I find my inspiration in my surroundings because that is where music comes from–everything we hear has a pitch, and every movement we feel has a rhythm. Yet, as I trod the familiar New England roads, I was mentally transporting myself halfway across the country to a very different place: the relaxed, peaceful world of Door County. In my mind’s eye, I saw an orange-red sun sinking into the sparkling waters of Eagle Harbor, its dying rays gleaming on the white rooftops of Ephraim, ending the day with a royal majesty. You don’t see sunsets like that in Boston.

Of course, composing the melodies of a piece is only half the battle; when writing for four instruments, only one or two will typically have the theme, and the composer has to figure out what to give the others. With me, this is always a process of trial and error. I can figure out the harmonies I want after experimenting with various options on a keyboard, but deciding which instrument gets which note in the harmony is a more difficult task, as several factors must be taken into consideration. Each instrument in a quartet has a different range and timbre, and the capabilities of each instrument often dictate what notes they will play. In classical string quartet writing, the cello will typically have the lowest note in a chord, given its extensive range, while the viola and second violin will have the middle and top notes, respectively, and the first violin will either double somebody or have another note in the key that works with the accompanying chord. Of course, this is not always the case. Without going too far into what would undoubtedly be a boring music theory lesson, I’ll just say that if done correctly, the instruments do not always have a certain place in a particular chord as long as it makes sense with the chords preceding it and following it. Basically, one needs to avoid awkward leaps between notes in a given line, so it doesn’t sound as though the accompaniment is jumping all over the place. Much of “Fanfare” is written in rather strict voice-leading, meaning that I try very hard to make the underlying harmony less noticeable than the melody on top (i.e. I wouldn’t want someone to be distracted by the viola line when the violin is the voice I want to come out.) This whole process takes a great amount of time. Often, I would spend a couple of hours on what would ultimately turn out to be about thirty seconds of music. This is partly because I don’t compose all that often, so I have considerably less experience in knowing “what works” without having to try a variety of options first, but also because, like in any work of art, it takes a long time to get the product one really wants.

However, it didn’t always happen like this. Sometimes, I would get struck by inspiration after an hour or two working out tedious voice leading at the keyboard and whatever came out of the piano ended up being the finished result. (I was fortunate to be using a composition computer software that instantly transcribed whatever I played on an electric piano, so I didn’t have to constantly notate what I was coming up with.) One section of “Fanfare” that is purely a “first draft” inspiration is the prominent viola solo during the middle section. I had just worked out the melody in the violin and wanted an “echo” of it in another instrument, and I thought to myself, “Why not the viola?” I played it into the computer, came up with with some basic accompaniment, and never changed it. Ironically, it ended up being my favorite part of the piece, and gave my brother Anthony, who was the violist in the concert, a chance to shine. It’s funny how one can spend hours trying to come up with something good, and then every now and then something just works. I would surmise it’s because one gradually assumes a certain “creative” mindset while composing, in which inhibitions are let go and a certain impulsiveness takes over. Of course, these “impulses” often fail miserably. About 90% of the time, this happens to me, and I hurriedly delete my pathetic creations before another human can come along and hear them. But it’s those moments that happen 10% of the time that make such compositional risk-taking really worth it.

The composition of the work followed a rather jagged timeline; I began it on May 10th, composed daily through the 16th, took about a week off to graduate, move out of my apartment and drive back to Chicago, and then finished the rest of the piece on May 25th. On the 26th and 27th, I added in dynamics and tempo markings, and on the evening of the 27th my family played it through for the first time. I had already heard an audio version of the piece produced by the computer software, but hearing it live was of course a completely different experience. What had been going through my mind for the last two weeks had finally come to life as living, breathing music, ringing in the air around with me with a youthful vitality. Such an experience makes all of the tedious harmony work and long hours of craning one’s neck in front of a computer screen worth it. I only regretted that I would be unable to be present on opening night to hear its premiere–my whole rationale for writing the piece stemmed from the fact that I was in attendance at the National Cello Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on June 8th and therefore unable to be up in Door County to play with my family, so writing the work was my way of being there “in spirit”–but I was excited to hear from my family members of the enthusiastic reception that the piece received, and am looking forward to seeing the video that was taken of the performance.

