Handel's Glorious Messiah - Guest Artists cover

Handel's Glorious Messiah - Guest Artists

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A beloved holiday tradition, Handel’s celebrated oratorio—with its blazing trumpets, thundering timpani and spectacular “Hallelujah!” chorus—provides a moment to experience reflection, renewal and joy during the busy season.
This is the second in a series of NoteStreams on tonight's concert. You'll be automatically linked to the next at the end.
To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.





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George Hanson, Conductor

George Hanson, Conductor

George Hanson, recently named permanent guest conductor and artistic adviser of Orquesta Filarmónica de Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico, also holds the post of festival director of the Tucson Desert Song Festival. Hanson is helping shape the changing role of the modern music director. He is a symphony and opera conductor, pianist, recording artist, television host, educator, community leader, fundraiser and passionate spokesman for the arts.

Music director of the Tucson Symphony (TSO) from 1996 through 2015, Hanson raised the profile of the orchestra, establishing it as the flagship organization in Tucson's cultural life. He has also served as artistic director of the Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon since 2011.

Hanson’s recent and upcoming guest conducting appearances include a production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Mecklenburg State Opera; concerts in Pforzheim and Leipzig, and debut performances with France’s Nice Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

In 2010 Hanson joined his TSO musicians as solo pianist, conducting Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 from the keyboard. Under Hanson, TSO's first recording reached No. 2 on U.S. Classical Charts and was lauded by critics around the globe. Stereophile Magazine praised the orchestra's “chamber-music-like interaction” with pianist Alain Lefèvre in André Mathieu's Piano Concerto No. 4, "a work demanding—and here receiving—utmost virtuosity and musicality.”

In six seasons as general music director of the Wuppertal Symphony and Opera in Germany, Hanson oversaw nearly 50 opera productions.

Hanson burst onto the European scene at the age of 28, with first prizes at the Budapest International Conducting Competition and shortly thereafter at the Stokowski Competition in New York.

Since then he has led more than 100 orchestras and operas, including the New York Philharmonic, the Radio orchestras of Berlin and Hamburg, Berlin's Komische Opera and Vienna's Kammeroper, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Mexico's National Symphony; and the orchestras of Johannesburg, Osaka and Seoul.

In recent seasons Hanson added Itzhak Perlman to an extraordinary range of artists with whom he has shared the stage—from Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Peter Serkin, Nadja Salerno- Sonnenberg, André Watts and Emmanuel Ax, to Tony Bennett and Dizzy Gillespie. His work in the recording studio with the rock group R.E.M. brought Hanson triple platinum recognition.

Hanson served as assistant to Leonard Bernstein. He was resident conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and assisted Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic. He received his formal training at the Vienna Academy of Music, the Curtis Institute, Indiana University and Concordia College.

Shannon Mercer - Soprano

Shannon Mercer - Soprano

Recognized for the luminosity and effortless agility of her voice, as well as her commanding stage presence and profound acting ability, Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer enthusiastically embraces a range of repertoire from early to contemporary music, from Francesca Caccini and Monteverdi to John Beckwith and Ana Sokolovic.

Mercer maintains a busy and challenging performance calendar of opera, concert and recital engagements throughout North America and Europe while also sustaining an active recording presence, capturing some rarely performed works.

One of the highlights of Shannon’s 2016-17 season was an extended run with Necessary Angel Theatre Company and Canadian Stage in a new production All But Gone: A Beckett Rhapsody, directed by Jennifer Tarver and with musical direction by Dáirine NÍ Mheadhra. The season also sees Mercer perform in the Canadian premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici as part of the University of Toronto’s New Music Festival and return to Pax Christi Chorale for a concert featuring Parry’s Ode on the Nativity and Palestrina’s Hodie Christus Natus Est.

Recent seasons have seen Mercer return to her acclaimed role of Pamina in the Calgary Opera production of Die Zauberflöte and in both Monteverdi’s Orfeo (as Messagiera) and l’Incoronazione di Poppea (as Ottavia) at the Boston Early Music Festival. In concert, Mercer appeared on tour with Ensemble Caprice to Montreal, Washington D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sacred music performances include Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and Tremblay’s Les Vêpres de la Vierge presented by Soundstreams, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Calgary Philharmonic, Handel’s Messiah with the Newfoundland Symphony, Bach Cantatas with Les Violons du Roy, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the St. Lawrence Choir and Montréal Bach Festival Orchestra.

