131st Messiah Festival of the Arts guest soloists announced

LINDSBORG, KAN., February 6, 2012—Bethany College and local sponsors welcome new soloists to the 131st Messiah Festival of the Arts, the longest running Messiah performance in North America. Soprano Karen Kness, mezzo soprano Sharon O’Connell Campbell, tenor John Wesley Wright, bass Weston Hurt and bach baritone Danny Belcher will join the Bethany Oratorio Society to perform Handel’s Messiah on April 1 and 8 and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on April 6. Soloists will also present their own recitals on April 3.

Karen KnessSoprano Karen Kness (sponsored by Peoples Bank & Trust) has been an instructor in voice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and will begin teaching at Western Michigan University next year. She has been awarded first place in the Nebraska state and regional vocal competitions of National Association of Teachers Singing and performed in numerous opera roles, including Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Monica in The Medium, and Lucy Honeychurch in the Midwest premier of A Room with a View. Other oratorio credits include Bach’s Saint Johannes Passion, An Elegy on the Death of Thomas Tallis, Carmina Burana, Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day, Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Brahm’s German Requiem, and Blue by James Syler. Kness has been the soloist for Mozart’s C Minor Mass with the Mozart Festival Orchestra in Indianapolis, the Holiday Pops Concert with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, and with the Bach chamber ensemble, Collegium Musicum Concordia, during its Midwest tour. Kness holds bachelor’s and master’s of music degrees in vocal performance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and is currently finishing her doctorate of music in vocal performance from Indiana University.

Sharon O'Connell CampbellMezzo-soprano Sharon O’Connell (sponsored by Scott’s Hometown Foods) specializes in opera, musical theatre, concert, and recital collections. Most recently Campbell performed in the Third Lady in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City production of Die Zauberflöte, Baba in The Medium, and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with Civic Opera of Kansas City. Her latest solo performances, featuring the work of Mahler and Berlioz, include Vivaldi’s Gloria with Black Hills State University, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Kansas City Philharmonic, and in Bradley Ellingboe’s Requiem with the Chicago Arts Orchestra. Campbell is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where she earned her doctorate of musical arts in Vocal Performance as a student of Joyce Castle. She hold a master’s of music degree from the Conservatory of University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she studied with Classical Singer 2009 “Teacher of the Year” Inci Bashar, and a bachelor’s in music from the University of New Mexico, where she studied with Bradley Ellingsboe. Campbell currently teaches at the University of Nebraska Kearny. She has previously taught studio voice at the University of Kansas and served as Visiting Lecturer in Music at Benedictine College, Kan.

John Wesley WrightTenor John Wesley Wright (sponsored by Ron and Peg Johnson and Seasons of the Fox bed and breakfast) is known for his artistic and soulful interpretations of music ranging from baroque to Broadway.He has performed a nationally televised concert for the Belgian Royal Family and toured as a soloist in professional ensembles throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan.Attaining a host of opera and oratorio roles, art songs, spirituals, and cabaret music in his repertoire, Wright is a member of the acclaimed American Spiritual Ensemble and is highlighted in the recent PBS documentary The Spirituals: Featuring the American Spiritual Ensemble. In addition to recording and touring with the ASE, Wright was invited to Osaka and Tokyo in December to perform Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah benefit concerts to support the amnesty efforts of the Japan International Volunteer Center. Wright has taught at Salisbury University since 2006. He has served as artist-in-residence at the University of Dayton for eight years and guest artist and teacher at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Kentucky Governor’s School, and the Maryland Summer Center for the Arts held at Salisbury University. Wright holds degrees from Maryville College and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is an active clinician, vocal consultant, and leader of workshops on singing in the African-American tradition.

Weston HurtBass Weston Hurt (sponsored by TACOL Thrift Shop) is a prolific concert singer and recitalist, who recently had his debuts with the Nashville Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, and the Oratorio Society of New York in Carnegie Hall. Hurt’s large repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Magnificat, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Coronation Mass, Haydn’s Paukenmesse, and Britten’s War Requiem, which he sang at Carnegie Hall. He has performed recitals sponsored by the Marilyn Home Foundation throughout the U.S. and Brahm’s Ein Deutsches Requiem throughout South America. Hurt graduated from the Julliard Opera Center and has earned numerous vocal awards, including ones from the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, George London Foundation, Oratorio Society of New York Competition, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation International Competition, Liederkranz Foundation, Metropolitan Opera National Council, Opera Index, Inc., Palm Beach Opera Competition, and The Santa Fe Opera. Hurt is currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

Daniel BelcherBach baritone Daniel Belcher (sponsored by Bethany College President Edward F. Leonard III and family) is a 2011 Grammy Award winner who has been described as having a voice “of beautiful melting sweetness…” by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the theatrical talent “to create a first-rate portrayal that drew the listener more and more into the hopes and despair of his character” by The Houston Chronicle. Belcher’s recent performances include his debut in Spain as Mercutio in ABAO-OLBE Bilbao’s production of Romeo and Juliette, his role debut as as Chou En-Lai in Nixon in China by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Dandini in Madison Opera’s La cenerentola. He has also performed with Opera Colorado, Stadttheater Klagenfurt in Austria, San Francisco Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, and Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera. Belcher’s concert work includes Carmina Burana with the Pacific Symphony in a program that also featured Copland’s Old American Songs, and Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass and Vaughan Williams’ Hodie for performances in New York City. He was featured with the Houston Symphony Orchestra in concerts of opera favorites and made his National Symphony Orchestra debut in a concert titled “A Night in Vienna.”

Jeffery WallConducting the soloists and the Bethany Oratorio Society is Jeffery Wall (sponsored by Jim Prugh). Wall is Bethany College’s director of choral activities and Elmer F. Pierson Distinguished Professor of Music. He earned his doctor of musical arts degree from the University of South Carolina, his master’s from the University of Tennesee, and his bachelor’s from Texas Tech University. He has experience in collegiate, high school, professional, community, and church settings. Wall has taught at Bethany since 2010, previously serving at Georgia State University and New Mexico Junior College.

The soloists will perform a recital on April 3 at 7:30 p.m. No admission will be charged.

Messiah will be presented on Palm Sunday, April 1, and Easter Sunday, April 8, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $17 and $22. St. Matthew Passion will be presented on Good Friday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and $17. Patrons ordering tickets by February 15 will receive priority selection of seating. A special $5 discount per ticket is available for teachers, seniors, churches, and tour groups of 15 or more. High school students are invited to attend free of charge and their family members will receive $5 off their tickets.

To purchase tickets, call Bethany’s Messiah Coordinator Blakely Bunning at (785) 227-3380, ext. 8137, between 1 and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday or e-mail bunningb@bethanylb.edu.

The Bethany Oratorio Society has presented Handel’s Messiah every year since 1882, making it the longest consecutive annual rendition in North America. World-renowned soloists perform with the Society for audiences at the college, across the plains, in Carnegie Hall, and on national television. Messiah is performed during Bethany College’s annual Messiah Festival of the Arts, when hundreds of guests enjoy the weeklong celebration of sacred music concerts, art exhibitions, and theatre performances. For the full listing of Festival events, visit www.bethanylb.edu//messiah.

Bethany College, established by Swedish Lutheran immigrants in 1881, is a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The mission of Bethany College is to educate, develop and challenge individuals to reach for truth and excellence as they lead lives of faith, learning and service. Bethany College is on the Web at www.bethanylb.edu/.

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