Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All in the Family

The start of the university’s fall semester means one thing to a very musical Madison family: the annual Karp Family Concert, the performance that kicks off the UW School of Music’s Faculty Concert Series.

“We’ve been doing the opening concert since 1976,” says Parry Karp, a professor of cello at the School of Music and cellist with the Pro Arte Quartet.

The Karp family of performers includes Parry on violoncello, as well as his wife Katrin Talbot on viola, brother Christopher Karp on violin, and parents Howard and Frances Karp on piano.

The series started in 1976 when Parry began teaching at UW, the school his father was already at teaching piano. Howard Karp is now professor emeritus of piano at the School of Music.

Labor Day weekend—the days before the fall semester begins—was chosen as the performance date because it meant students were in town but wouldn’t be busy with homework yet.

As impressive as a family that’s been able to work and perform together for over three decades is the fact that they’ve always played different works.

“We haven’t repeated a piece in thirty-two years,” Parry says.

They choose pieces that feature the instruments family members play and also “pieces we believe in,” according to Parry. “I’d say we’ve played everything from Bach to things being written today,” he says, adding that they’ve done a good deal of Beethoven and Brahms.

Changing the repertoire keeps the family concerts exciting, Parry says, and it’s a good creative challenge to come up with a new program each year. One general guideline that’s been maintained over the years is to play masterpieces as well as works by “unjustly neglected” artists.

This year’s opening concert—which features Linda Bartley on clarinet—is a good example. It combines works by Beethoven (Piano Trio in E-flat major, Op. 70, No. 2) and Tchaikovsky (Andante cantabile for cello and piano, Op. 11) with music by lesser known Robert Kahn (Quintet in C minor for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano, Op. 54) and Charles-Marie Widor (Sonata for cello and piano in A major, Op. 80).

Kahn, a disciple of Brahms, is a relatively unknown artist, but Parry’s been playing his work in the roughly three years since discovering him. And Widor was a French organist who was prolific in a lifetime that stretched from the 1844 to 1937, he says.

Parry looks forward to presenting the music selections to audiences. “We hope they enjoy the music and that it’s a nice way to start the school year and faculty series,” he says. 

The concert takes place September 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Mills Hall in UW–Madison’s Humanities Building. Advance tickets are recommended, though may also be purchased at the door. Tickets are $11 general admission, $8 for seniors and students, and free for UW–Madison students with valid ID. The School of Music hosts a reception following the concert for the audience in the Humanities Courtyard.

The 2008–2009 Faculty Concert Series is as follows:

Stephanie Jutt, flute, and Christopher Taylor, piano: September 13, 8 p.m.
Linda Bartley, clarinet, and Friends: September 18, 7:30 p.m.
Pro Arte Quartet: September 20, 8 p.m.
Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, piano: September 27, 8 p.m.
Wisconsin Brass Quintet: October 4, 8 p.m.
Paul Rowe, baritone, and Christina Lalog, piano: October 18, 8 p.m.
Anthony Di Sanza, percussion: October 23, 7:30 p.m.
Tyrone Greive, violin, and Ellen Burmeister, piano: October 25, 8 p.m.
Mark Hetzler, trombone: November 1, 8 p.m.
Marc Vallon, bassoon: November 6, 7:30 p.m.
Parry Karp, violoncello, and Eli Kalman, piano: November 8, 8 p.m.
Uri Vardi, violoncello: November 13, 7:30 p.m.
Pro Arte Quartet: November 16, 7:30 p.m.
Wingra Woodwind Quintet: November 20, 7:30 p.m.
John Stevens, tuba, and Friends: December 6, 8 p.m.
Christopher Taylor, piano: January 22, 7:30 p.m.
Julia Faulkner, soprano, and Martha Fischer, piano: January 24, 8 p.m.
Marc Fink, oboe, and Friends: January 29, 7:30 p.m.
Javier Calderon, guitar: February 5, 7:30 p.m.
Wingra Woodwind Quartet: February 12, 7:30 p.m.
Parry Karp, violoncello, and Howard and Frances Karp, piano: February 14, 8 p.m.
Jessica Johnson, piano, and Friends: February 19, 7:30 p.m.
Pro Arte Quartet: February 21, 8 p.m.
Paul Rowe, baritone, and Christina Lalog, piano: February 26, 7:30 p.m.
Wisconsin Brass Quintet: February 28, 8 p.m.
Les Thimmig, woodwinds: March 26, 7:30 p.m.
Pro Arte Quartet: March 28, 8 p.m.
Mark Hetzler, trombone, and Martha Fischer, piano: April 9, 7:30 p.m.
Marc Vallon, baroque bassoon: April 16, 7:30 p.m.
Suzanne Beia, violin, Parry Karp, violoncello, and Eli Kalman, piano: April 17, 8 p.m.
Sole Nero, Jessica Johnson, piano, and Anthony Di Sanza, percussion: April 23, 7:30 p.m.

