We return for our 10th year presenting Handel’s most well known work, Messiah. We perform this eternal holiday favorite with soloists Sarah Lawrence, Johanna Bronk, Gene Stenger, Peter Van de Graaff, and the WCO Chorus at Blackhawk Church on Madison’s west side.
Sarah Lawrence is enjoying a widely varied career. Her rapidly expanding repertoire includes oratorio, operetta, opera and musical theatre. The release of her CD, Sweet Hello, marks her debut as a recording artist.
Sarah’s concert repertoire shows her versatility. She has performed Handel’s Messiah with the symphonies of Omaha, Madison, Cheyenne, and the Apollo Chorus in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. With Wisconsin’s Peninsula Music Festival she has sung Haydn’s Creation and Bach’s B Minor Mass. Other Haydn performances have included the St. Cecilia Mass with the Rochester Oratorio Society, the Lord Nelson Mass with the North Shore Choral Society, and Paukenmesse with the Sheboygan Symphony. With the Madison Symphony Orchestra she has also performed Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. She sang Prokofiev’s The Ugly Duckling and Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She has appeared in pops concerts with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Michigan Symphony.
Equally comfortable on the stage, Ms. Lawrence has performed the role of Masha in The Music Shop, Norina in Don Pasquale, Gretel in Hansel & Gretel, Frasquita and Micaela in Carmen, and Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor. She has appeared with Madison Opera, Opera for the Young, Light Opera Oklahoma, Dorian Opera Theatre and Lyric Opera of the North. With Minnesota’s Colder By The Lake, she created the role of Missy in the world premiere of Tyler Kaiser’s Les Uncomfortables, and the role of Pristine in The Phantom of the Norshor. She appeared with Lyric Opera of the North in their production of The Magic Flute as Pamina. A huge fan of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas, Sarah has appeared as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore, Angelina in Trial by Jury, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance.
Ms. Lawrence appeared as Christine Daaé as a member of the Third National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera and in Phantom: The Vegas Spectacular. In recent seasons, she has also appeared as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with the Peninsula Music Festival, the title role in Lyric Opera of the North’s production of Semele, the soprano soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, and as an Equity guest artist with The Duluth Playhouse as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. The current season includes an appearance with Colder By The Lake in Older By The Lake and a return to the Duluth Playhouse, this time as Lily in The Secret Garden, as well as another turn as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance as a part of the Tall Ships Festival in Duluth.
Johanna Bronk, mezzo-soprano, was recently a finalist in the 2017 International Handel Aria Competition, Tafelmusik Baroque Vocal Competition, and Bethlehem Bach competition. She is currently a Fellow with Music for Food, a hunger relief project founded by Grammy® Award winning violist, Kim Kashkashian, which combines chamber music performance with education and hunger-relief across America.
Johanna has performed with the San Francisco Opera, New York City Ballet, Handel and Haydn Society, Carmel Bach Festival, West Edge Opera, Emmanuel Music, Sacred Music in a Sacred Space, Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, Styriarte Festival Graz Austria, and Boston Early Music Fringe Festival among other ensembles. She will make her debut performance with acclaimed Miami-based vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire this spring.
Johanna holds a Master of Music with Honors from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory.
Tenor Gene Stenger has received critical acclaim for creating “the most lasting moments” (The Virginia Gazette) of the performance, and for singing with “sweet vibrancy” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer).
A specialist in the oratorio repertoire, Mr. Stenger’s solo concert engagements include Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Northeast Pennsylvania Bach Festival; Evangelist in both St. Matthew Passion, and St. John Passion with Bach Collegium at St. Peter’s (NYC); Evangelist, and tenor arias in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (complete work) with Colorado Bach Ensemble; tenor arias in St. John Passion with Voices of Ascension, and the Yale Schola Cantorum led by Masaaki Suzuki at Lincoln Center; tenor arias in St. Matthew Passion with Helmuth Rilling’s Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart with performances in both Germany, and South America which were featured in a documentary about Rilling’s life entitled Ein Leben mit Bach (A Life with Bach); Handel’s Messiah with Virginia Symphony Orchestra; C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat with the American Classical Orchestra; Bernstein’s Mass with the Yale Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; Narrator in Bach’s The Coffee Cantata with the Madison Bach Musicians; Bach’s BWV 80 with Bach Society of St. Louis; a solo quartet performance of David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the title role in Handel’s Judas Maccabeus with the Yale Schola Cantorum led by David Hill, for which he was interviewed by PBS for the “Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly” series.