An alumnus of San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Summer Program, Mercer began her operatic career as a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Program.

A Career Development Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and winning the 2004 Bernard Diamant Prize allowed Mercer to spend an extended period of time in Vienna, where she studied German operatic repertoire with renowned voice coach Margaret Singer. She also received the Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Women's Musical Club of Toronto Career Development Award.

Renée Tatum - Mezzo-Soprano

Renée Tatum - Mezzo-Soprano

Noted for her “commanding and dramatic presence” (Opera News), mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum is rapidly gaining critical acclaim on the most prestigious opera stages in the United States.

This season, engagements include Flosshilde in Das Rheingold at the National Taichung Theatre and in Götterdammerung in a return to Houston Grand Opera, Olga in Eugene Onegin with Boston Youth Symphony; and solos in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Pacific Chorale, Mozart’s Requiem with Omaha Symphony and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with San Diego Symphony.

Recent seasons’ engagements include Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with Toledo Opera, Flosshilde and Waltraute in Der Ring des Nibelungen with Washington National Opera, Flosshilde in Götterdämmerung with Teatro Massimo di Palermo, a return to the Metropolitan Opera as the Second Lady in Julie Taymor’s production of Die Zauberflöte led by Ádám Fischer, a return to Houston Grand Opera both as Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte under the baton of Robert Spano, and as Grimgerde in a new production of Die Walküre conducted by Patrick Summers.

Tatum also joined an international cast in Japan as Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata, sang as the mezzo soloist in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and Mozart’s Requiem with The Eastern Music Festival, and as mezzo soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with The Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival.

A recent alumna of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Tatum made her Metropolitan Opera début as Inez in Il trovatore conducted by Marco Armiliato. Additional performances at the prestigious house include Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte conducted by Jane Glover, Second Woodsprite in Rusalka led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Unborn in Die Frau ohne Schatten with Vladimir Jurowski, Emilia in Otello under the baton of Semyon Bychkov, Adonella in Zandonai’s seldom heard Francesca da Rimini conducted by Marco Armiliato, Fenena in Nabucco with Paolo Carignani, and Flosshilde in Robert Lepage’s landmark production of Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Tatum is a winner of the 2011 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition, a finalist of the 2011 George London Foundation Competition, 2010 Grand Prize Winner of The Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation Competition, The Opera Index Competition, The Jensen Foundation Award from Chautauqua Opera and two-time recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant.

A Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Tatum holds degrees from The Juilliard School and The Manhattan School of Music. Tatum’s discography includes the DVD releases of The Metropolitan Opera LIVE: in HD broadcasts of Otello and Rusalka, as well as a recording of Le Grand Macabre with The New York Philharmonic.

John Bellemer - Tenor

John Bellemer - Tenor

American tenor John Bellemer has gained a reputation for his strong portrayals in a very wide repertoire. Possessed of a voice The New York Times calls "clarion-toned," he continues to appear in leading roles at opera houses across North America and Europe. He is featured in the Academy Award-nominated film Lincoln as Gounod’s Faust.

In the 2016-17 season, Bellemer returns to Austin Lyric Opera as Der Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer. His engagements in the 2015-16 season included his return to Hawaii Opera Theatre as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rodolfo in La Bohème with Bangor Symphony Orchestra, soloist in Bach Cantatas with Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Hours of Freedom with Defiant Requiem Foundation at Czech Center New York, Carmina Burana with Teatro Regio di Torino and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Pacific Symphony with a repeat performance in the summer.

Recent engagements included Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Sandy/Officer One in Davies’ The Lighthouse with Boston Lyric Opera; Gabriele in Foroni’s Cristina, regina di Svezia and Sali in Delius’ A Village Romeo and Juliet with Wexford Festival Opera; Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and Britten’s Spring Symphony with Berkshire Choral Festival; Toni in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers at Venice’s Teatro la Fenice; works by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Alfredo in La Traviata with Florida Grand Opera; and Nebuchadnezzar in Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace and as Herold in Grassl’s Tassilo with Festival Mattseer Diabelli Sommer (Austria).

Other international appearances include Opéra National de Bordeaux, Opéra National de Lorraine, Opéra de Rouen, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Teatro delle Muse, Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi, Opéra de Rennes, Theater Erfurt, Stadttheater Giessen, Opéra Royal de Wallonie, Estonian National Opera and Teatro Arriaga among others.

