“A Madison Symphony Christmas” and “Free Community Carol Sing” Bring Joy to the Holiday Season

The Madison community tradition takes place on December 13, 14 & 15

Madison, Wis. “A Madison Symphony Christmas” (Dec. 13-15) is the beloved annual kickoff to the holiday season in the Madison community and embraces the season with Christmas classics and new music featuring the orchestra conducted by Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Music Director John DeMain, the Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, Director, Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, Artistic Director, Mount Zion Gospel Choir directed by Leotha and Tamera Stanley, and opera stars Mackenzie Whitney, Tenor, and Michelle Johnson, Soprano, on stage for this annual family-friendly tradition. Principal Harpist Johanna Wienholts is a featured soloist performing a concerto by George Friderick Handel.

“A Madison Symphony Christmas” performances will take place on Friday, December 13th at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 14th at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, December 15th at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, at 201 State Street. Audiences are invited to arrive 50 minutes before each performance to sing carols in the Overture Hall Lobby with the Madison Symphony Chorus under the direction of Beverly Taylor.

On Saturday, December 14th at 11:00 a.m., The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Organist and Curator of the MSO’s Overture Concert Organ, Greg Zelek, leads a Free Community Carol Sing in Overture Hall. All ages are welcome, and no tickets or reservations are needed.

Madison Symphony Orchestra Conductor John DeMain previews “A Madison Symphony Christmas.” “This is the biggest celebration of the season in Madison and beyond. Three different choruses and choirs, amazing soloists from the orchestra, the world of opera and Broadway, the huge Madison Symphony Orchestra playing your favorite Christmas music, and a great carol sing-along featuring the Overture Concert Organ playing with the MSO. After this concert, you’ll want to celebrate Christmas all year long.”

The program begins with classical styles in the first half — culminating in Handel’s great “Hallelujah” chorus. The concert climaxes with a rockin’ Gospel finale, and a chance for the audience to sing along. Works include John Rutter’s version of O Come O Come Emmanuel, Magnificat by Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert’s Wiegenlied (“Lullaby”), and music by Charles Gounod, J. S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Adolphe Adam, Dan Goeller, and Randol Alan Bass. The older voices of the Madison Youth Choirs are featured in works by composer Stephen Hatfield — including a version of the traditional English Apple-Tree Wassail. The Madison Symphony Chorus and soloists present a medley of familiar holiday favorites including Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! written by the songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. Finally, the Mount Zion Gospel Choir sings arrangements for choir and orchestra by co-director Leotha Stanley including The Joy of Christmas, Stanley’s version of Silent Night, and a newly-composed song by Stanley, Christmas Hope.

About Michelle Johnson

Soprano Michelle Johnson has been praised for her “extraordinary breath control and flawless articulation. Her voice is velvety and pliant — a dulcet dream.” A highlight of Ms. Johnson’s 2011/12 season was her debut with Opera Company of Philadelphia as the title role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. The Philadelphia Inquirer acknowledged, “Johnson’s singing has magnetic immediacy thanks to clean vocal lines and word coloring that made her singing speak in beautifully formed musical sentences, similar to young Renata Tebaldi.” A graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, she was seen as the title role of Suor Angelica, Leonora in Oberto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Countess in Capriccio, and Alice Ford in Falstaff.

About Mackenzie Whitney

Mackenzie Whitney is originally from Janesville, Iowa and is gaining recognition nationwide for his expressive lyric tenor voice. He studies with Bill Schuman at the Academy of Vocal Arts where he received his Artist Diploma. He most recently performed with Madison Opera in the role of Rodolfo in La bohème. Additionally, he performed Rodolfo with both the Lakes Area Music Festival and the Academy of Vocal Arts, for which Philly.com reported “Mackenzie Whitney, who sang Rodolfo, has an appealing lyric tenor voice, his upper tones free and of lovely quality. This role suits him well both vocally and dramatically.” In the 2017-2018 season, he made debuts with San Diego Opera as Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, Annapolis Opera as Alfredo in La Traviata, returned to Madison Opera as Arcadio in Florencia en el Amazonas, and joined the Glyndebourne Festival as the cover of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. The 2018-2019 season sees the revival of his Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance with Intermountain Opera, Roméo in Roméo et Juliette with Pensacola Opera, and joining the Great Falls Symphony in concert. In November 2019, he performed in the highly-acclaimed Madison Opera production as Alfredo in La Traviata.