In addition to oratorio, Gene’s opera credits include Tonio-cover (La fille du Régiment), Count Almaviva-cover (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), King Kaspar (Amahl and the Night Visitors), El Remendado (Carmen), and Prince Yamadori (Madama Butterfly) with Opera Fort Collins; Ferrando (Cosi fan tutte) with Opera Orvieto; Albert Herring (Albert Herring) with Opera in the Ozarks; Paolino (Il matrimonio segreto), Peter Quint-cover (Turn of the Screw), the roles of Pirelli, and The Beadle (Sweeney Todd), and Marco Palmieri (The Gondoliers) with the Ralph Opera Center; Stage Manager (Our Town) in the Ohio premiere with Baldwin Wallace Opera.
Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Gene holds degrees from Yale University’s School of Music, and the Institute of Sacred Music, Colorado State University, and Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music. In 2017, Gene was a Virginia Best Adams vocal fellow with the Carmel Bach Festival, and competed in the Handel Aria Competition in Madison, where he received both second prize, and an audience favorite award. He currently resides in New Haven, CT, where he serves as instructor of voice at Yale University.
Peter Van de Graaff
Hailed by the critics as possessing a “resplendent voice” and “rich, burnished sound” with “formidable skill” and a “commanding grace and strength,” bass-baritone PETER VAN DE GRAAFF has sung to great acclaim throughout the world.
In Europe, he recently returned from Salzburg where he was a featured soloist at the International Vocal Symposium. He has performed and recorded a Mass by Jan Vorisek with the Czech State Symphony under Paul Freeman and has also sung Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis throughout the Czech Republic and Poland with the Czech Philharmonic. He appeared in Berlin with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron. In Budapest, he sang with the Budapest Concert Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem and in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Chamber Orchestra joined him in a Mozart Mass.
As a recitalist he appeared in Tokyo. His singing has also taken him throughout the United States, where his appearances include engagements with the Houston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Utah Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Omaha Symphony, Wichita Symphony, Colorado Springs Symphony, Richmond Symphony and many, many others. Conductors with whom he has worked include Pierre Boulez, Christopher Wilkins, Paul Freeman, Bernard Labadie, Paul Hillier, Joseph Silverstein, Robert Page, Thomas Wikman, Jane Glover, Klaus-Peter Seibel, Victor Yampolsky, James Paul, Daniel Hege and Nicholas Kraemer, among many others.
Mr. Van De Graaff has made a specialty of the baroque repertoire and this has brought him as soloist to the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Costa Rica International Music Festival, Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Pittsburgh Bach Choir, Grand Teton Music Festival, St. Louis Early Music Festival, Boulder Bach Festival and many other festivals and concert series throughout the country. He and his soprano wife have been responsible for the modern premieres of several early 18th century chamber operas called “intermezzi.”
He has also been active in the opera house and has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Opera, Rochester Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Cedar Rapids Opera and many other companies. Future engagements include performances in Colorado, New York, Tennessee, Mississippi, Chicago, Maryland, Hawaii and China. His recordings include 3 intermezzos on the Naxos label and Menotti’s The Medium, Vorisek Mass in B-Flat and Mozart arias and duets, all on the Cedille label.
Van De Graaff resideds with his wife Kathleen in Eugene, Oregon. He is music director for KWAX where he also continues his syndicated radio show.
Festival Choir of Madison
Festival Choir of Madison is an auditioned mixed-voice choir of 50 experienced singers who come from all walks of life to make music together. We pride ourselves on our exquisitely crafted performances. Each is a musical journey binding audience and musicians together in a memorable experience.
Festival Choir of Madison has long championed living composers by commissioning and performing new works. Recent Composers-in-Residence have included Stephen Paulus, Elizabeth Alexander, Paul Carey, Eric Whitacre, and Scott Gendel.
In addition to its regular subscription season, the Choir has performed live broadcasts from the Chazen Museum for Wisconsin Public Radio, appeared as part of Overture Center's Grand Opening Festival, and toured across the state and abroad. In 1999, the Choir traveled by invitation to Austria as the first choral ensemble ever asked to participate in the prestigious Ost-West Musikfest.
Founded in 1972 by Vernon Sell, Festival Choir was led by David Lewis Crosby from 1975 to 1993, Eric Townell from 1993 to 2006, Drew Collins from 2007 to 2008, Dr. Bruce Gladstone from 2009 through 2011, and Dr. Bryson Mortensen from 2011 through 2015. festivalchoirmadison.org