Token Creek Chamber Music

Program I

TCF 2020 Virtual Season · Music from the Barn

Founders’ Recital

2020 Virtual Season · Program I · Founders’ Recital


Two Preludes Aaron Copland (1900–1990) 1 (1919) 2 (1921) from the 2000 Token Creek Festival Violin Sonata No. 2 (2013) John Harbison (b. 1938) I. Serious Song II. Ballad III. Waltz from the 2013 Token Creek Festival Allegro in A major, K. Anh. 48 (480a/385E) (1784/2012) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) first movement of a Sonata for Piano and Violin in A majorbegun ca. 1784 by Mozart (mm 1-35) completed by Robert D. Levin, 2012 from the 2013 Token Creek Festival Preludio from Partita in E, BWV 1006 (1720) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) piano part added by Robert Schumann, 1853 from the 1990 Token Creek Festival Crane Sightings (2004) (Midwest Premiere) John Harbison (b. 1938) I. Encounter II. Flight III. The Sadness of Marshes IV. Dance-Variations
  • Rose Mary Harbison, violin
  • Token Creek Chamber Ensemble:
  • Edith Hines & Mary Perkinson, violin
  • Jennifer Paulson, viola
  • Karl Lavine, 'cello
  • Ross Gilliland, bass
  • John Harbison, conductor
from the 2006 Token Creek Festival Jazz I Thought About You (1939) Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Mercer It Had to Be You (1924) Isham Jones & Gus Kahn from the 2019 Token Creek Festival
  • Rose Mary Harbison, violin
  • John Harbison, piano, conductor

Program Notes

Rose Mary Pedersen Harbison grew up on the 110-acre farm in the hamlet of Token Creek, Wisconsin, just north of Madison, which her parents Dan and Alice Pedersen had purchased in 1933, during the height of the Depression. The farm was about more than survival for the Pedersens. They were early practitioners of organic farming and healthy eating; admirers of Thoreau looking for a simple life.

Rose Mary, an accomplished violinist and pianist, met the young composer John Harbison in Princeton, New Jersey. They married in 1963, and in the early 1980’s transformed the farm’s barn into living quarters and fashioned a separate composing hut for John, away from the hustle and bustle of his academic life in Boston. The pastoral beauty of rural Dane County became a treasured haven for John, who found the quiet countryside conducive to creativity and contemplation, and offered a homecoming for Rose Mary. In addition to the serenity of the setting, the area has a rich cultural history that has always been inspiring: in one direction, the Harbison land is just four miles from the birthplace of Georgia O’Keeffe, to whom John dedicated his extraordinary Piano Quintet, and in another direction, only a few miles from Frank Lloyd Wright’s boyhood home and his Taliesin workshop.

John’s 1989 MacArthur grant provided both the time and resources for the Harbisons to embark on a project they had dreamed of for many years: a music festival set in the lush rural community that had nurtured and inspired them. Early that year they issued a “Prospectus” setting forth their goal of providing chamber music in central Wisconsin in late August, emphasizing American performers and American music.” Co-founders of the Token Creek Festival included Minneapolis Symphony concert master Jorja Fleezanis, music critic Michael Steinberg, and cellist André Emilianoff.

Jorja elaborated: “Artists naturally thrive in a peaceful, non-urban setting. They and their audiences alike come to music with a greater sense of calm and therefore a deeper concentration and involvement. I see Token Creek offering the essential ingredients: a poetic and serene landscape with a compelling musical collaboration, spirited by a shared musical intensity that each participant admires in the other and which has drawn them together to make music.”

And John summed up: “We want to make the shortest, most coherent, most compact festival anywhere, to reflect, and reflect on, the beautiful landscape that surrounds us at Token Creek.”

The first concert of the new festival was announced for August 26, 1989. The invitation explained:

We think that the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival is an idea whose time has come. A group of distinguished musicians, some famous, some not yet so famous, have decided to look for a compatible and beautiful place to start a festival. . . . We think that Wisconsin’s open prairie and open mindedness may be just the right ingredients for success. The Harbison farm, which will be the site of the core work of the festival, sits on the south side of the old Winnebago Indian trail, not far from the birthplace of Georgia O’Keeffe. This will be our starting place. We are getting together now for some serious music making. We want to find out if Wisconsin is ready for this festival.

Wisconsin was ready. In 2019 the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary. For three decades the annual concert series has been one of Wisconsin’s most cherished summer music institutions. It has built a well-deserved reputation for artistic excellence, diverse and imaginative programming, a deep engagement with the audience, and an enchanting setting. From a single recital in its inaugural season, the Festival has evolved into a series of 8-10 events compressed into an intense ten-day period at summer’s end, among them: concerts, lecture recitals, forums on science, art and literature, youth concerts, jazz nights, theater evenings, and environmental programs. Token Creek’s ambitious programming boasts an impressive diversity of events, participating artists, geographic reach, and audience participants. The Festival also publishes CDs, offers art galleries outdoors and in, and develops lively collaborations with other cultural and environmental organizations to enrich its offerings.

From the start, Artistic Co-Directors John and Rose Mary Harbison have been active performers each season, collaborating with colleagues and friends and guests from all over the country. The Founders’ Recital program that opens our 2020 Virtual Season offers a retrospective of their music making together over the entire thirty-year span of the festival, attempting inadequately to offer a glimpse of the scope of the music that continues to absorb them, from woks of Bach (who singularly dominates festival programming more than any other composer) and Mozart (particularly in collaboration with scholar/pianist Robert Levin), to John Harbison’s music written for Rose Mary (here, the evocative Crane Sightings, inspired by encounters with sandhill cranes on the farm streams and marshes), to their love of jazz.

With grateful acknowledgement to Gary Young and Linda Roberson’s The Token Creek Festival (unpublished) for the description of the early history of the festival.