The Faculty Concert Series is only one component of the School of Music’s annual offerings. Says concert manager Richard Mumford, “The School of Music presents more classical music concerts than any other arts organization in Madison. With more than thirty faculty concerts, ten to fifteen guest artists, three opera productions, several orchestras, five bands, seven choirs, specialized instrumental ensembles and student recitals, there’s more than enough to keep even veteran concert-goers busy.”

Visit for a full schedule of events, call the Concert Line at 263.9485 for a weekly recorded message, or send your email address to to be placed on the weekly Digest email summary.

Photo, courtesy of the School of Music, features (clockwise from left) Christopher Karp, Katrin Talbot, Parry Karp, Howard Karp and Frances Karp.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

September Artist: Flower Power

Anyone who thinks a flower’s just a flower hasn’t seen Mary Kay Neumann’s art—or heard her philosophy on painting works of nature.

“Flowers have feelings too,” she says. “Sunflowers, poppies and all of the other flowers in my paintings emerge as friends that you would want to invite to dinner.”

Neumann, who is a psychotherapist as well as an artist, believes flowers have distinct personalities and sees them as a reflection of the human experience.

Talk to Me: The Emotional Life of Flowers is a solo exhibition of Neumann’s watercolors running through October 31 (hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at the office of Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton at the State Capitol.

Neumann recently took time to talk about her background, approach to art and special subject matter.

You are a licensed psychotherapist. How and why did you also become an artist?

I have been making art and studying art history most of my life. I find great joy in the act of painting. Fifteen years ago, I was drawn to the intensely colorful watercolors of the German Expressionists. Their emotionally charged paintings led to my focus on watercolor. I began exhibiting my paintings in 2005, and the responses I have received have been very gratifying.

Why do you choose flowers and landscapes as your subject matter?

I paint what inspires me. As an avid gardener, I adore flowers. I am fascinated with the structures, colors and personalities of sunflowers, poppies and tidepools. An annual trip to northern California’s rugged coast has given birth to a passionate curiosity about tidepool environments and seascapes. I am also drawn to the strange, arid landscapes of the Badlands and Utah’s canyons and moonscapes. The connection between these subjects is intense color and unusual texture, which allows me to convey drama and emotion.

How do psychology and art intersect?

Creativity and emotional openness are the common threads between my work as a psychotherapist and as an artist. When I do my best work in either role, it is when my heart is open to the creative flow. It all comes from the same place inside … of love, curiosity and compassion. In my work with survivors of trauma and abuse, I am inspired by the great courage I witness. The resilience and tenacity of the human spirit to push through horrid experiences is truly amazing.

Finding my own voice through art led to the realization that self-expression is a powerful tool in healing. As a therapist, I encourage my clients to seek their own truth and uncover their own unique way of expressing themselves. Discovering what is meaningful to each of us is the key to a rich life, good mental health and is the basis for most art.

Why do you use watercolor as your medium?

I love the process and visual results of working with wet-into-wet watercolor. This style of painting is highly interactive; a true partnership where I start with ideas, and the water, saturated paper and liquid paint make their own claims on where the painting is headed. One must trust the process of giving in to being both in and out of control when working with such a dynamic medium. I enjoy exploiting the boundaries of what watercolor can do. I push for vibrant color and delicacy, while developing interesting textures. This unique method lends itself to emotional expressiveness.

