MAYCO – “Hope for Humanity”

I am off the bike this week, except for commuting, due to what may be a broken big toe. I say “may be”, because the treatment for a break or a soft tissue injury is the same. Without x-ray vision, I don’t know which it is. I haven’t found a good reason to pay for a doctor’s visit and an x-ray. If broken, pain and tenderness to palpation say it may be in two places. (The bike had nothing to do with the injury. Many have asked.)

The usual treatment is “weight bearing as tolerated”, meaning you walk on it as long as you can stand the pain, and a “post-op shoe” or other hard-soled shoe to minimize the bending of your toe when you walk (since you naturally push off on your big toe, stressing it with every step). Walking hurts more than riding a bike.

I splint broken fingers and other body parts – why not a big toe? So I devised this toe splint, which seems to be working. It fits (snugly) in a shoe, but feels better barefoot – which is true of life in general. The second toe is taped to prevent abrasion from the casting material – a semi-rigid material called “Orficast”, which looks like a roll of tape and is moldable, hardening after being soaked in warm water. While I walk a little funny since the toe won’t bend, it hurts a lot less. I gave up the cane yesterday.

Since I’m not writing about biking, I offer this post-mortem on a remarkable institution which would have marked its tenth anniversary last summer, were it not for a pandemic.

A 15 year old musician wanted to be an orchestral conductor. He looked around and found that, in the US, there were no undergraduate conducting programs. To realize his dream he would not only have to finish high school, but also get an undergraduate degree – then he could try conducting if he could get one of the coveted spots in a Master’s program in conducting. He discerned there was another way. He could start an orchestra.

With no funds, and being too young to form a not-for-profit corporation with which to fund it, ingenuity was the only recourse. He recognized that there were no opportunities for young musicians to play chamber orchestra repertoire, so he formed a chamber orchestra. He recruited musicians from WYSO (the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra) and the University of Wisconsin School of Music. He envisioned it as a mentoring program, so paired college music majors with high school students as stand partners. Over the years, he added workshops in historically-informed performance practice with local professional musicians. He enlisted faculty members (including members of the Pro Arte Quartet, the world’s oldest consistently-performing string quartet) to appear as soloists, so the student musicians could have the experience of performing with professionals. He developed a conducting apprenticeship program so other young musicians could get podium time during rehearsals and performance before an audience. He mobilized conductors to mentor him, found summer training programs, and served an apprenticeship with the Madison Opera Company – their first-ever conducting apprentice. World premieres and supporting young composers were an integral part of MAYCO, with a newly-commissioned work nearly every year. (2015 saw the US premiere of British composer Cecilia McDowall’s “Rain, Steam, and Speed”.) Eventually he partnered with an arts funding organization to provide a means by which donors could help fund the orchestra.

Joseph Mallord William Turner Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844 Oil on canvas, 91 x 121.8 cm Turner Bequest, 1856 NG538 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG538
Jerry Hui, composer of “Glacies”

Partnerships were negotiated with WYSO and the university (and later, churches and an art gallery) to secure rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as use of larger instruments (e.g. percussion and piano). The orchestra performed on the Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen performance series. (Scroll down to August 5, 2018 on the Chazen Facebook page to hear a few seconds of the sound check for the performance we listened to online in a Tim Horton’s in Niagara Falls on that date.)

A series of top-drawer university violinists served as concertmaster until the conductor married the last concertmaster and they became co-artistic directors.

Little did the founder know at the time, but starting musical organizations as a teen ran in the family. His aunt’s brother, George Shangrow, founded the Seattle Chamber Singers at 18 and directed them until his death at the age of 59. That was never the plan for MAYCO, which started as a program to run until he went off to college. Then he thought about how to run it virtually while away at school, returning for the summer performance season. Since it was conceived as an organization run entirely by and for youth, it was going to end some time unless the founder became Peter Pan. It did, in fact, hold a “Finale” performance in 2016, before returning for an “Encore” in 2017. Due to an offer he could not refuse, he stayed in town for his undergraduate music performance degree and continued the orchestra until it was struck down by the pandemic.

George Shangrow, from the Orchestra Seattle website
MAYCO Co-Artistic Directors Thalia Coombs and Mikko Rankin Utevsky

The late John Barker, classical music critic and Professor of Medieval Studies, gets the last word: “Hope for humanity is not always easy to conjure up these days. But last Friday night at Music Hall, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, brought me a genuine dollop of it, thanks to the concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber OrchestraThe MAYCO players brought it [Shostakovitch’s Ninth Symphony] off with real flair, under Utevsky’s amazingly expert direction. (And, by the way, he is a splendid writer as well, as his notes for the program booklet demonstrated.)That our area alone could produce such talent is what has stirred my hope for humanity.” (Excerpted from The Well-Tempered Ear)

Poster for the concert reviewed by Barker above. Poster design, photo, and feet by Mikko Rankin Utevsky

Whatcha doin’ this weekend?

