Handel's Messiah - The Worcester Chorus - Festival Orchestra and special guest Soloists
Dr. Christopher Shepard, Artistic Director
Esther Heideman, Soprano
Ryland Angel, Countertenor
Daniel Molkentin, Tenor
Malcolm J. Merriweather, Baritione
For over 100 years, the annual Messiah holiday concert has become a local tradition and an integral part of the Music Worcester season. The 100+ voices of the Worcester Chorus will be joined by distinguished soloists, The Festival Orchestra and high school students through the Festival Singers program, an educational outreach effort of the Chorus for interested local students.
Handel's "Messiah", the Christmas portion of this great oratorio, performed by Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester, under the direction of Chris Shepard, with distinguished, exciting soloists and orchestra. Join the many audience members and their families who have been part of this annual holiday tradition, which is going strong for over 113 years! Enjoy the lovely setting of Mechanics Hall and experience a musical interlude that will refresh and inspire.
About the Artists
The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester has the unique distinction of being one of the most outstanding ongoing choral groups in the United States, having been founded in 1858 to sing in the first annual Worcester Music Festival in the newly-built Mechanics Hall. Its repertoire includes not only the Western world's finest choral masterpieces, but also contemporary literature, arrangements of American folk songs, classics from the musical theater, and commissioned works. Each year the chorus performs with orchestras and soloists in Mechanics Hall as part of the Music Worcester season, including an annual performance of Handel's Messiah. The Worcester Chorus has also made guest appearances throughout the Northeast and overseas. A major community chorus that includes both amateur and professional singers, the organization endeavors to foster the choral arts and to enhance the cultural life of Worcester and the surrounding area through the highest level of musicianship and artistry, resulting in enriching and emotional experiences for audiences and singers alike.
Artistic Director and Conductor of the Worcester Chorus since 2009, Chris Shepard has been closely associated with the choral music of Johann Sebastian Bach in recent years. He founded the Sydneian Bach Choir and Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, and was music director of BACH 2010, a project to perform all of Bach’s choral cantatas. Under his direction, the ensemble performed over eighty 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.” Chris returns to Sydney in June 2013 to conduct in the final concert of the choir’s completed cantata series.
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 also serves as Music Director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York City, whom he has prepared for performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall, including a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in addition to a performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico for Carlos Miguel Prieto. Chris also performed the keyboard continuo part with that orchestra in performances of the Bach St Matthew Passion at the storied Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in March 2013. Since moving back to America, Chris has also been a guest conductor at Emmanuel Church in Boston, a church renowned for its four-decade Bach cantata project. He currently serves as Music Director of St John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, CT. Chris has conducted avocational choirs for more than two decades, including the Stamford MasterSingers, Greater Middletown Chorale and Waterbury Chorale in Connecticut. He began a new role as conductor of the Great Waters Festival Chorus in August 2012.
A committed music educator, Chris was guest Choral Director at the College of the Holy Cross for the 2011-13 school years. Teaching has long been a focus of his career; from 1996 to 2008, he lived in Sydney, Australia, serving as Director of Music at Sydney Grammar School, one of Australia’s most prominent high schools. Before moving to Sydney, Chris led the choral program at the Taft School in Watertown, 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 and New York.
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. He recently appeared with Alice Parker as a judge for Together in Song, a choral festival broadcast live on western Massachusetts public television.
Chris holds degrees from the Hartt School and the Yale School of Music, where he studied choral conducting with Marguerite Brooks. He researched the performance history of Bach’s B Minor Mass in New York City for his PhD in Musicology from the University of Sydney; his dissertation won the American Choral Directors Association’s 2012 Julius Herford Prize for outstanding doctoral thesis in choral music.
Angelic is the word that has most often been used to describe the silvery, pure, sweet tone of Soprano Esther Heideman's vocal artistry. In 2000, she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Licia Albanese Competition. In 2001, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut singing Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. These performances were immediately followed by her debut with the New York Philharmonic in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and her European debut with the Prague Radio Symphony, singing in Mahler's Second Symphony.
Ms. Heideman's career began with her Carnegie Hall debut, singing Handel’s Messiah. Since this time, she has performed with major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe such as the Baltimore Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore, Berkshire Choral Festival, Pacific Symphony, Springfield Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Boston Baroque, Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra del Gran Teatre del Liceu, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In addition to performing the staples of traditional concert repertoire, such as Haydn's Creation, Mozart's c- minor Mass, Handel's Messiah and Orff's Carmina Burana, Esther Heideman has featured prominently in the premieres of some of today's most respected contemporary composer. These have included the role of Jenny Lind in Libby Larsen’s opera Barnum’s Bird (Plymouth Music Series, Philip Brunelle), Sister Angelica in The Three Hermits by Stephen Paulus, and The Revelation of St. John by Daniel Schnyder (with the Orquestra del Gran Teatre del Liceu under Sebastian Weigel and Milwaukee Symphony under Andreas Delfs), as well as Deus Passus by Wolfgang Rihm (Rotterdam Philharmonic, Markus Stenz).