I could probably write a whole book about the compositional process–in fact, I could even provide an annotated version of “Fanfare” with explanations under each measure as to why I made the musical decisions that I did–but in the interest of space and your undoubtedly waning attention span (which probably took a hit after the music theory paragraph), I’ll bring this article to a close. Before I do, however, I wish to intimate one last lesson that I have learned through serving music in my capacity as a composer. Just the other night, I had the pleasure of hearing the Brahms F minor Piano Quintet performed by Midsummers’ musicians at the Ephraim Moravian Church, and from the opening bars found myself immersed in the music (as anyone sitting in the same pew as me can attest–I had a difficult time sitting still in some of the more exciting parts). However, as I listened I realized that while I was focused on the rich sonority emanating from the group, their facial expressions, and their movements, I wasn’t really thinking about Brahms, although he was the sole reason we were all there. As the slow movement opened, I imagined the bearded German master sitting dutifully at a piano, painstakingly figuring out chord changes, harmony, and melodic lines. I could really sympathize with him, I realized, even though I’m sure he could have written something like my “Fanfare” in a heartbeat (on the figurative composers’ ladder, he’s beyond the top rung and I’m barely grasping the bottom one). But it caused me to ponder: how much to do we really think about composers? When we watch a movie, we all come out praising the actors and actresses, but we rarely give a thought to the screenwriter; often times, we don’t even know who he or she is. Of course, the actors–and the musicians, in the case of our musical context–are vitally important, but we mustn’t ignore the real creative force behind the musical experience that we’re having–a person of the past, pouring out his soul into notated sound, hoping that some audience then, or in the distant future, can grasp the thoughts and emotions he is attempting to emulate through music. It is my belief that having this perspective truly enriches our whole experience as listeners. We sit not only in awe of the music, but of the fact that humans are capable of creating such an awe-inducing entity. Such is perhaps the most valuable thing I have gained from being a composer, and for it I am deeply grateful.

Historic Ephraim Moravian Church Hosts Midsummer’s Music Classical Concert in Door County!

Ephraim Moravian Church. Photo by Paul Burton

Midsummer’s Music Festival returns to Door County’s historic Ephraim Moravian Church tonight, Sunday, June 12, as the second concert in their 2011 summer festival.

 

We love performing in Ephraim Moravian Church,” says Artistic Director, Jim Berkenstock. “Not only is it rich in history, but it has wonderful acoustics. Our musicians really enjoy playing here.

The Ephraim Moravian Church was founded by Reverend Andreas Iverson, an immigrant Moravian evangelist. Born in Norway, Iverson felt called to ministry as a young adult and he was trained and ordained as a Lutheran minister at the Norwegian Mission Society. It was here that he learned about the Moravian faith, to which he eventually gravitated and served as a minister for many years.

In February of 1853, he and a few others walked north over the ice from Green Bay to the wilderness area that later became Ephraim. After exploring the horseshoe-shaped bay and forested land, Iverson used a $500 loan to buy 425 acres of government land for his parishioners. His home was the first constructed in the village (it remains, in original condition, now operated as a museum by the Ephraim Historical Foundation). Church services and school classes were held in the Iverson home until the construction of the church began in 1857. Designed by Iverson and built by him and the congregation, work was halted several times by lack of funds. When completed and the doors opened on December 18, 1859, it became the first church on the Door County peninsula.

The church was originally located on the shore (paintings done by Iverson himself show it right next to the water), but it was moved to its present location on the hill in 1883. Ephraim Moravian Church remains the historical center of the village, and along with the Bethany Lutheran Church (founded in 1882), the twin white steeples form the distinctive and often photographed view of the Village of Ephraim.

Midsummer’s Music will present the music of Hahn, Durufle, Karg-Elert, and Faure in this wonderful church,located at 9970 Moravia Street in Ephraim. The concert begins at 7:30 PM. Tickets are just $25 per adult. Youth 17 and under are free.Parking is available on the street or in the lower and upper parking lots behind the church.

For more information, visit www.midsummerSmusic.com.

Midsummer’s Music Festival Prepares for Opening Night in Door County!

Jim Berkenstock, Photo by Bill Jacobs

On Friday evening, June 10, we will be opening our twenty-first Midsummer’s Music season with a gala champagne toast and some wonderful music at Birch Creek.