If you’re in or around Madison, Wisconsin this weekend, come on out for a free concert.

The Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) is performing Saturday at noon as part of Grace Presents at Grace Episcopal Church on the square at 116 W. Washington Avenue.

The program will be repeated Sunday, August 4, at 12:30 PM in the series Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen, at the Chazen Musum of Art, 750 University Avenue. This concert will be live-streamed at the link above.

Details are also available at The Well-Tempered Ear. The program, entitled “Far From Home” includes works by Haydn (Symphony No 104, the London Symphony), Wagner (Siegfried Idyll), and Barber (Adagio for Strings), written while they were far from home. MAYCO will also feature the World Premiere of “Un Sueño Aplazado” (A Dream Deferred – from the poem “Harlem“, by Langston Hughes ) by Lawren Brianna Ware, which chronicles the emotional trajectory of a migrant’s journey from Central America to the United States.

MAYCO debuted in 2011 as a youth training orchestra – to expose talented high school students to chamber orchestra repertoire (which they don’t often get to play) while pairing them with university-trained musicians as colleagues, mentors, and stand partners; and giving them the opportunity to accompany professional soloists. Central to the vision were exploring classical repertoire and commissioning original works.

Parry Karp with MAYCO Coombs and Rankin Utevsky

The orchestra’s founder and conductor, Mikko Rankin Utevsky, recognized at an early age that he wanted to conduct; seeing the parallels of playwright-director-actor and composer-conductor-musician, and having composed and played chamber music, he saw that conducting was the best avenue through which to recognize his musical vision. Since there are no undergraduate conducting programs in the US, he saw two choices: wait a long time, or start his own orchestra. He chose the latter. In their ninth season, this is your opportunity to see and hear the process and product. Today, Utevsky co-directs the ensemble with concertmaster (and spouse) Thalia Coombs.

To Michigan…and beyond!

Sunday, July 29, Ludington, MI

We’re in a junior high school. We have internet access but much of the internet is blocked. WordPress is blocked, YouTube is blocked, MAYCO is blocked. I’m not sure how or when this will be posted. (Hah! I found a workaround!)

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I rode into town for breakfast at the only cafe I could find open (besides the one where dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow are scheduled).

I ran into Porter, one of our mechanics, and asked him about plans after the ride. He said he might return to the west coast to wrench for another coast-to-coast tour starting a couple of days after this one ends; or he might ride self-supported down the eastern seaboard and back home.

After one week of riding the question was how to sustain this level of activity for eight more weeks. After six weeks, it is how to give it up after only three more weeks.

Will I have to ride the long way to work, going around the lake? Yesterday’s 40 miles felt like a warmup; we were all ready for more. My riding style has changed; in the distance of my normal commute to work, I am now just getting warmed up and ready to get up to speed for the day. Since riding hours correspond with my normal working hours, will I want to go for a long ride after work, or will I be done for the day?

The Door County Century is in September and on a day off; maybe I’ll ride that this year if I can still find a campsite this late. A Century Ride used to be a Big Deal; now it’s just another day at the office.

After breakfast I rode back to camp and walked to the laundromat, where there was a steady stream of cyclists. Back at camp, the dew still isn’t off the grass, so I can’t spread things out to dry yet after packing up wet on Saturday morning.

In the midst of writing this, Robin and Wendy invited me to join them to see a movie. They didn’t mention that it was three miles out of town on a five lane expressway.  I needed the exercise. We saw the new “Mission: Impossible” film and the theatre manager invited us to stash our bikes in the box office. There were six of us all together.

Cycle America lingo

A few weeks ago at dinner Ed referred to me as an EFI. I had no clue what he was talking about, but it seemed complimentary so I smiled and nodded. A few minutes later he called me an ELK. That also seemed complimentary, but my ignorance must have been more obvious this time, so he explained that it meant “Every Last Kilometer” (as in, that’s what I’m going to ride). EFI suddenly became clear.

Terry refers to those who sleep on gym floors in lieu of camping as “floor floppers”.

About ½-⅔ of us (in any given week) are riding coast-to-coast. Beth refers to the others as “weeklings”.

