I look forward to playing Handel's Messiah with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra every holiday season, and getting to work with such a great group is surely one of my favorite Christmas presents each year. Many thanks to the wonderful musicians, equally wonderful support staff, and their incomparable conductor, Maestro Andrew Sewell, for another memorable experience!
The week spent exploring the orchestra's home-base of Madison, Wisconsin, was pretty spectacular too. I spent many enjoyable afternoons discovering local gems and doing some early Christmas shopping. If you find yourself in the area, it's worth checking out these particularly special local businesses:
Bibliophiles will find themselves in heaven at A Room of One's Own (315 W. Gorham St.). Just around the corner from the Capitol, this bookstore features room upon endless room of used and new books spanning every imaginable subject. Be sure to set aside a couple hours to browse the bargain books section - these aren't sorted, and with most books just $1, you never know what treasures you'll stumble across.
Whenever I find myself in a new city, I always seek out places to have a decent cup of tea, and Legacy House Imports (4221 Lien Rd.) did not disappoint. This charming place was the realization of a local couple's dream to open a teahouse and gift shop in their old neighborhood. Go for a proper English afternoon tea with a three-tiered tray of tea sandwiches and treats, and browse the many rare and beautiful tea sets and other objets d'art in the whimsical gift shop when you're done with your cuppa!
Our rehearsals were in Middleton, an area not far from downtown Madison, and home to a few stellar restaurants. For a hungry musician looking for a delicious and healthy alternative to fast-food, Saigon Noodles (6754 Odana Rd.) certainly hit the spot - their lemongrass vermicelli bowl was so good that I went back for their weekend special, steamed rice crepes filled with ground pork and mushrooms.
I'll be heading back to Madison in February for a performance of Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and I'm already looking forward to revisiting some of these places, and discovering some new ones too!