Friday, April 6, 2012

Debut album release of Amy Wurtz String Quartets – multifaceted collaboration between composer, ensemble, and community

CHICAGO (March 11, 2012) – Chicago Q Ensemble, founded in 2009, is one of the few string quartets in the city that is specifically dedicated to collaboration with other art forms and championing works of living composers. Local pianist and composer Amy Wurtzapproached the ensemble with her String Quartet No. 2 in early fall of 2011. By November they had embarked on a major recording project of Wurtz’s Quartets No. 1 & 2. The debut album, Amy Wurtz String Quartets, will be officially released on April 15, 2012 at 3pm during their CD release party hosted at Jennifer Norback Fine Art, 217 W. Huron St. in downtown Chicago.

Recording projects are often understood as a major collaborative effort between composer and musician. This project, however, was collaborative in the fullest sense by engaging the community to help fund the various costs involved in producing an album. Using the increasingly popular fundraising platform, Kickstarter, Wurtz and the ensemble raised just over $3,000 from individual donations, surpassing their goal. Take a closer look at their campaign here .

The ensemble considers this recording to be part of the ongoing effort to bring awareness to the music of women composers. Chicago Q Ensemble violinist Ellen McSweeney shares, “We immediately felt that we wanted to help share Amy’s music with the world. The two quartets were head and shoulders above other contemporary works that we'd read. They are full of challenging harmonies, textures, and techniques found in most 21st century music, but also have the qualities of great traditional string quartet works.” McSweeney continues, "We saw this not only as an opportunity to premiere two outstanding pieces, but also to help change the under-representation of women in new music."

CD Release Party - Amy Wurtz String Quartets
Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 3pm
Jennifer Norback Fine Art | 217 W. Huron St. Chicago, IL 60654
Reception with Live performances by Chicago Q Ensemble
Free Admission

To hear samples and learn more about Amy Wurtz String Quartets, visit the Chicago Q Press Page.
You can also learn more about Amy by visiting her website

For artist interviews or CD copy requests, contact Stephanie Photakis at (815) 342-7666 or email

Madison Opera Appoints Anthony Cao as Chorus Master

Madison, Wis. – When the Madison Opera Chorus began music rehearsals for their upcoming performances of Rossini’s Cinderella on March 12, they had a happy surprise: Anthony Cao, who has been interim chorus master since fall 2010, has been officially appointed to the position, effective withCinderella. As interim chorus master, Cao has conducted the chorus in The Marriage of Figaro, La Traviata, Opera in the Park 2011, and Eugene Onegin. He also sang the role of the Messenger in La Traviata. Cao succeeds Andy Abrams, who resigned to pursue his career as a composer.

“Anthony is an enormously gifted musician, with a beautiful singing voice of his own,” says John DeMain, Madison Opera Artistic Director. “The chorus will be in superb hands, and I look forward to a long and productive relationship with him.”

Cao received his Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from U.W.-Madison, where he was named winner of the annual student concerto competition. He also won the National Association for the Teachers of Singing auditions in 2000 and 2001. Cao has worked as a guest clinician and composer with choirs throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest and also stays active as a pianist /vocalist, including his all-request show every Saturday at The Ivory Room in downtown Madison. Cao has been director of choirs at Madison West High School since 2004 and artistic director of Madison Chamber choir since 2007.

General Director Kathryn Smith says, “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Anthony this year. It’s a pleasure to watch him conduct the chorus, and I know that he will continue to build on their excellence as we go forward.”

Rossini’s Cinderella, set in 1930s Hollywood, will have performances on April 27 and 29, 2012 at Overture Hall. Opera in the Park will be held on July 21, 2012.

For more information, please contact Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement Ronia Holmes at or 608.238.8085.

Jerry Hui: composer, conductor, teacher, and lover of music

Jerry Hui talks about music with a pal­pa­ble joy. Utterly down to earth in the face of remark­able suc­cess, Hui—an adjunct instruc­tor for Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies music pro­grams—sim­ply loves shar­ing many kinds of music with the widest pos­si­ble audience.

Hui’s devel­op­ment into a com­poser and choral con­duc­tor has taken a some­what unusual path in that he had no for­mal train­ing in music as a child or teenager. “In high school in Hong Kong I started writ­ing music for some video games that my friends and I were design­ing, which led me to read sev­eral music-theory and music-history books on my own.”

