A Magical Musical Tour—With a Whole Bunch of Memories

A Magical Musical Tour—With a Whole Bunch of Memories
The Hyperion group in 1974.

If you discovered that you had a chance to raise some money so that some students could see some professional opera, there might be some shrugs mixed in with a few “bravos.”

But if I told you that what you’d see are some Madison musical icons turning their personal clocks back forty years and giving us a night of fascinating jazz and popular styles from 1890–1930, you’d hopefully be more likely to run and grab your ticket for Monday night’s Mills Hall appearance of “The Original Hyperion Fox Trot Orchestra.”

The inception of this fancifully named group came via Rick Mackie while he was an undergraduate student at Tulane University. A short time later, as a graduate student here at UW–Madison, the need for a fundraiser for the Wisconsin Ballet ignited the next incarnation of the ensemble, now adding the considerable talents and unique sensibilities of Karlos Moser. Moser nurtured the group admirably throughout the 1980s when Mackie’s early career led him away from Wisconsin, but upon his return as executive director of the Madison Symphony in 1999, Mackie rejoined the group for a string of notable appearances.

Despite the group’s name, the performance will offer a whole lot more than foxtrots—in fact we’ll hear a thorough traversal of styles from Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton through Duke Ellington and Fats Waller. And while we are sure to get a kick out of this musical journey, we’ll also have the rare pleasure of seeing a number of folks performing whom we have never seen as players, or at least, not in some time. Aside from the considerable luminaries of Moser and Mackie, Mike Leckrone will swap his UW Varsity Band baton for a trumpet (he appeared a number of times with the Hyperion in the 1970s and 1980s), Madison Symphony principal trumpeter John Aley, a member since 1982 occupies the first chair, Melinda Moser reprises her role at the piano, Dick Lottridge will blow some tenor sax (he’s best known a professor of, and former MSO principal, bassoon player), and Diane Mackie (violin) returns as well.

And if all goes as planned, a few lives will be changed in the way Karlos Moser’s own path had been: as an undergraduate student, he was given free tickets to the opera—and the rest, we might say, is history. Moser went on to a distinguished tenure as director of University Opera. The funds raised this Monday will go the Melinda and Karlos Moser Fund for opera tickets (via the University of Wisconsin Foundation) and purchase tickets for Madison Opera, Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Who knew that “Hyena Stomp” could ever be linked to “Celeste Aida”?

“The Return of the Hyperion” is May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Mills Hall, and tickets can be purchased from the Vilas Box Office or online here