Madison Symphony Chorus, Beverly Taylor, Director

Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus gave its first public performance on February 23, 1928, and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since. The chorus is comprised of more than 150 volunteer musicians who come from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent. In 2017, the chorus sang three Brahms Requiems in Germany with regional orchestras under Ms. Taylor’s direction.

In recent seasons, the Chorus has joined the MSO for such awe- inspiring works as Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9 “Ode to Joy,” Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Rossini’s jubilant Stabat Mater, the Requiems of both Verdi and Mozart, Holst’s The Planets, John Adams’ challenging On the Transmigration of Souls, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection), excerpts from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Rachmaninoff’s magnificent The Bells, Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region, and excerpts from Handel’s Solomon, among others.

Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, Artistic Director

Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) is dedicated to inspiring youth with a choral experience that fosters creativity, reflection, and the exploration of diverse ideas, while welcoming singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community. Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self- confidence, personal responsibility, and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.

Mount Zion Gospel Choir, Tamera and Leotha Stanley, Directors

Under the leadership of Leotha Stanley, a 2008 Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences Minerva Laureate, and his wife, Tamera Stanley, the Mount Zion Gospel Choir has been a part of the Madison Symphony Orchestra Christmas concerts since 2005. The Stanleys call their work “Gospel Carols,” and previous MSO Christmas concerts have featured: “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “This Christmas,” “Joy To The World,” “Amen,” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” They have also presented a number of originals, including: “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season,” “A Christmas Greeting,” “The Spirit Of Christmas is Love,” “The Joy of Christmas,” and this year, “Christmas Hope.”

The choir is primarily comprised of members from Mount Zion Baptist Church, however, others churches are represented, including: High Point Church, Unitarian Church, Christ The Solid Rock, Door Creek, Bethel Lutheran, Fountain of Life, and others. The choir has travelled extensively throughout the Midwest and has been an opening performance for: The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the UW Marching Band, Michael Bolton, The Winans, Yolanda Adams, and other noted artists. The choir has also journeyed to Europe, singing in France and Germany.

A full concert, “Gospel Carols,” will be held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Friday, December 20, 2019. For more information, visit gospelcarols.com.

Concert, Ticket and Event Details
The lobby opens 90 minutes prior to each concert. The Symphony recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and participate in singing carols with the Madison Symphony Chorus, directed by Beverly Taylor, that take place in the Overture Hall lobby 50 minutes before the concerts, up until 10 minutes before the performances. Program notes are available online for viewing in advance of the concerts: http://bit.ly/msodec19programnotes

  • Single Tickets are $19-$95 each and are on sale now at: https://madisonsymphony.org/event/a-madison-symphony-christmas-2019/ through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141. Fees apply to online/phone sales.
  • Groups of 10 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.
  • Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $15 or $20 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush 
  • Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
  • Flex-ticket booklets of 8-10 vouchers for 19-20 symphony subscription concerts are available. Learn more at: https://madisonsymphony.org/flex

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.  

The Madison Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 94th season in 2019–2020. The MSO has grown to be one of America’s leading regional orchestras, providing Madison and south-central Wisconsin with cultural and educational opportunities to interact with great masterworks and top-tier guest artists from around the world. Learn more at madisonsymphony.org

Major funding for the December concerts provided by American Printing, Fiore Companies, Inc., Nedrebo’s Formalwear, John W. Thompson and Jane A. Bartell Charitable Foundation, Maurice and Arlene Reese Family Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, Hooper Foundation/General Heating & Air Conditioning, Judith and Nick Topitzes, and Anonymous Friends. Additional Funding provided by Colony Brands, Inc., J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., Flad Architects, Forte, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Community Carol Sing is presented in partnership with Overture Center for the Arts, with funding provided by Festival Foods.

Link to photos of John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra: http://bit.ly/mso19-20orchestraphotos
Link to MSO 19-20 concert and artist photos: http://bit.ly/mso19-20symphonyphotos
Link to 19-20 Madison Symphony season website pages: https://madisonsymphony.org/19-20
Link to December “A Madison Symphony Christmas” concerts: https://madisonsymphony.org/event/a-madison-symphony-christmas-2019/
Link to December “Free Community Carol Sing” event: https://madisonsymphony.org/event/free-community-carol-sing-2019/
Link to photos for December “A Madison Symphony Christmas” concerts and “Free Community Carol Sing” event
: http://bit.ly/msodec19photos

Programs, dates, and artists are subject to change.

Peter Rodgers, Director of Marketing
Phone: (608) 260-8680 x226
Mobile: (415) 713-0235
Email: prodgers@madisonsymphony.org

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