To kick off the festival, three choirs join forces to sing works of various styles on love. Corie Brown will spend three days in rehearsals and workshops with our High School Honor Choir. Alex Underwood will prepare the annual Russell Community Choir and spend the week with the professional Ad Astra Chamber Choir. The concert is a celebration of love songs in the choral canon, including Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer and Libby Larsen’s Love Songs.
This concert will introduce the remarkable music of Anna Pidgorna to western Kansans. Ad Astra is commissioning Ms. Pidgorna and her sister Maria to write an original opera about the life of Russell High School art teacher legend Trudy Furney to be premiered at Prairiesta in 2021.
The festival’s young artists Christina Han, Grace Volker, Bo Shimmin, and Jacob Lay sing songs exploring the American Civil War. Works by Jennifer Higdon, Richard Danielpour, and C. Curtis-Smith feature soldier camp songs, the words of the preeminent American poet Walt Whitman, and a speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln.
In this 2017 opera by critically acclaimed composer Missy Mazzoli, a Nebraska family struggles to acquire land through the Homestead Act of 1862. Sasha Hildebrand is the stage director, Austin McWilliams is the music director, and a cast of Gregorio Taniguchi, Dominic Aragon, Aani Bourassa, Courtney Evans, Alyssa Toepfer, and Gabe McGuire endeavor to perform this challenging work alongside a chamber ensemble.
In a collaboration with Russell artist Dustin Poché, our house mezzo Katelyn Mattson-Levy explores four archetypes of women: maid, mother, crone, and enchantress, featuring music from Amy Beach, Florence Price, Ellen Mandel, Lori Laitman, Ethel Smyth, and Rebecca Clarke. Katelyn will be joined by Victoria-native Matthew Piatt, now assistant director for Chicago Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera, on piano.
Formed by students at Northern Arizona University, Unaccompanied is a nationally recognized a cappella and vocal jazz group whose original arrangements fuse popular stylings with sophisticated jazz harmonies. From the tradition that brought the film Pitch Perfect and the popularity of the Pentatonix, Unaccompanied delivers its music with a sleek vibrancy. In fact, a few members of Unaccompanied have been featured on Pentatonix recordings. Listen to Unaccompanied’s recordings on Spotify here.
After a Handel hiatus last year, the festival is returning to its tradition of producing a semi-staged oratorio. This tragic love story centers around Christian martyr Theodora and her converted lover Didymus. Often disliked in Handel’s day, the work is now a favorite in part thanks to a brilliant 1996 production by Peter Sellars. Artistic director Alex Underwood will conduct this performance, Sasha Hildebrand is the stage director, and the cast includes Madeline Healey, Tim Parsons, Gregorio Taniguchi, Katelyn Mattson-Levy, and the Ad Astra Chamber Choir.
This early German Baroque music by Heinrich Schütz was composed with a text compiled by Count Henry II of Ruess-Gera for his own funeral. It has grown to become one of Schütz’s most beloved works and is a quintessential example of his unmatched use of language in music. The picturesque basilica in Victoria serves as the stage for this choral masterpiece.
The 2018 festival concludes with the final performance of the Sunday Evening Series: a foreboding meditation on Psalm 51, Have mercy on me, O God. An octet of unconducted singers lead this 30-minute service, illuminated only by the candlelight of congregants and the setting Kansas sun.
The season ends with a performance of J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. One of the most influential works in all of music, our performance of Bach's masterpiece will take audiences immersively through modern stations of the cross. Our visiting artists will perform the bulk of the piece in a style close to what would have been heard in Bach's time. The visiting artists are brought to Russell in part with a grant from the Russell County Area Community Foundation.
Madeline Apple Healey, soprano
Aani Bourassa, soprano
Tim Parsons, countertenor
Kim Leeds, alto
Nate Hodgson, tenor
Gene Stenger, tenor
Dan Moore, baritone
Edmund Milly, baritone
Evangelist: Brian Thorsett, tenor
Jesus: Robert Ward, baritone
Ad Astra String Quartet
Ben Cline, cello
Hilary Shepard, flute
Annie Gnojek, flute
Ellen Mosley, flute
Christina Webster, flute
Emily Foltz, oboe
Margaret Marco, oboe
Kristin Sarvela, oboe
Mika Allison, oboe
Patty Fagan-Miller, bassoon
Patrick Murray, organ
César Cañón, harpsichord
Alex Underwood, conductor
Sasha Hildebrand, stage director
Conductor Austin McWilliams leads keyboardist Patrick Murray, the 2018 string quartet and young artists, and other festival musicians in BWV 70: Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!, bringing the music of the Lutheran Church home to St. John's.