That’s what the calendar and my schedule says. That’s also what the pile of music on my music stand in my practice room says. But as I write this, my first column of the season, it is May 26, just two weeks to D-day, and waves of pelting rain are blowing against the window, the trees are being buffeted to and fro, and it is only 46 degrees – and I am not even in Door County yet; I’m still in the Chicago area. I can only imagine what Door County must look like. I picture salt trucks coating the Sister Bay hill and On Deck Clothing removing shorts and T-shirts in favor of sweaters and parkas.

My brain says the season is imminent – practice, pack, and pray. My body says hibernate – eat rich foods and go to sleep. Fortunately, the weather forecast says it is going to be in the low 90s here on Memorial Day. That means it will be at least 50 degrees by that time in Door County, right?   As the old expression goes, “whether it’s cold, or whether it’s hot, weather is weather, whether or not,” and we are coming to Door County, weather or not!  In fact, we are so pumped up about this season and our opening night at Birch Creek, I know we are going be able to help warm things up and bring lots of sunshine.

Many years ago (over 20), I met with a fellow named Robert Hastings. Bob was one of the original owners of the Churchill Inn and later became the Executive Director of the Door County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his interest in Door County business and tourism, Bob was a music lover. We talked about the concept of a chamber music festival in Door County starting in June. From that initial discussion, Midsummer’s Music was born. Little did I realize at the time how intrepid one would have to be to undertake such an enterprise. Of all the challenges I could envision, dealing with the elements was not among them.

All this comes to mind because we have termed our festival season this year “A Musical Journey.”  Every season is a journey for us because we crisscross the length and breadth of the county, playing in so many different venues. This season will take us from Green Bay all the way to Rock Island. However, the title also occurred to us because of the origins of the music we will be performing. Composers from Norway to Russia and Armenia to Spain will share their colorful palettes. Tchaikovsky sends us an Italian postcard, “Souvenir of Florence” for string sextet, in Russian handwriting.

I think of the early explorers of Door County. What must Marquette and Jolivet and LaSalle have had to deal with, and here we are travelling some of the same paths they did, even crossing Death’s Door Strait to a distant island. Although they must have endured some severe hardships, they also must have learned how enticing Door County can be when the sun finally comes out, the flowers bloom, and Midsummer abounds in all its glory.

We hope you will join us for the first phase of our Journey this year at Birch Creek on June 10th (for our Gala Opening), Sunday, June 12th at the Ephraim Moravian Church, or Tuesday, June 14th at Bjorklunden. We start and end this excursion each evening in France, interrupted by a visit to Germany and a side trip to Venezuela. For more information or to reserve tickets, please call 920.854.7088 or visit www.midsummerSmusic.com.

Reprinted with permission from the Door County Advocate – Door County Now.

 

Pro Arte Quartet Celebrates 100th Anniversary in Door County!

Violinist David Perry, cellist Parry Karp, violinist Suzanne Beia (seated), violist Sally Chisholm

Midsummer’s Music is proud to present the Pro Arte Quartet on Wednesday, May 11 at Ephraim Moravian Church in Door County, WI, 7:30 PM. The legendary Pro Arte Quartet is the oldest continually active string quartet in the world. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2011/2012. The program features the music of Barber, Schubert, and Mozart.

“A first-rate quartet . . . wonderfully personal, intense music performed with real devotion and accomplishment.” New York Times

In residence at UW-Madison since 1940, this extraordinary ensemble has been in continuous existence since its founding in 1911-12 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. Founding members included violinist Alphonse Onnou, who was the leader, Laurent Halleux (violin), Germain Prévost (viola), and Fernand Auguste Lemaire (cello).

The quartet made its début in Brussels in 1913 and soon became known as an exponent of modern music. In 1918 Fernand Quinet became the cellist, but in 1921 he was replaced by Robert Maas. That year, with the aid of Paul Collaer and Arthur Prévost, the Pro Arte Concerts began, in which performances were given of new works by, among others, Bartók (whose Fourth Quartet is dedicated to the Pro Arte), Casella, Honegger, Martin, Milhaud and Rieti.

