LINDSBORG, KAN., December 30, 2019-Continuing its tradition of hosting high-caliber operatic performers, the Bethany Oratorio Society is pleased to announce tickets are now on sale for the  Messiah Festival of the Arts, 2020: Celebrating Women in the Arts. 

The Bethany Oratorio Society will perform its historic and rich performances of J.S. Bach’s “Passion According to St. Matthew” on Good Friday, April 10, and G. F. Handel’s “Messiah” on Easter Sunday, April 12.   The Bethany Oratorio Society has been performing Handel’s “Messiah” since 1882, and Bach’s “Passion…” since 1929.  During Holy Week each year in Lindsborg, the more than 300-member community chorus and orchestra are joined by five professional operatic guest soloists.  Guest soloists for this year’s concerts include: James Reese, tenor, Elisa Sutherland, mezzo-soprano, Anna Christofaro, soprano and Brian Mextorf bass. Brad Vogel will be the guest conductor for the Bach performance. Stephen Klaassen will also have some solos for the Bach performance. 

James Reese is a frequently sought soloist and collaborative musician whose singing has been praised for its “intensity and sensitivity…spirituality and eloquence.” His 2019-20 season includes return appearances with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Lyric Fest, and TENET Vocal Artists, as well as his debuts with the American Bach Soloists, the Harrisburg Symphony, Tempesta di Mare, and the Gamut Bach Ensemble. Recent performances include Bourbon Baroque Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, about which the Calgary Heraldwrote, “tenor James Reese was the newcomer, and without doubt he will be remembered and welcomed back in the future. He sang with remarkable clarity of diction and vocal focus….a very strong impression.” A frequent interpreter of Bach, James made his Carnegie Hall solo debut in 2018 with the New York Choral Society in the B Minor Mass. The New York Classical Review wrote of that performance, “the high, easy tenor of James Reese…floated beautifully on its own over the long, gentle lines of the Benedictus.” James is an advocate for new music, and is a founding member of Philadelphia vocal sextet Variant 6. He has premiered works by Caroline Shaw, Ted Hearne, John Luther Adams, Joanne Metcalf, Reena Esmail, and others. He has performed with leading ensembles, including The Crossing and Seraphic Fire, in addition to guest appearances with Gallicantus and Calmus. He is the winner of the Margot Fassler Award for the Performance of Music, and is the 2019 recipient of the Career Advancement Grant from the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia.  James is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music, where he studied with James Taylor as part of the Yale Voxtet. He lives in Philadelphia.

Elisa Sutherland is a mezzo-soprano known for her detailed, stylistic interpretations of both early and new music. This upcoming season, she will perform with Philadelphia’s The Crossing, New York ensembles Ekmeles, TENET Vocal Artists, Clarion Choir and New Chamber Ballet, Roomful of Teeth, Cleveland’s Apollo’s Fire, Miami’s Seraphic Fire, and her own early and new music sextet, Variant 6. 

Elisa has performed as a soloist with TENET Vocal Artists, Apollo’s Fire, American Bach Soloists, Apollo Chorus of Chicago, and Quicksilver Baroque, singing Bach’s Mass in b minor, Handel’s Messiah, and Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri. In the realm of contemporary music, she has premiered works for voice and chamber orchestra for university and professional ensembles. Elisa has a special love for art song, and has sung with LyricFest, Philadelphia’s premiere art song concert series, and the Brooklyn Art Song Society. 

In addition to winning the Philadelphia District of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in 2015, Elisa is the 2014 winner of the Lynne Harvey Cooper Award, and was the first-place winner of the inaugural Handel Aria Competition at the Madison Early Music Festival in 2013. Recent opera roles include Hera in Chris Cerrone’s All Wounds Bleed, Ensemble in Michael Gordon’s Acquanetta with the Prototype Festival, Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, Meg in Little Women, Ottavia in L’incoronazione di Poppea, and Nancy in Albert Herring. Elisa is also remembered for her Blazing Saddles – Madeline Kahn impression in a production of Die Fledermaus.

Elisa graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance. She lives in Brooklyn. 

Praised for her vocal agility and clear tone, Minneapolis based soprano, Anna Christofaro, is gaining recognition as an interpreter of a wide range of repertoire from early to contemporary music.  She performed on the 2018 GRAMMY nominated album, Tyberg Masses, with the South Dakota Chorale.  Other highlights include performing at the Olavsfestagene Festival in Trondheim, Norway with the GRAMMY award-winning ensemble, Conspirare, and performed on their national tour of Considering Matthew Shepard by Craig Hella Johnson.  She’s also performed under the baton of Bach-scholars, Helmuth Rilling and Hans-Christoph Rademann, at the Weimar Bach Academy and the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart in Germany.