Ms. Heideman has returned to the US after living and performing in Beijing for more than a year. After a very successful summer in 2013, she will return to the Aspen Music Festival in 2014 to perform Esa-Pekka Solonen’s Five Images After Sappho, as well as two other programs yet to be decided. She will also be singing Handel’s Messiah with Music Worcester in December.
Born on St. Cecilia's Day, Countertenor RYLAND ANGEL was a chorister at Bristol Cathedral and a lay-clerk at Chester Cathedral. He trained as a lawyer before deciding to pursue a professional career as a singer in 1991 when he started studying with David Mason.
Since then, Mr. Angel has received a Grammy nomination and has performed with William Christie, Rene Jacobs, Ivor Bolton, Roy Goodman, Christophe Rousset, Philippe Herreweghe, Christophe Coin, Gabriel Garrido, Cantus Köln, Le Concert Spirituel, Le Parlement de Musique, the Ensemble of Early Music of New York and Ensemble La Fenice.
Recently he performed The Fairy Queen with Boston Baroque as well as performances of Venus and Adonis by Desmarest conducted by Christophe Rousset at Opera de Nancy and a return engagement with the William Byrd Ensemble in Paris joining them additionally at the Boston Early Music Festival. Read more here.
Daniel Molkentin, tenor, teaches English and German diction in the Mannes College Extension Division and has served as the German diction coach for many ensembles, including the Bard Summer Music Festival, Berkshire Choral Festival, Clarion Music Society, Liederkranz Opera Theatre, Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus, Oratorio Society of New York, and Westchester Choral Society. Through his work with these ensembles he had the opportunities to collaborate with conductors Leon Botstein, Stephen Fox, Vance George, Jane Glover, Liz Hastings, Frank Nemhauser, Stephen Smith, and Kent Tritle on a wide range of works. Mr. Molkentin’s passion for teaching diction led him join forces with Trudy Weaver Miller to co-found and develop SingersBabel, a website dedicated to providing singers and musicians with lyric diction resources and tools for preparing texts in foreign languages. His translations and pronunciation guides of German choral and solo works such as Matthäus Passion, Die Schöpfung, Ein deutsches Requiem, Dichterliebe, and Winterreise, are being used with increasing frequency around the United States.
Mr. Molkentin also enjoys an active schedule performing works ranging from the 16th to 21st centuries. This season brings performances of Schubert’s Winterreise, Marschner’s Der Vampyr (Gadshill) with the Liederkranz Opera Theatre, and Mozart’s Requiem with Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Highlights of past seasons include Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus with Berkshire Bach Society, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (arr. Schönberg) with Orchestra Insonica, Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin at Steinway Hall, and Wolfgang Rihm’s song cycle, Das Rot, with Pocket Opera of New York (PONY). In addition, Mr. Molkentin and guitarist/composer Paul Smith present works exclusive to the voice and guitar medium in their collaborative project, Spoon River Duo.
Malcolm J. Merriweather, baritone, began his professional musical training as a chorister in the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, in Buffalo, New York. He attended Syracuse University where he earned a Bachelor of Music in music education, summa cum laude. Malcolm was honored as a Visual and Performing Arts Scholar and a Remembrance Scholar. He leads a professional career as a baritone, conductor and teacher.
Malcolm earned a Master of Music degree in choral conducting at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied conducting with Dr. William Weinert. Malcolm has served as organist and choirmaster at the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene (Episcopal) in downtown Rochester, NY, and Director of Music at Asbury First United Methodist Church, Rochester, NY. As assistant conductor for the Gregory Kunde Chorale he was privileged to prepare and conduct the choir for performances of Brahms‘ Requiem, Mozart‘s Coronation Mass and excerpts from Rossini‘s Othello with orchestra and soloists.
He received a second M.M. in Vocal Performance from the studio of Rita Shane. The baritone has had solo engagements with the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, New York Choral Society, Norfolk Chamber Choir, Gregory Kunde Chorale, Voices, Bach Vespers Choir and Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has been a fellowship recipient with the festivals at Norfolk, CT and Tanglewood Music Center. A supporter of new music, Malcolm has premiered works by Eve Beglarian, John Liberatore, Ju Ri Seo, Douglas Fisk and James Adler. He is a featured performer on James Adler and Friends, released through PARMA Recordings on their Navona Records label, and distributed exclusively through Naxos.
A passionate music educator, Malcolm enjoyed serving as the Artistic Director and Conductor for the Rochester Boys Choir and is currently on the faculty at St. Thomas More Play Group, Manhattan and Director of Choirs at the Third Street Music Settlement, Manhattan. In addition to freelance singing, Malcolm serves as the Associate Conductor for the New York Choral Society, and Choral Associate at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
- Counter-tenor Ryland Angel: Agnus Dei
- Baritone Malcolm J. Merriweather sings Easter from Five Mystical Songs
- Soprano Esther Heideman sings "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" from Handel's Gloria With Counterpoint