A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Jan 16, 2014
01:56 PM
Classically Speaking

All I Needed Was a Bigger Living Room—and a Live Orchestra

All I Needed Was a Bigger Living Room—and a Live Orchestra


John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall

I spent the better part of fifteen years teaching music appreciation for adults … in my living room in southern California. I loved sharing the broader context of how great music had come to be, and played “drop the needle” (in the days before CDs, young 'uns!) to illustrate a point. Sometimes we would go as a group to hear the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, but I never had all the resources at home to prepare the class—or the time at the concert to add some finer insights.

But John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra will solve all those problems very neatly indeed on Sunday, January 26 at 2:30 p.m. (Update: This show is now sold out.) The occasion will mark a one-time only event of a program developed by the Chicago Symphony, Beyond the Score. The featured work is the well-known and justly celebrated Symphony No. 9 of Antonin Dvorak, subtitled by the composer “From the New World.” The first half of the event will both dissect and augment the work, with narrator Anders Yocom assisted by David Daniels and James Ridge of American Players Theatre, mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Colbert, pianist Daniel Lyons, and some multimedia tools as well.

Oh, and the Madison Symphony will be there with John DeMain in his usual spot, to highlight some musical threads from this wondrous musical tapestry, and then to perform the complete work following intermission.

Let’s put it this way: I feel like I know this work inside and out. I’ve performed it as a clarinetist, heard it on countless recordings and live, indoors and outdoors, on the radio, on cassette and, yes, eventually on CD. And still I can’t wait till Beyond the Score gets here, because I know I’m going to learn a thing or two and enjoy this masterpiece in a whole new way. And consider this: Beyond the Score could be the perfect way to get those younger would-be classical fans to give this stuff a chance. I mean, I knew I was on the right track years ago … I just needed a bigger house—and a live orchestra.

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About This Blog

Years before I contributed my first classical review to the Los Angeles Times in 1988, I started a class in music appreciation for adults that had one aim: to put a few cracks in the “ivory tower elitism” I found pervasive in the classical music world since my boyhood days. Whether as a critic, program annotator or band director, that goal has never changed. After all, Mozart and Beethoven and the gang wrote their music for people like you—not critics or professors!

After growing up in the suburbs of New York City, and spending twenty years in and around Los Angeles, the last twelve years here leave me more amazed than ever at the musical riches of Madison. I’m a cheerleader at heart, because I always think more people would become classical fans if they’d give it a chance—but I’m also quick to tell you when you’re not getting your money’s worth. Classically Speaking brings you as much news and as many reviews as possible, and I hope you’ll join me for a fabulous musical journey.

–  Greg Hettmansberger
Follow Greg on Twitter @ghettmansberger

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