The quartet performed with great success at the 1923 ISCM Festival in Salzburg, and the same year played new works commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge at a concert in Rome. After touring Europe the quartet visited England for the first time in 1925; subsequent visits to England included annual series of a week’s performances in Cambridge (1932–8).  In 1932 the quartet was granted the title Quatuor de la Cour de Belgique, in recognition of its services to Belgian music.

1921 - 1940 Alphonse Onnou, Laurent Halleux, Germain Prévost, Robert Maas

The Pro Arte played their American debut in 1926, performing at the inauguration of the Hall of Music in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.  They returned for thirty tours to the United States, as well as a tour of Canada, often under the auspices of the noted patron of chamber music, Mrs. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.

Their first visit to Madison was in 1938, where, two years later, the musicians were stranded by Hitler’s invasion of Belgium and the outbreak of World War II. Following their concert on campus, the University of Wisconsin chancellor offered a permanent home to the quartet – it was the first such residency ever in a major American university, and became the model on which many other similar arrangements were developed at other institutions. Onnou died in 1940, but the quartet continued until 1947 as quartet-in-residence at Wisconsin University, led first by Antonio Brosa and from 1944 by Rudolf Kolisch.  The Pro Arte became the faculty string quartet at UW-Madison in the late 1950s, an appointment that continues to the present day.

Today’s Pro Arte Quartet features cellist Parry Karp, violinist Suzanne Beia, and two of Midsummer’s musicians, violinist David Perry and violist Sally Chisholm. Guest violist, Catherine Consiglio, is featured in Mozart’s Viola Quintet in D Major, K. 593.

Tickets can be purchased at Midsummer’s Music or by calling 920-854-7088.

 


The legendary Pro Arte Quartet is the oldest continually active string quartet in the world. In residence at UW-Madison since 1940, this extraordinary ensemble has been in continuous existence since its founding in Belgium in 1912. The quartet’s residency at Madison was the first artist ensemble residency ever in a major American university, a model since emulated by most of the major string quartets in this country. Moreover, the Pro Arte has added immeasurably to the art of the string quartet, particularly as champion of the new music of its time — including new works of Bartók, Ravel and Bloch in an era when these composers were still alive, and, more recently, works of composers such as Samuel Rhodes, Fred Lerdahl, Tamar Diesendruck, Andrew Imbrie, Ralph Shapey, and Gunther Schuller.

The legendary Pro Arte Quartet is the oldest continually active string quartet in the world. In residence at UW-Madison since 1940, this extraordinary ensemble has been in continuous existence since its founding in Belgium in 1912. The quartet’s residency at Madison was the first artist ensemble residency ever in a major American university, a model since emulated by most of the major string quartets in this country. Moreover, the Pro Arte has added immeasurably to the art of the string quartet, particularly as champion of the new music of its time — including new works of Bartók, Ravel and Bloch in an era when these composers were still alive, and, more recently, works of composers such as Samuel Rhodes, Fred Lerdahl, Tamar Diesendruck, Andrew Imbrie, Ralph Shapey, and Gunther Schuller.

Midsummer’s Music Festival Announces 21st Chamber Season in Door County

The Door County arts scene jumps into full swing on June 10 as Midsummer’s Music Festival presents the 21st season of outstanding classical/chamber music in 16 intimate venues throughout the Door peninsula.

Pro Arte Quartet

The prelude and finales to our summer festival features one of the worlds’ distinguished string quartets, the Pro Arte Quartet on Wednesday, May 11 and Saturday, October 1 at the Ephraim Moravian Church. The Quartet violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm (both part of Midsummer’s ensemble), violinist Suzanne Beia, and cellist Parry Karp. The quartet promotes an exciting balance of old and new repertoire, seeking opportunities to commission and premiere works of living composers in a variety of contemporary styles. For more information, visit their page on our website at: Pro Arte Quartet.

Opening night begins at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor on Friday, June 10 with a Champagne Toast to celebrate our 21st season. You’ll enjoy the music of Hahn, Durufle, Karg-Elert, and Faure in the wonderful acoustics of Juniper Hall.

Midsummer’s Music has added two new venues to the festival this summer. The first is the Sister Bay Historical Society’s “Corner of the Past” on Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 PM. You’ll absolutely love this venue! Our musicians will be surrounded by antiques in the historic barn. Arrive early and tour the Old Anderson House Museum, granary, machine shop, two log cabins, migrant worker’s cabin, summer kitchen, and sawmill and blacksmith’s barn. Imagine hearing the music of Kennan, Hofmann, Grieg, and Svendsen in this historic setting!

