The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester, Dr. Chris Shepard, Artistic Director, with special guest soloists

Rossini's Petite messe and Brahms' Nanie with Sima Kustanovich, Piano; Malcolm Halliday, Organ; Demetrios Karamintzas, Oboe

Friday, March 7, 2014
Mechanics Hall - 8:00 PM Performance, 7:00 PM Pre-concert Talk

Tickets: Adult $40, Student $15, Youth $5 - Order Tickets

"...a joyful setting of the Ordinary of the Mass, and the chorus sang it with buoyancy and energy." - The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, a review of the 3/2013 performance.

We celebrate the 150th anniversary of the beautiful Mechanics Hall Hook organ (and its recent refurbishment) by opening the concert with two movements from the first of Mendelssohn’s six sonatas for organ.

An exciting performance that will offer the chance to hear The Worcester Chorus in this mass that sounds like an opera!  This is vintage Rossini, full of wonderful melodies, and will also feature performance on the newly restored Hook organ of Mechanics Hall..

The Brahms "Nänie" is also a beautiful but not often performed choral work, based on a poem by Schiller illustrating a lamentation.

Special guest soloists Kathleen Theisen, Soprano, Elizabeth Russo, Mezzo-Soprano, Thomas Mooney, Tenor, and Gregg Lauterbach, Bass, will join the chorus.


Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces.  The Petite messe is part of a group of works that Rossini himself called "sins of my old age", and it was written only a few years before his death, and is a mass setting that is neither petite nor solemn!

The poem Nänie was written in 1799 by the German author Friedrich Schiller, a leading figure of German literature, not only poetry, but also as a dramatist and writer of short stories and philosophical articles emphasizing German idealism. Johannes Brahms composed the music for Nänie in 1881 as a tribute honoring his German artist friend, Anselm Feuerbach, who had recently died.  Many of Feuerbach´s paintings were scenes from classical antiquity--Greek myths and philosophers.  Nänie means Song of Mourning; it laments the death of all things beautiful or perfect. Schiller illustrated the idea that "Even beauty must perish".

Like his great role model J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn was a very fine organist, though he never held a position as a church organist, and he left fairly little organ music.  It was in England rather than Germany (where he only gave one public recital, at Bach’s church in Leipzig) that Mendelssohn was well-known as an organist, so it is not surprising that it was an English publishing house that commissioned the sonatas from Mendelssohn in 1844.  They have been an important staple of the organ repertoire ever since.  Typical of Mendelssohn’s compositional style, these final two movements from the first organ sonata exhibit characteristics of both Romantic and Baroque techniques, though in this case Mendelssohn uses neither the chorale prelude nor the fugue form that he uses elsewhere when imitating the Leipzig master.

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.The Worcester Chorus is a major community chorus that includes both amateur and professional singers. It 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.

Sima Kustanovich is one of the Northeast's most sought after pianists. Hailed by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for the "extraordinary intensity and brilliance of her playing," she concertizes in some of the most acclaimed international venues, including France's Courchevel Chamber Music Festival, N.Y.'s BargeMusic, Toronto's Royal Conservatory Chamber Music Series, Niagra on the Lake Music Festival, Summit Festival, Sweden's St. Jacob's Cathedral, Hungary's Matthias Cathedral, Praha's Hlahol and major cities of Russia, Austria, Italy and Estonia. In 1990 she was the recipient of a rare invitation to perform on Steinway & Sons 470,000th piano that toured the United States from coast to coast.

Malcolm Halliday is Artistic Director for the Master Singers of Worcester and an active piano recitalist, recording artist and collaborative pianist with numerous singers. Former resident pianist for the American Schubert Institute in Boston, he is also a founding member of the Blackstone Trio with mezzo-soprano D’Anna Fortunato and clarinetist Chester Brezniak. Malcolm Halliday is Minister of Music at the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury, and is also on the piano faculty at Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. A former dean of the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, in 2007 he was one of only two persons in the country to obtain the highest level of certification as a Fellow (FAGO) of the American Guild of Organists. Halliday’s principal teachers include Paul Badura-Skoda, Henny Bordwin, Miles Mauney and Bela Nagy. He holds degrees in piano performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Boston University. You can learn more about Mr. Halliday on his website, 

Juilliard-­‐trained oboist Demetrios Karamintzas is equally at home in his native New York, his adopted home of Jerusalem, or his new home of Berlin. Immediately after receiving his Masters degree from The Juilliard School in 2004, he began full-­time as principal oboist of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA, where he remained for seven years.  Balancing his Israeli teaching and performing career, Karamintzas has been very active with the Barenboim-­‐Said Foundation and Al Kamandjati music schools in Ramallah, and helped to build the first Palestinian youth orchestra, together with the Edward Said National Conservatory of Palestine.

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