Anna’s made her soloist debuts of Bach’s St. Johns Passion with the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, Fauré’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah with the Minnesota Chorale, Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor with the Grinnell Oratorio Society, Vivaldi’s Gloria with Consortium Carissimi, and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb with the University of North Texas.  She’s also been featured on numerous Artist Series Recitals of music by local composers, Steve Heitzeg, Libby Larsen, Abbie Betinis and Jocelyn Hagen.  Other solo appearances include Handel’s Ulrecht Te Deum, and Mozart’s Regina Coeli, as well as Bach’s B Minor Mass and numerous Bach cantatas with the Bach Roots Festival.

A versatile performer, Anna has performed the role of First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Italy.  Other opera credits include the role of Maguellone in Viardot’s Cendrillon, Serpina in Pergolesi’s La Serva Perdona, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Gianetta in The Gondoliers.  


Anna holds a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.  

Baritone Brian Mextorf’s 2018/19 season included a role debut singing Raphael in Creation, a recital with the Brooklyn Art Song Society singing Barber’s Despite and Still, op. 41, four iterations of the bass solos in Mozart’s Requiem including a performance at Alice Tully Hall, a return to Carnegie Hall as bass soloist in Haydn’s Missa in Tempore Belli, and additional performances with the New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Sacred Music in a Sacred Space, and Musica Viva NY. His 2017/18 season featured solo debuts at Carnegie Hall (Schubert’s Mass No. 2), Lincoln Center (La traviata) and National Sawdust (AIDS Quilt Songbook). Additional 2017/18 engagements included baritone soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, recitals with pianists Seymour Bernstein and Brent Funderburk, and performances with the Brooklyn Art Song Society, New York Philharmonic, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and New York City Ballet. 

Brian has performed operatic roles such as Aeneas in Opera Saratoga’s innovative outdoor production of Dido and Aeneas, Marcello in a Virginia Opera’s production of La bohème performed in various non-traditional venues, and the title role in a staged production of Handel’s Saul in Russell, Kansas. Other recent highlights include Giorgio Germont in La traviata, a concert with the Richmond Symphony, and first prize in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions North Carolina District and second prize in the Southeast Region. As a member of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Virginia Opera young artist programs, Brian has sung performances of Captain Corcoran and Bill Bobstay in HMS Pinafore, Anthony Hope (cover) in Sweeney Todd, Paris in Roméo et Juliette, and three roles in the North American Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland.

A native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Brian is an alumnus of The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Westminster Choir College.

Dr. Bradley Vogel has enjoyed more than 35 years conducting both choral and instrumental ensembles. After a dozen years in public school education and church music ministry, he embarked on a 22-year career as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Tabor College. Recipient of the Clarence R. Hiebert Excellence in Teaching Award, Dr. Vogel served as chair of the Department of Music as well as the Division of Performing and Visual Arts. During his tenure at Tabor College he conducted the Concert Choir, Oratorio Chorus and Chamber Voices, including the annual Christmas Messiah performance, and served as music director for music theater productions. Under his leadership, the Concert Choir was selected to perform at the Kansas Music Educators Association State Convention six times (2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015). An active adjudicator and clinician, he has conducted over 30 choral festivals in Kansas, New York, and South Carolina, and annually adjudicates state festivals in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Additionally, Dr. Vogel has a growing composition career, with works published by MusicSpoke and Imagine Music Publishing. In 2018 he was awarded the Harry Robert Wilson Award by the Kansas chapter of the American Choral Directors Association in recognition of lifetime contributions to choral music in Kansas, and in 2019 he enjoyed his Carnegie Hall debut, conducting Ola Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass with three combined choirs and the New England Symphonic Ensemble.

Dr. Vogel graduated from Tabor College in 1985 with the BA in Music Education. He received the MM in Conducting from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado, and the DMA in Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has been married to Beverly (Just) for 34 years, and they have two married sons—David, married to Hanna, and Nathan, married to Mallea. Brad and Bev are extremely proud grandparents of four darling grandchildren, ages 3 years to 3 weeks!

Stephen Klaassen, a tenor from Marquette, Kansas, graduated from Bethany College in 2019 with a degree in Biology and Pre-Medicine. 

Tickets are on sale now at www.messiahfestival.org or by calling the Festival office at (785) 227-3380, ext. 8219, or for purchase in Presser Hall on Bethany College campus, office located in Presser Hall, room 116B. Ticket sales will be Monday-Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in January and February and 8:00-9:30am + 4:30-6:30pm in March and April (including Good Friday and Saturday, April 11)

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 connects its past, present, and future with distinctive initiatives like Swedes to Sweden, a free service-learning trip for the sophomore class to Sweden, and the Good Life Scholarship, presenting all local high school graduates with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to the college. Bethany College is on the Web at www.bethanylb.edu and is located in Lindsborg, Kansas, the fine arts and crafts capital of the state.