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Choral Union, Symphony Orchestra commemorate Ralph Vaughan Williams

April 30, 2008

The UW–Madison Choral Union and Symphony Orchestra will perform under the direction of Beverly Taylor at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater.

Taylor, director of choral activities at the School of Music, has chosen two works by Ralph Vaughan Williams in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death: “Five Variants on ‘Dives and Lazarus’“ for string orchestra and “A Sea Symphony” (Symphony No. 1) for full orchestra and chorus. Soloists for “A Sea Symphony” will be soprano Janet Brown and baritone Paul Rowe.

Brown is an instructor of voice and the academic coordinator at Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music. Her versatility as a concert and operatic soloist has led to performances with the Syracuse, West Virginia and Tallahassee symphonies, the Syracuse Opera Company, the American Repertory Theatre, the Cantata Singers of Boston and the New England Bach Festival, among others. Brown recently participated in the Albany Pro Musica performance of “Voices of Light” by American composer Richard Einhorn and often performs at the Skaneateles (New York) Chamber Music Festival. She has premiered works by Gunther Schuller, Andrew Imbrie, Philip Glass, Nicolas Scherzinger, Edward Cohen, Howard Boatwright and Ernst Bacon. Brown last performed at UW–Madison in November 2003 as a soloist with the Choral Union for two performances of Haydn’s “Creation.”

Rowe is professor of music at UW–Madison and co-artistic director of the Madison Early Music Festival with his wife, Cheryl Bensman-Rowe. He has performed with the Boston, St. Louis and Madison symphony orchestras, the Waverly Consort and the Smithsonian Chamber Players. In addition, he sang Schubert songs in the premiere of the final ballet by Agnes DeMille for the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House. Other performances have included Handel’s “Messiah” with Musica Sacra at Carnegie Hall, Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder” with the American Ballet Theatre and the American premiere of “Pilate” by Frank Martin with the John Oliver Chorale.

Vaughan Williams composed “Five Variants on ‘Dives and Lazarus’“ in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair. He had discovered many years previously that the popular English folk song “Dives and Lazarus” had many regional versions, and he collected and used those variations as inspirations for “Five Variants.”

The full orchestra joins the soloists and 150-member Choral Union for “A Sea Symphony.” The composer initially took six years (1903-09) to compose the symphony, only to revise it one last time in 1923. The text is excerpted from “Song of the Exposition” by American poet Walt Whitman.

Tickets are $20 general, $10 seniors/all students and are available through the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141. (UW-Madison students are not free to this event.) Call the Concert Line at (608) 263-9485 for weekly updated program information. To receive the digest, a weekly e-mail listing of concerts, master classes and student recitals, send your e-mail address to For further information, call the school’s main office at (608) 263-1900.