Why did you decide to showcase your work at Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton’s office?

As a feminist, it is a great honor to have an exhibition at the office of the first woman elected to the state’s second highest constitutional office. Lt. Governor Lawton is a strong and progressive advocate for all of the things I feel most deeply about: women’s rights, social justice, access to mental health and the arts. Our state capitol building is a beautiful and inspiring asset to Wisconsin, and I am proud to have my paintings displayed in this magnificent setting.

What are your goals for the show?

I want to expose a new audience to my work that may never have seen it. I intend my paintings to communicate joyfulness, and possibly inspire others to make their own art, in whatever form that may be. Make a garden, teach your child, raise a puppy, demonstrate for peace … being artful means bringing your soul to bear on whatever you are doing. It brings meaning and joy to life.

I hold the vision in my heart of Glen Hansard (from the movie once) accepting this year’s Academy Award for best song. Full of gratitude, he shook his statue at the audience and said, “Make art, make art!”

What’s next for you?

I plan to continue with the themes of gardens and tidepools. I have had several solo shows in the past three years and look forward to a stretch of time in my studio that is solely focused on developing my next body of work.

Photos top to bottom are Double Fantasy, Every Breath You Take, Naked Truth and Moondance, courtesy of Mary Kay Neumann.

IN THE MAGAZINE: The September issue of Madison Magazine comes out tomorrow. Here’s some of the arts content you’ll find within the pages:

• An Overtones profile on Andy Moore, host of Wisconsin Public Television’s 30-Minute Music Hour.
• A poem on a fall garden by Andrea Musher. (And listen to a podcast of the poem online.)
• A House of the Month home filled with contemporary artwork.
• The monthly Overtones events calendar with picks on the can’t-miss performances, concerts, exhibitions and festivals taking place in September. (Check the full calendar online.) 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gimme Five

Sixteen years ago, Wednesday evenings in August weren’t so musical downtown. Thankfully, all that changed fifteen summers ago, when the Jazz at Five series began.

Executive director Cathy Sullivan remembers a group of downtown business owners, city officials and local musicians coming together to start a musical event that would fill the gap left after Concerts on the Square wrapped its season.

Jazz at Five started without a formal stage; essentially performers offered concerts for roughly one hundred people seated on folding chairs, Sullivan recalls.

“It was very small, very grassroots, very informal.”

Today, the event attracts two- to three-thousand people and features food vendors, a beer tent and reserved tables near a stage, set at the intersection of State Street and the Capitol Square.

"It’s evolved over the years,” Sullivan says.

Each Wednesday, Jazz at Five features two sets running 5–6:15 p.m. and 6:30–8 p.m. The series always incorporates local, regional and national acts, Sullivan says. And this year is no exception.

Chicago jazz quartet BMR4 and West Coast vocalist-pianist pair Nancy King & Steve Christofferson kicked off the 2008 season on August 6. The August 20 concert will serve as the fifteenth-anniversary celebration.

And Sullivan is excited to bring nationally known Afro-Cuban pianist Chuchito Valdés to Madison August 27, and vocalist Jon Hendricks on September 3. “He’s like jazz royalty,” she says.

Yet, Sullivan thinks all the concerts are stellar this year. “The schedule is all pretty great,” Sullivan says. “We have a lot to look forward to.”

Here’s the lineup for the rest of the Jazz at Five season:

August 13

Scott Burns Quartet This Chicago saxophonist and jazz quartet play original compositions by Burns as well as carefully selected standards.

Madison Jazz Orchestra Formed in 1986, this swinging jazz orchestra has played extensively throughout Madison and beyond, including Jazz at Five. Sax, trombone, tuba, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, bass, piano and drums are just some of the sounds you’ll hear from this group.

August 20

Gerri DiMaggio & Friends This Madison native—who’s been a guest artist with both the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra—offers an original sound, mixing Brazilian music with jazz standards.