Thanks

Thanks again to Mikko, Rosebud, Tim, Jeremy, and Sarah, who all came out to see me during the Wisconsin week. I understand special thanks are due to Noreen, for a heroic but failed effort to find Cytomax for Sarah to bring to me. Thanks again to Tyler for taking on my duties, and to everyone else for picking up the slack (and for caring enough about what I’m up to to read this). Deb, if you lack for ideas for the Friday song, I’ve left enough links to keep you in music for more than nine weeks. I hope the new residents are learning the ropes.

Next week

The first half of the week we’ll be crossing Michigan. On Thursday we cross the border into Ontario and continue across it to Niagara Falls. We’ll have our next day off there before crossing back into the US on Monday, August 6.

Also next week: If you’re in Madison, WI, go hear MAYCO (the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra) on Saturday night at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $10, students by donation.

If you can’t make it Saturday, you can go to the Chazen Museum Sunday. Concert starts at 12:30. Be there by noon to get a seat. It is live-streamed, so they don’t like to seat people late.

If you’re anywhere else you can go to https://www.chazen.wisc.edu/index.php?/events-calendar-demo/event/sunday-afternoon-live-at-the-chazen-8-5-18/ to find the live-stream link.

4th of July

Notice how this is the only holiday we refer to specifically by its date? Why is that? 5 de Mayo is also referred to that way, but not in English.

So here I am, in the great and sprawling west. 4th of July out here makes me think of US history, westward expansion, and manifest destiny. If you have 10 minutes to spare (9:15 to be exact), here is a better history lesson than I had in school – more accurate and more entertaining to boot. “Temporarily Humboldt County” by the Firesign Theater. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

 

Some years ago I spent the 4th at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. I took some great pictures but, due to software incompatibility, I may not see them again. (Don’t ya like how we were sold the idea of digital photography so we could keep our pictures forever with no need for restoration? I have 100 year old photos of my house but can’t recover 12 year old digital photos.

The memorial was begun in 1948. There is no estimated completion date. It is all privately funded. For comparison, Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve and Crazy Horse’s face is 50% larger than the Mt Rushmore faces.

from crazyhorsememorial.org

from Atlas Obscura – model of finished sculpture (foreground), actual sculpture (background)

On the porch of our lodge in Deadwood, the evening of July 3, 2006, my son improvised a mournful viola solo which became the basis for the adagio movement of his “String Trio in G”. He completed the movement for a summer composition project. It was dedicated to one of his academic mentors, Ted Widerski, who died while we were on that trip. That project moved him to alter his career plan from composition to orchestral conducting. Next month I’ll have a link to a live performance of his orchestra, so you can see where that led. If you can’t wait that long, here is a performance from a few years ago of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”.

Aside to the conductor: Did you know you were born on the anniversary of Samuel Barber’s death?

In July of 1976 (the US Bicentennial) I rode the Sparta to Elroy bike trail. I saw a sight that seemed to embody the spirit of the US to me. There, in the trail, side-by-side, were two vending machines – one for Coke and one for Pepsi. I took a picture that was to be the start of a photo essay called “Freedom is…”. I never completed the project because satire became superfluous the day I saw a two page centerspread ad in the daily paper. There were red, white, and blue bunting across the top of the page, stars sprinkled (liberally?) about, and the giant header “The Great American Buycentennial“. I don’t remember what they were selling. For those who were around in 1976 you likely remember the grotesque attempts to cash in.

I’ll leave you with one last bit of Americana. While I may have quibbles with the tempo, who am I to question the New York Philharmonic?

They don’t call it Wind River for nothin’

We spent the day crossing and recording the Wind River, riding through its valley. Here is my friend Keith’s song “Wind River Crossing”

We rode out of Dubois with the same 25 mph tailwind with which we entered. At our first water stop the wind shifted and we spent the middle half of the ride pushing through a strong headwind.

We entered Riverton to darkening skies and increasing winds. It is blowing about 40 mph now. Pitching tents has been fun. The sun is out but the wind shows no sign of abating.

This was supposed to be a recovery ride between yesterday’s 17 mile climb and Thursday’s steep climb to over 9600 feet and 94 total miles. We were supposed to be riding downhill with a tailwind. C’est la vie.

Early on we rode through beautiful red rock canyons.

We spent a few hours riding toward an isolated butte. I kept wondering when I should stop for a picture. Shortly after I did so, I came upon a historical marker.

The butte is Crowheart Butte, so called because, after defeating the Crow in a battle for the surrounding land, the Shoshone chief is said to have displayed the heart of one of the Crow warriors on the point of his lance. The town of Crowheart is nearby.

For an alternative view of this ride, see Terrysspokereport.blogspot.com. While we are all on the same route, we each have our own ride.