Handel's Messiah - The Worcester Chorus, guest soloists, Festival Orchestra, Christopher Shepard, Conductor

113th annual performance of the greatest music for the season

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Mechanics Hall - 8:00 PM Performance

Tickets: $40 Adults, $15 Students, $5 under age 18

"A dazzling, elegant performance.  The Worcester Chorus brings Messiah to glorious life." - The Telegram & Gazette

Give yourselves, your friends and family members a gift of music that is majestic and inspirational - the portions of Handel's great master work that speaks to this holiday of Christmas - and possibly sing along with an encore of the Hallelujah Chorus!!

Special Guest Soloists:  Soprano Maria Ferrante of Worcester and Worcester native Stephan P. Barnicle, Bass, as well as Irwin Reese, Tenor, and Elizabeth Russo, Mezzo-Soprano.

Mechanics Hall will be decked out in all its grand finery as well.  Come and find some moments of joy as you begin your holiday season!

About the Artists

The Worcester Chorus, under the sponsorship of Music Worcester, has the distinction of being one of the most distinguished ongoing choral groups in the United States. Founded in 1858 to sing in the first Worcester Music Festival, the 100+ member chorus includes singers from Worcester County, northern Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the Boston area. Its repertoire has included traditional choral masterworks, contemporary literature - including commissioned works, arrangements of American folk songs, and musical theater classics. The singers perform annually in the Handel's Messiah, a highlight of the Worcester Music Festival. The Worcester Chorus season includes 3-4 major choral performances every year.

The Worcester Chorus has appeared with the Hartford Symphony, the American Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center, and the Prague Symphony at Carnegie Hall. The Chorus performed at the 1992 American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division Convention in Boston, and has appeared at the Worcester Music Festival with the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Rochester Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Boston, Baltimore, and Detroit. For additional information, visit the Worcester Chorus web site at www.worcesterchorus.com.

In recent years, Artistic Director and conductor, Dr. Christopher Shepard has been most associated with the choral music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He founded the Sydneian Bach Choir and Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, and was the music director of BACH 2010, a project to perform all of Bach’s choral cantatas. Under his direction, the ensemble performed over seventy-five cantatas, as well as the two Passions, B-Minor Mass, and Christmas Oratorio. A Sydney reviewer wrote of the cantata series that “these well-attended events, using a fine choir and perceptive soloists, are high points in our musical terrain.”

In addition to the music of J.S. Bach, Chris has conducted many staples of the choral-orchestral repertoire, and he has commissioned and premiered a number of new choral works in both Australia and America. Chris is Music Director of the Dessoff Choirs, one of New York City’s most venerable choral organizations. They perform regularly with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and have long had a commitment to new music. Since returning to America, Chris has also been a guest conductor at Emmanuel Church in Boston, a church renowned for its three-decade Bach cantata project. He currently serves as Music Director of the First Congregational Church in Watertown, CT. He has conducted avocational choirs for more than two decades, including the Stamford MasterSingers, Greater Middletown Chorale, and Waterbury Chorale in Connecticut.

Resident in Sydney from 1996 to 2008, Chris served as Director of Music at Sydney Grammar School, one of Australia’s most prominent high schools. Music education has been a major focus of his career; before moving to Sydney, Chris led the choral program at the Taft School in Connecticut, where his Collegium Musicum appeared at the 1994 ACDA Eastern Division convention. The Litchfield County Children’s Choir, which he founded in 1990, continues to thrive after nearly two decades. Since 2004, Chris has been Music Director of the Hotchkiss Summer Portals Chamber Music Program, an intensive chamber music program for advanced young players and singers from around the world. He conducts the chamber orchestra and choir, serving on the faculty alongside such guest ensembles as the Shanghai Quartet, the Brentano String Quartet, and Cantus. Over the last two decades, Chris has given several presentations for the American Choral Directors’ Association and has conducted several high school regional festival choirs in New England.

With SBS-TV, an Australian national public television network, Chris presented two documentaries: Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and From Mozart to Morrison with eminent Australian jazz musician James Morrison. The Melbourne Age recommended the Mozart documentary as a “novel, thoughtfully produced hour”. In 2000, Chris was chorusmaster with the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs for their performance in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Throughout his years in Sydney, Chris worked with a wide range of school and community choirs as conductor and clinician.

Chris holds degrees from the Hartt School and the Yale School of Music, where he studied choral conducting with Marguerite Brooks. He recently completed his PhD in Musicology at the University of Sydney, researching the performance history of Bach’s B Minor Mass in 20th century America.


Maria Ferrante, Soprano

Maria Ferrante broke my heart Sunday night. Or, through her, Puccini's Madama Butterfly did,” wrote Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe in January, 2003. Her “combination of delicacy and intensity. . . brought tears to my eyes. . . In her honesty, imagination, and investment, she was infinitely superior to the last Butterfly I saw at the Met.” The petite soprano’s operatic roles range from the great stage heroines (Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, Liù in Puccini’s Turandot, Rosalinda in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, and Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème) to serving girls (Despina in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Barbarina in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Serpina in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona, and in Englebert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel: Gretel, who not only serves, but is served.) “A true singing actress,” Dyer enthused, “her eyes and hands and body know how to sing, and with her voice she can act.” Performing in the trousers role of Oscar in Verdi’s A Masked Ball for Berks Grand Opera, she was acclaimed as “perfect, I doubt if any company anywhere could find one better suited to sing this crucial role.”

