The MacDowell Club, dedicated to presenting local musicians and composers to music lovers, is a civilizing cultural tradition. The club is named for American composer Edward MacDowell, and was the fruit of his widow's lecture and performance tours about his music after his death in 1908. The Milwaukee chapter is celebrating a remarkable 100th anniversary this season. A centennial concert was held last Tuesday evening at the Athenaeum in the Woman's Club of Wisconsin, and featured the premiere of a commissioned work by Michael Torke, a composer with local roots. Besides a piece by MacDowell, the rest of the program was comprised of music by Milwaukee composers Sister Theophane Hytrek and John Downey, both teachers of Torke.
Torke's Song of Ecclesiastes is a four-song cycle on biblical texts, performed by baritone Kurt Ollmann and the composer. It has the same energy and sound of his instrumental works, combining popular vocabulary with a style that can be generally called post-minimalist, perhaps. There was generally a pleasant and warm glow to the songs. Torke's music is usually upbeat, and I like that about it. I was not convinced about the approach to repetition of text, which seemed to create a static rather than heightening effect.