Fish Creek‘s Whistling Swan Restaurant on June 30 is the second new addition to our festival. The evening begins at 6:00 PM with wine and hors d’oeuvres at the Whistling Swan. This is a great opportunity to meet and mix with fellow music lovers before a short stroll to the quaint Fish Creek Village Hall for the Midsummer’s concert at 7:00. After the concert we’ll head back to the Whistling Swan for an elegant dinner. For those who are unable to attend the reception and dinner at the Whistling Swan,  join us at the Fish Creek Village Hall for the concert only, starting at 7:00.

Viking Hall 2010 - Photo by Mark Kunstman

Ever since last summer we’ve had people asking us, “Are you going back to Rock Island? It was such a fun event!”  How could we say no? We couldn’t! Our return trip to Rock Island is on Tuesday, July 5. We’ll depart from Gills Rock at 4:00 on the Island Clipper and enjoy wine and a catered dinner by Alexander’s on the cruise to Rock Island. The concert will be held in majestic Viking Hall. The return cruise features desserts and champagne. Wow! The event sold out quickly last year so reserve early!

Of course, we are returning to our favorite venues such as Bjorklunden, the Hardy Gallery, the Woodwalk Gallery, Shepherd of the Bay, Ephraim Moravian Church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and The Clearing. We have three concerts in beautiful homes including the Burgess residence in Green Bay, the Janning residence in Sturgeon Bay, and the Dresselhuys residence in Fish Creek. In addition, there will be a concert in the barn at Maronek’s Silver Poplar Studios in Ellison Bay.

More details will follow about the wonderful programs. In the meantime, reservations can be made online at Midsummer’s Music or by calling 920-854-7088.

Midsummer’s Music in Winter – Solving a Festival Jigsaw Puzzle

Every year, as the snow blankets Door County, Artistic Director Jim Berkenstock, and I work on scheduling the artists, the settings and concert events in our Midsummer’s Music Festival.

Midsummer's Music Festival concert at The Clearing in Ellison Bay

Jim Berkenstock, a true master at putting the programs together, quietly researches and listens to one composition after another. I start lining up venues throughout Door County. Because Midsummer’s Music Festival does not have a home of our own, we perform in art galleries, homes, churches, and retreats throughout the county. This doesn’t appear to be difficult until you start looking at all of the requirements for an excellent concert experience.

It’s easier to program chamber music with piano than without. That means finding venues with grand pianos. Once we find those venues we have to consider the size of the staging area. How many musicians can we fit in comfortably? What are the acoustics like? Jim has to look at these facts very carefully as he selects the music.

For non-piano venues the criteria is the same. As an example, last summer we performed the Mendelssohn Octet for four violins, two cellos, and two violas. This worked beautifully in a larger venue such as the Woodwalk Gallery in Egg Harbor because of the wonderful acoustics, lighting, and large staging area. But this piece would not work at another of our favorite venues, the historic Ephraim Moravian Church, because we can’t fit eight musicians in the small church.

Another consideration is the distance between venues. We work very hard at spreading out the venues for each series so people throughout Door County have an opportunity to attend each program without driving a great distance. In essence, we bring the music to the people.

Once we finalize the venues, Jim really polishes the programs, changing pieces as necessary. It’s quite exciting to see the complete schedule which somehow, through Jim’s magic, works perfectly with each and every venue.

It’s a jigsaw puzzle. A fun and exciting jigsaw puzzle.

Kathleen M Pearson, Executive Director

Door County’s Premiere Chamber Music Festival

Midsummer’s Music - Planning our 2011 Summer Festival!

We are very excited about the 2011 programming which will be announced soon. In the meantime, mark your calendar for the following dates:

Friday, June 10 at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor

Thursday, June 16 at Bjorklunden in Baileys Harbor

Sunday, June 19 at Woodwalk Gallery in Egg Harbor

Sunday, July 10 at The Clearing in Ellison Bay

Not to mention, the world-renowned Pro Arte Quartet will return to Door County for two events this year:

Saturday, May 14 at Ephraim Moravian Church

Saturday, October 1 at Ephraim Moravian Church

Stay tuned!