Equally at home on the concert stage, Maria has sung Brahms’ Ein Deutsces Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Poulenc’s Gloria, Faure’s Requiem, Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Verdi’sRequiem. She has appeared in concert with such world reknowned artists as: Lincoln Mayorga and Gilbert Kalish. Critic Alice Parker wrote that she “handled the wide tessitura, comple lines and German diction [of Berg’s ‘Seven Early Songs’’] with ease, matched by Mr Kalish’s accomplished pianism.” The world’s two most eminent solo clarinetists, Julian Milkis (a Sony recording artist) and Richard Stolzman (who has recorded on all the major labels) have performed with her. Internationally touring solo violinists Ayako Yoshida and Colin Jacobsen, cellist Dorothy Larson (a Deutsche Gramaphon recording artist), and pianists Abba Bogin, Alys Terrien-Queen, and John McGinn have all accompanied Ms Ferrante. Czech prodigy, Miroslav Sekera, the 2002 winner of the Johannes Brahms International Piano Competition in Austria (and 1st prize winner of many other international competitions) has recorded with Maria in Prague, and performed with her in the United States, and the Virgin Islands. American composers Seymour Barab and Sheldon Harnick (who wrote Fiddler on the Roof) have collaborated in performance with her, as has the late Arnold Black, founder of the Mohawk Trail Music Series. All New Englanders will remember Robert J. Lurtsema as the voice of WGBH radio, and some will have had the pleasure of hearing him in concert with Maria. Xavier de Maistre, solo harpist with the Vienna Philharmonic, has accompanied the soprano in concert in New York and this year (2003) will accompany her in concerts in the United States and abroad, followed by a recording to be released in 2004.

Besides her accomplishments singing the familiar, she is also that rare creature, an artist capable of creating brand new roles fresh from the composer’s pen. Drafted by composer Joseph Summer as principal soprano for The Shakespeare Concerts, Maria has introduced Juliet in Gallop Apace, Ophelia in They Bore Him Barefaced, Miranda in If By Your Art My Dearest Father as well as several sonnets and scena in performances and recordings in the United States, Europe, and the Virgin Islands in 2002 and 2003. Commenting on her Virgin Islands premiere of They Bore Him Barefaced, critic Roger Lakins described Maria Ferrante as “a soprano whose love for singing is surpassed only by her love of communicating. She managed to bring the audience into her mood as Ophelia in just a few notes. From then on, they were her fans. A young woman sitting with me confided that she found the Ophelia work haunting, but had to work hard to believe that someone capable of making such beautiful sounds would drown herself. Had the need arisen, there were a few hundred people present who would have rescued her in a heartbeat.” Ferrante’s efforts in the arduous task of premiering new works were applauded by Lakins who wrote of Maria, tenor Alan Schneider, and award winning Czech pianist Miroslav Sekera: “The performers gathered for the evening by the composer are all superb musicians. They approached his works with seriousness and conviction. Throughout the rest of the program, they would make it clear just how fortunate he is to have artists of their caliber as vehicles for his work.” For this season’s The Shakespeare Concerts, she will premiere (and record) here and abroad several new works by Summer, including two more Ophelia songs. Besides her role in The Shakespeare Concerts, Maria has premiered Daniel Pelzig’s Bachiana with the Boston Ballet and the United States première of both the Requiem and Tota Pulchra Es Maria of Jose Nuñes Garcia.

Recent performances have included her appearance in New York with the Ensemble for the Romantic Century in a program of Spanish compositions accompanied by the guitar virtuoso Benjamin Verdery; Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 at New York’s Symphony Space (“sung with sweetness and oxygenated clarity by Maria Ferrante”); as well as performances with the Charleston and Delaware Symphony Orchestras, as featured soloist for BankBoston Showcase Series, The Newton Symphony (MA), The Newtown Chamber Orchestra (CT), Harvard’s Landmark Concerts, the Harvard Musical Association, Orpheus Choir of Hexam (England), The National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC), Kosciusko Foundation(NYC), the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, the Bay Chamber Ensemble, the Boston Chamber Ensemble, and the Great Music Series (Provincetown). An acclaimed regular soloist with the Mohawk Concert Series, she will be appearing for them with the great violinist Arnold Steinhardt in New York City in May, 2003.

Ms. Ferrante’s most recently released CD, Sea Tides and Time received a rave review from theBoston Herald,”[Ms. Ferrante] known for her lilting soprano voice and probing mind… brings a supple and colorful approach to a broad variety of repertoire.” The Boston Globe said: “Superb.”