Still, when Hui moved to Wis­con­sin in 1999 it was to study not music but com­puter engi­neer­ing. But under the guid­ance of Jim Aagaard, pro­fes­sor of music at UW-Richland, he quickly found him­self drawn to UW-Madison’s renowned School of Music.

Soon after enrolling at UW-Madison in 2000, he switched from com­puter engi­neer­ing to com­puter sci­ence so he could com­plete a dou­ble major within the Col­lege of Let­ters and Sci­ence. After com­plet­ing his BA, Hui enrolled one sum­mer in the Madi­son Early Music Fes­ti­val.

Finally I had a sum­mer when I didn’t have to worry about a job or a course sched­ule, and I could find out what early music was all about.” Hui’s approach to music would never be the same.

Early music has some­thing for every­one. If you like sacred music, you can find some of the most serene music ever writ­ten. If your tastes lean toward the sec­u­lar, early music has plenty of bawdy songs, too.”

Hui later attended the Uni­ver­sity of Oregon’s grad­u­ate pro­gram in com­po­si­tion and choral con­duct­ing, return­ing from Eugene to Madi­son every sum­mer for the festival.

Over the years I’ve played a num­ber of roles for the fes­ti­val, includ­ing stage man­ager, house man­ager, and audio-video tech­ni­cian. This year for the first time I’ll serve as assis­tant conductor.”

After com­plet­ing his master’s, he moved back to Madi­son to begin the doc­tor of musi­cal arts (DMA) pro­gram. In 2008 Hui, whose own voice can range from bass all the way to alto, founded his own early music ensem­ble on cam­pus, Eliza’s Toyes. The group’s cur­rent con­fig­u­ra­tion fea­tures eight voices, three recorders, and a lute.

We’ve per­formed in some rather unusual venues,” Hui notes, “includ­ing the stacks of Memo­r­ial Library. And in one of my Schola Can­to­rum: Singing Gre­go­rian Chant classes the stu­dents and I sang chant in a stair­well of the Human­i­ties Build­ing, which gave a won­der­fully res­o­nant sound.”

Eliza’s Toyes is one of the fea­tured groups at a spe­cial pre­view of the Early Music Fes­ti­val set for the evening of April 26 at the Chazen Museum of Art. The pre­view includes a lec­ture on the Chazen’s early Amer­i­can col­lec­tion and a recep­tion with per­for­mances by sev­eral School of Music fac­ulty as well as Eliza’s Toyes.

Hui began teach­ing for Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies in 2010 and com­pleted his DMA last year. Along the way he also used his com­puter exper­tise to help Prof. Chelcy Bowles—director of music pro­grams for Con­tin­u­ing Studies—design and develop an online por­tal for the North Amer­i­can Coali­tion for Com­mu­nity Music.

Intended for peo­ple who work with com­mu­nity music groups—from munic­i­pal orches­tras to prison choirs to eth­nic ensembles—the por­tal will make avail­able a wide range of resources on start­ing a group, work­ing with peo­ple who don’t read music, build­ing an audi­ence, and many other top­ics. It goes live this spring.

This win­ter Hui real­ized the dream of many a clas­si­cal com­poser when his opera, Wired for Love, had its world pre­miere. Per­formed in Jan­u­ary at the Carol Ren­nebohm Audi­to­rium of Music Hall, the work allowed Hui to bring together many of the “extremes” of his musi­cal study, from early forms to the most con­tem­po­rary. This com­ing week­end brings yet another mile­stone in Hui’s career: Wired for Love will be recorded for com­pact disc.

Mean­while, Hui con­tin­ues to pre­pare for this year’s Early Music Fes­ti­val. Set for July 7–14, “Wel­come Home Again! An Amer­i­can Cel­e­bra­tion” focuses on early music of our nation and Canada. The musi­cians in res­i­dence will include Anony­mous 4, the most famous early-music ensem­ble in the world, as well as such other nota­bles as The Rose Ensem­ble and New­berry Concert.

One of the inter­est­ing changes this sum­mer is that all the vocal music will be in Eng­lish,” says Hui. “Well, unless we intro­duce some French songs from colo­nial Quebec!”