In 2013, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival branches out to explore the unfamiliar familiar, the spontaneous and the dramatic. Improvisation is the motto this year: In jazz, in Mozart completions and conventions, in the underplay of incidental music to Shakespeare, and in concert performances from our welcome guests, “Open End.”

The festival, which takes place annually late in August, has become known for its unique and imaginative programming and the welcoming beauty of its magical performance space in a charmingly refurbished barn at the sylvan summer retreat of John and Rose Mary Harbison, who serve as the Festival's artistic directors.

The concert space accommodates just fewer than 100, offering an intimate, salon-like concert experience that draws listeners back again and again.

Events in the 2013 season include:

• Program II: Open End - New Works and Improvisations, 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 25.

Guest composer-violinist Andrew Waggoner brings to the festival music of his own, as well as music by important composers of his generation, including Anna Weesner, performed by “Open End,” his New-York based ensemble equally committed to new chamber music and to free improvisation.

Waggoner’s “Floating Bridge” for piano quintet – inspired by Alice Munro, written for the 2013 festival, and dedicated to the Harbisons  – receives its world premiere. Waggoner has been characterized by “The New Yorker” as "the gifted practitioner of a complex but dramatic and vividly colored style.”

The program also includes music by Henry Cowell and Charles Ives, improvisations by “Open End” and, as always, music of Bach to keep our compass sharp.

• Program III: Shakespeare - The Bard in Songs and Scenes, 8 p.m., Tuesday Aug. 27, at and 8 p.m., Wednesday Aug. 28.

In last summer’s festival, we dramatized our debt to our rural environment as we explored intersections between art and nature, including an unexpected encounter with Shakespeare's “Titania” on the banks of Token Creek.

This summer, we bring Shakespeare to the fore with an entire evening devoted to his lore in one of the most unusual events ever launched by the Token Creek Festival.

Our program includes the premiere of John Harbison’s “Invention on a Theme of Shakespeare” (solo cello and small ensemble), scenes from the plays accompanied by new incidental music, and songs and arias on texts from Shakespeare plays set by to music by composers from the Renaissance to the present day.

The two principal performers were both born and raised in Madison and return for this exclusive event: Guthrie Theatre trained actor, Allison Schaffer, will dramatize the play excerpts and New York soprano Mary Mackenzie will offer songs by composers including Morley, Schubert, Brahms, Poulenc and Harbison.

• Program IV: Finale - The Old and Unfamiliar, 8 p.m., Saturday Aug. 31, and 4 p.m., Sunday Sept. 1.

No one would dispute that Mozart is one of the most beloved and often-performed composers. Yet, he was in the habit of leaving pieces unfinished, to be taken up later. Can they be recovered, "new" Mozart works that add to our sense of his prolific variety?

This program, welcoming two of our favorite recent visitors together with Madison colleagues offers the premiere of three Mozart sonata completions, Harvard scholar and Mozart expert Robert Levin (whose completion of the Requiem is the version often performed). We also present rare things: Two Purcell sonatas for two violins, Mozart's infrequently heard and bizarrely scored “Horn Quintet,” and John Harbison’s “Violin Sonata No. 2,” which will receive its world premiere.

Tickets for jazz events are $40 for café seating and $35 for balcony.

Concert tickets are $30, and a limited number of student tickets are available for $10.

Tickets may be secured by phone at (608) 241-2525, by email at, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 55142, Madison WI, 53705.

Performances take place at the Festival Barn on State Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. Early reservations are recommended. 

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all event may be found at the website,, or by calling (608) 241-2525.

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