Bellemer's extensive North American credits also include performances with the opera companies of New York, San Diego, Michigan, Madison, Cleveland, Saint Louis, Hawaii, Arizona, Calgary, Vancouver and Grand Rapids, among others.

As concert artist, Bellemer has appeared with the Columbus Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, New York Choral Society, Calgary Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Choral Arts Society of Washington DC, Oratorio Society of New York, and concerts in Paris and New York City sponsored by UNESCO.

Bellemer holds a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s from the University of Illinois.

Stephen Bryant - Baritone

Stephen Bryant - Baritone

Grammy nominee Stephen Bryant’s distinguished career in concert and opera has taken him around the world, with acclaimed performances in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His engagements during the 2015-16 season included Tan Dun’s Water Passion after St. Matthew at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cecco and Raimondo in Wagner’s Rienzi with the National Philharmonic, and the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Hartford Chorale.

A premiere interpreter of the works of Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun, Bryant created the role of Dante in the world premiere of the opera Marco Polo and was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Opera Recording” for the opera’s release on Opus Arte. He reprised the role for productions at London’s Barbican Centre (broadcast by the BBC), the Bergen International Festival and with de Nederlandse Opera.

He has also performed Tan’s Water Passion after St. Matthew with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony and on tour in the Netherlands; and Tan’s Orchestra Theatre II with the Hamburger Symphoniker.

His other recent concert appearances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra; Handel’s Messiah with the Indianapolis Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony; Mozart’s Requiem with Princeton Pro Musica; and Verdi’s Requiem with the Washington National Opera Orchestra under the auspices of the Defiant Requiem Foundation.

On the opera stage he has appeared in numerous roles with New York City Opera, most recently in productions of A Quiet Place and Intermezzo during the 2010-11 Season. Other opera performances include Mr. Gobineau in The Medium at the Spoleto Festival USA; Robert Gonzales in Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk and the Bonze in Madama Butterfly with San Francisco Opera; Capulet in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Michigan Opera Theatre, Chautauqua Opera, and Toledo Opera; George Milton in Of Mice and Men with Arizona Opera; and Indiana Elliot’s Brother in Thomson’s The Mother of Us All with Santa Fe Opera.

John Alexander

John Alexander

Artistic Director of Pacific Chorale

Artistic Director of Pacific Chorale since 1972, John Alexander is one of America’s most respected choral conductors. His inspired leadership both on the podium and as an advocate for the advancement of the choral art has garnered national and international admiration and acclaim.

Alexander’s long and distinguished career has encompassed conducting hundreds of choral and orchestral performances nationally and in 27 countries around the globe. He has conducted his singers with orchestras throughout Europe, Asia and South America and, closer to home, with Pacific Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Musica Angelica and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Equally versatile whether on the podium or behind the scenes, Alexander has prepared choruses for many of the world’s most outstanding orchestral conductors, including Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Slatkin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, Lukas Foss, Max Rudolf, Carl St.Clair, Gerard Schwarz, Marin Alsop, John Mauceri, John Williams and Keith Lockhart.

Alexander’s numerous awards include the “Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art” from Chorus America (2008); The “Distinguished Faculty Member” award from California State University, Fullerton (2006); the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award (2003); the “Outstanding Individual Artist” Award (2000) from Arts Orange County; the “Gershwin Award” (1990), presented by the County of Los Angeles in recognition of his cultural leadership; and the “Outstanding Professor” Award (1976) from California State University, Northridge.

Robert Istad

Robert Istad

Associate Conductor/Chorusmaster of Pacific Chorale

Robert Istad is the associate conductor of Pacific Chorale and director of choral studies at California State University, Fullerton, where he conducts the University Singers and Concert Choir, in addition to teaching courses in conducting, advanced interpretation and literature.

He has prepared choruses for Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony, Sir Andrew Davis and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, as well as conductors Bramwell Tovey, Eric Whitacre, Giancarlo Guerrero, Marin Alsop, George Fenton, John Alexander, William Dehning, David Lockington and Mark Mandarano.

Istad received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., his Master of Music degree in choral conducting from California State University, Fullerton, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral music at the University of Southern California. Istad is also the artistic director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers and Long Beach Bach Festival.

To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.