Mr. Reese was a member of the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera Company for 23 years. He has performed roles in “Wozzeck”, “La Traviata”, “Der Rosenkavalier”, “La Boheme”, “Madama Butterfly”,  “Death in Venice”,  “La Forza del Destino” and  “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” at the Metropolitan.  Mr. Reese sang with Songfellows, a male quartet comprised of vocalists from the Metropolitan Opera. He performed with Calgary Opera for the Olympic Games. He has also performed on international and national tours of “Porgy and Bess” with Houston Grand Opera. For the world premiere of “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X”, Mr. Reese sang with the New York City Opera. During the 2011-2012 season, Reese sang the role of Kaspar in "Amahl and the Night Visitors"  with Little Opera Company in Winnipeg, Canada.

Mr. Reese obtained a Bachelor of Music from the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio. As a student at Wooster, he was a prizewinner in the Ohio National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the mid-west regional of NATS held at Indiana University. He received the Urlene Fern Brown Prize for Outstanding Black Student in the Performing Arts.  In June, Mr. Reese was a recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Wooster. Manhattan School of Music is where he received his Master of Music.

Irwin Reese toured in Mozart’s “Bastien and Bastienna” and Holst’s “Savitri” with Opera/South. Following the tour, he filmed William Grant Still’s “A Bayou Legend” for PBS, which was broadcasted nationally. Reese has also performed with St. Louis Municipal Opera and the American Music Theatre Festival.

Irwin Reese sang the premiere of “The Crossing”, which was composed for him by Robert Manno, at the Windham Chamber Music Festival. As a commercial voice-over singer, Mr. Reese was featured in television commercials for the New York State Lottery and Traveler’s Insurance. He can also be heard singing on two episodes of Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer”.

Elizabeth Russo, Mezzo-Soprano

Elizabeth Russo, Mezzo-Soprano is known for her powerful voice and strong stage presence.   In 2011 Ms. Russo made her UK debut performing Fricka in Wagner’s Das Rheingold with Fulham Opera, and returned in May 2012 to sing Fricka in Die Walkure. She will repeat the role for them in the full ring cycle in fall, 2014. “… see Elizabeth Russo really inhabit the role of Fricka, Wotan’s irritable wife.” The Telegraph, London. “Elizabeth Russo’s Fricka was theatrically and musically excellent.”Wagner News UK.    The production of Das Rheingold was hailed by the press as: “…a resounding success..” “…it was clear we were enjoying an exceptionally wellsung, well staged production” Wagner Society UK

As well as specializing in operatic roles for dramatic mezzo-soprano, Ms. Russo has performed song cycles by the great composers Elgar, Berlioz, Brahms, Ives and Mahler.  “It was in Elgar’s “Sabbath Morning at Sea” that we were first treated to the full power of Russo’s impressive voice.”  “From Berlioz’s very beautiful “summer Nights”,…she maintained control of that commanding voice by concentrating on the long melodic lines. The emotion she evidenced through tone and diction, particularly in “On the Lagoons” fit the summer mood very well.”   Danbury News Times

Operatic performances include the Countess in The Queen of Spades, Mama Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana,  Herodias in Salome and Amneris in Aida with One World Symphony of New York City. With the Garden State Philharmonic, she was featured in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and in Mozart’s Requiem with Greenwich High School super choirs and professional orchestra.  Ms. Russo performed with OPERAMICI as Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia, The Witch in Hansel & Gretel and The Old Prioress in Dialogue of the Carmelites.  She was also seen as Mama Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticiana with Chelsea Opera and Waltraute in Die Walkure with Opera Dramatica all of NYC.  With the Albany Symphony Elizabeth sang Waltraute, and the Rheinmaiden Wellgunde in Gotterdammerung, and Princepessa in Suor Angelica.  With Sorg Opera of Middletown Ohio, Ms. Russo was Lady Jane in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and Azucena in Il Trovatore with the Richmond County Orchestra.       Other companies include The Danbury Symphony and The Society of the Classical Arts of West Palm Beach Florida, and in New York City, The Doctor’s Orchestral Symphony (Town Hall) and New York Opera Productions, (Weill, Merkin and Cami Halls).    

Stephan P. Barnicle, Bass

Stephan P. Barnicle, a Worcester native, taught choruses, orchestra and music technology in Connecticut High Schools from 1970 to 2004 when he retired and moved to Fayetteville, NC where he is Director of Music Ministry at St. Patrick Catholic Church and the Artistic Director of the CANTATE Chamber Choir and the St. Patrick Music for Charity concert series. Raised as a chorister in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Boys’ Choir, he has held a variety of positions as a church musician for 58 years.

Mr. Barnicle has appeared as guest solo and conductor throughout the U.S. and in Europe. His compositions and arrangements are often programmed by all-state and festival choirs here and abroad, including  the Worcester Chorus in 2011. He was the Music Director of the Visit Canada International Polychoral Festival in Montreal and Quebec for a decade.

He is a published author, poet, arranger and award winning composer whose works are published by Walton, Plymouth and Alliance publications, and has served as choral consultant for Glencoe/Macmillan/McGraw-Hill Educational Publishing. He was named Connecticut Music Educator of the Year for 1995; he was awarded the University of Connecticut’s “Excellence in High School Teaching” award; and was honored on national television on the “Disney Channel and McDonald’s presents the American Teacher Awards.” He is listed in Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who in America  and Who’s Who in the World.



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