Middleton Community Orchestra named 'Musicians of the Year'

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Vicki Powell performing with the Middleton Community Orchestra in 2014.

The Middleton Community Orchestra (MCO) rang in the New Year by earning an accolade from The Well-Tempered Ear, a popular blog focused on classical music in the Madison area.

Ear founder and writer Jacob Stockinger on Dec. 31 named the MCO “Musicians of the Year.”

Noting the orchestra’s “admirable achievements in only four seasons,” Stockinger went on to laud the group for keeping alive the age-old tradition of amateur music in a local setting.

“I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the stuff they do,” Stockinger told the Times-Tribune. “And with their featured soloists and the shows in general.”

“I think the Middleton Community Orchestra recaptures the integration of arts into our workaday world and daily life,” he added. “They really do a good job.”

On his blog, Stockinger, who is an enthusiastic amateur pianist and former arts reporter and editor for the Capital Times,  added: “These days, adult amateurs may seem unusual or an exception. But the historical fact is that for centuries, classical music was primarily the domain of amateur rather than professional performers.”

“I have already written about how they point the way to the future for larger ensembles with the shorter programs; with the kind of music that is programmed; with the low price of admission ($10 for adults and FREE for students); and with the post-concert socializing with musicians and other audience members (below) — all of which adds up to a laudable community service that integrates a performing art into everyday life and society,” he continued. “That is a mission worth supporting.”

He said the MCO, which was founded by Mindy Taranto and Larry Bevic, “is as much about hearing great and accessible music as it is about community service.”

“I will long remember piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Edvard Grieg played by UW-Madison pianist Thomas Kasdorf, who will perform the famously popular Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor — the signature concerto of Van Cliburn — by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky with the MCO this spring,” he wrote. “I will also remember Madison-born, UW-trained and Juilliard-trained violist Vicki Powell in shorter and unknown works by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Max Bruch.”

He went on to recall former MCO concertmaster Alice Bartsch, who studied at the UW-Madison School of Music, in a wonderful interpretation of a Romance by Antonin Dvorak before she left for graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, as well as Alice’s gifted violinist sister, Eleanor Bartsch, when she was joined by fellow UW-Madison grad Daniel Kim in Mozart’s “sublime” Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola.

Taranto said she was “thrilled and proud” when she learned of the designation.

Powell seemed to agree, calling it “well-deserved.”

“How wonderful that Jake recognizes the true merits of having a group like yours,” Powell wrote in a message to the orchestra.

“As with so many groups, including professional ones, booking great soloists seems to push the performers in the group to an even high level of playing,” Stockinger added. “But the MCO takes care to book soloists with local ties, including soprano Emily Birsan who recently was at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, which adds an element of local pride to the event.”

The Middleton Community Orchestra’s next concert will take place Wednesday, February 25, at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, starting at 7:30 p.m.

For ticket information visit middletoncommunityorchestra.org.

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