Madison–New York Groove Collective This collection of jazz legends and artists with Madison and New York connections features Ben Sidran and Leo Sidran with guests Jay Collins, Moses Patrou and Amy Helm.

August 27

Alison Margaret Quartet A grad student in collaborative piano performance at UW–Madison, Margaret and her quartet specialize in innovative arrangements of American jazz and folk classics, plus lesser-known jazz tunes.

Chuchito Valdés Continuing the legacy of great piano players from Cuba, Valdés draws inspiration from Caribbean, Afro-Cuban Latin jazz, be-bop, Danzon, cha-cha-cha, Son Montuno and other styles.

September 3

Caravan Gypsy Swing This Madison-based instrumental group is inspired by Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and finds influences in jazz, swing, traditional Latin, Parisian waltzes and other vintage-jazz sources.

Jon Hendricks & Company Jazz vocalist Hendricks is regarded as the “Father of Vocalese,” the art of setting lyrics to recorded jazz instrumental standards and arranging voices to sing the parts of the instruments.

Thanks to Mark Barrett of Steinway Piano Gallery for photos of the August 6 concert.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dance Revolution

Each Friday night in August, Laurie Mlatawou has job to do: Get Madisonians up and dancing and don’t give them a reason to sit back down.

Mlatawou—better known to some as DJ Laurie—provides the “pre-dance” music at Dane Dances, an annual event held on the Monona Terrace rooftop intended to bring together people of diverse backgrounds to break down barriers and enjoy a night of free entertainment.

At 5:30 p.m. Mlatawou starts the music and gets the crowd prepped for the first band at 6 p.m. Then she does the same at 7:30 p.m. before the second band hits the stage at 8 p.m.

“I only have thirty minutes to get people up and dancing,” she says.

Mlatawou draws on a handful of group-dance songs that are popular with the crowds. “They never fail to get people out and that’s my goal, to get people out dancing,” she says. “Because once they’re up, they don’t sit down.”

This summer marks Mlatawou’s fifth year of DJing at Dane Dances. But she’d attended the event for years as a member of the dancing public.

“For me, it’s the most beautiful multicultural event that Madison has,” she says. “Everyone is happy and smiling and feeling like a community together. It makes you really proud to be a Madisonian.”

While Mlatawou has DJed clubs and private event for years, playing music at Dane Dances is different—and an experience she always looks forward to. “It’s a huge audience,” she says. “There are literally thousands of people dancing to the music I play.”

She enjoys the diversity—of ages, shapes, ethnicities and abilities—that the event draws and how music and dance bring everyone together.

“It’s just super fun to watch everyone literally coming together,” she says. “Everyone is happy and smiling and feeling like a community.”

Mlatawou, who also hosts PanAfrica, a program Sundays 2–4 p.m. on WORT, says her DJ work complements her other work nicely. She’s a law student at UW–Madison and plans to be a civil rights attorney. The atmosphere at Dane Dances is something she hopes to create in her career.

“This is the way I want my world to be,” she says.

Dane Dances kicked off August 1. Here’s the lineup for the rest of the season:

August 8
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
In Black ‘n White, 6 p.m. Reggae, rock, soul and jazz.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
Streetlife, 8 p.m. R&B, smooth jazz and contemporary.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location at Allliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall)

August 15
Unity the Band, 5:30 p.m. World beat and reggae.
DJ Laurie, 7 p.m.
Felicia Alima, 7:30 p.m. Urban R&B.
DJ Laurie, 9 p.m.
Duce Duce, 9:30 p.m. Hip hop and R&B.
Memorial Union Terrace (rain location at Memorial Union Rathskeller)

August 22
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
David Hecht & Primitive Culture, 6 p.m. Reggae, funk, world beat and R&B.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
!Que Flavor!, 8 p.m. Traditional Afro-Cuban and Latin.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location at Allliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall)

August 29
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
Nellie Tiger Travis Blues Band, 6 p.m. Urban R&B.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
MadiSalsa, 8 p.m. Traditions of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location inside Monona Terrace)

Photos courtesy of Bill Patterson.