Keep it classy: 5 music concert series in July

Catch indoor and outdoor performances in Madison
Keep it classy: 5 music concert series in July
Photo courtesy of Madison Early Music Festival
The Renaissance band, Piffaro 

Willy Street Chamber Players
It must be an unwritten rule in Madison artistic circles that if you want to be noticed — and thrive — then your programming needs to be consistently stimulating. It doesn’t hurt to add that philosophy to a core of superb local players teaming up with great out-of-town guests. The result in July is the Willy Street Chamber Players. Founder and violinist Paran Amirinazari again presents three Friday programs at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Spaight Street. Starting at 6 p.m., the shows have no intermission and end early enough that you still have most of a summer night to enjoy. The series happens on July 6, 20 and 27. The WSCP also offers free events, including the Community Connect and Instrument Petting Zoo at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 13, at the Goodman Community Center and a one-hour program at 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, at the Memorial Union Terrace.

Madison Early Music Festival
The Madison Early Music Festival has long been attracting international attention and giving us lucky locals a sublime week of events every July. This year, the dates are July 7-14, and include five concerts (held in or near the University of Wisconsin-Madison Humanity Building) and a generous array of lectures, demonstrations and a concert given by folks participating in lessons and seminars during the week. Highlights include the return of the irresistible Piffaro, The Renaissance Band, and the vocal ensemble, Schola Antiqua of Chicago. There is also a Fringe Concert on Wednesday, July 11, at the Pres House, given by one of the newest period instrument groups, Sonata à Quattro.

Madison Opera in the Park
It only comes one night a year, but about 15,000 local opera lovers make sure to catch Madison Opera‘s Opera in the Park. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, the magic returns to Garner Park (rain date is the following night). A bevy of young and veteran singers return and/or make their local debuts in a frothy mixture of numbers from next year’s season and audience favorites. Now in its 17th go-round, the concert’s ubiquitous glowing batons for the audience “conduct-along” are a must-have item, but bring your own chairs, blankets, food and beverages. It will all taste better to the strains of Dvorak, Sondheim and Bernstein, to name just a few.

Madison Savoyards
Some people consider the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan something of an acquired taste — not that the Madison Savoyards have had much trouble filling the UW Music Hall for a half-dozen performances in each of its previous 54 seasons. But for the 55th year, the group tallies another entry in the “is this the world’s greatest operetta?” category by performing Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Die Fledermaus.” Don’t worry, “The Bat” will be sung in English, and you have plenty choices to add some Viennese fizz to your summer: the Madison Savoyards will perform at 7:30 p.m. on July 20, 27 and 28, and at 3 p.m. on July 21, 22 and 29.

Concerts on the Square
It just wouldn’t seem like summer in Madison without the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s Concerts on the Square. Why not join about 20,000 like-minded summer music enthusiasts any Wednesday evening from July 4 through Aug. 1? The music starts at 7 p.m., but the competitive picnic-ing begins any time after 3 p.m., which is when you can lay a blanket on the Capitol lawn to reserve a spot. Of course, you can arrive last minute, folding chairs in tow, and find a spot on the outer ring, too. If you don’t have time to pack a food hamper, there are a large number of great vendors set up to serve you. Menus are available on the WCO website, and if the weather looks iffy, check around 3 p.m. to find out if the performance has been postponed to the next day. Even with the lighter musical fare, maestro Andrew Sewell still finds a way to surprise us with his programming.

Greg Hettmansberger covers the jazz, opera and classical music scenes for Madison Magazine and madisonmagazine.com.