Pre-performance refreshments at 6:30
Performance begins at 7:00
Tickets are now available only at the door. Cash, card, and check accepted.
Dreams. Memory. Inner monologue. Comprising music composed within the last decade, the program explores our hopes, fears, unspoken ideas, and even parts of us we're not sure exist. The music comes from from Princeton PhD student Emma O'Halloran, chair of the University of Michigan's music theory and composition department Erik Santos, and internationally celebrated Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. The brilliant New York-based soprano Madeline Healey will join Yale voice teacher Gene Stenger and San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellow in collaborative piano César Cañón in this daring and thrilling concert.
An evening of exploring musical responses to war and peace. The terrifying string quartet by George Crumb depicts the brutal violence and political unrest at the height of the Vietnam War, while Libby Larsen's Sifting Through the Ruins uses words written in New York City immediately after 9/11. Interwoven throughout the evening are songs of peace by Nobel laureate Bob Dylan.
Selected Songs - Bob Dylan
Sifting Through the Ruins - Libby Larsen
Black Angels - George Crumb
Ad Astra String Quartet
Katelyn Mattson-Levy, mezzo-soprano
Michael Davidson, tenor
Matthew Piatt, piano
Jacob Long, percussion
BYOB as we enjoy the music in a casual, salon-like setting!
The festival's Young Artists sing the music of Franz Schubert with Matthew Piatt at the piano. In 1820s Vienna, Schubert hosted his artist and philosopher friends to share their music, poetry, paintings, and prose. We've chosen music about Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water and invited Kansas artists and writers to share their work alongside Schubert's timeless music. Kevin Rabas, the current Kansas Poet Laureate, will share his work, Russell's Angela Muller will display some of her element-rich pieces, photographer Greg Rud's work will already be on display at the Deines Cultural Center, and Emporia State University faculty member Amy Sage Webb will share some of her literature.
Victoria Lawal, soprano
Alexandra Galla, mezzo-soprano
Logan Barat, tenor
Cooper McGuire, baritone
Matthew Piatt, piano
In the first program of our Sunday Evening Series, famed Methodist hymnodist Charles Wesley meets the music of infamous twentieth-century American composer Charles Ives—a born Methodist who was influenced by the Wesley family throughout his life. Come ready to sing along to your favorite Methodist hymns alongside the musicians of Ad Astra, featuring the Trinity organ!
Pre-performance sandwiches at 6:30 pm
Performance begins at 7:00 pm
Pulitzer Prize finalist Kate Soper's Here Be Sirens is an opera/theatre work blending music, terrifying noise, screwball comedy, and Aristotelian tragedy to present the mythological sirens as real beings, invested in their own origins and obsessed with the possibility of escape from the tedium of endless irresistible desire. The New Yorker calls this 2014 work "an hilarious, furiously inventive meditation on the siren myth." For more information, click here.
Aani Bourassa, soprano
Janie Brokenicky, soprano
Jorie Moss, soprano
Patrick Murray, music director
Sasha Hildebrand, stage director
Russell native and Ft. Hays State University trumpet and jazz professor Brad Dawson returns to the Ad Astra Music Festival with his crew of Kansas City Jazz musicians for an evening of swinging rhythms under the stars. Cocktails and popcorn available.
The Russell Community Choir, Ad Astra High School Honor Choir, and Ad Astra Chamber Choir will join forces to sing one of the most beloved pieces of music in the entire Western canon. Soprano Madeline Apple Healey and baritone Dan Moore are the soloists, and pianists Patrick Murray and César Cañón are the orchestra, all led by artistic director John Irving. Departing from the traditional liturgical Requiem, Brahms sets biblical texts of comfort for grief. Near the end of his life, Brahms wished he had named the work "A Human Requiem" instead of "A German Requiem" because the work was meant for all.
The festival will close with a semi-staged performance of Handel's Samson. Based on John Milton's tragedy and the Old Testament's Book of Judges, the title character is found in captivity after Dalila depletes his strength by cutting his hair. Handel's masterpiece utilizes metaphors of light and besieging darkness to achieve a gripping re-telling of this famous story. John Irving leads a cast of James Reese, Megan Pachecano, Tim Parsons, and Dan Moore alongside the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and Festival Orchestra.
HAILSTORK | Ventriloquist Acts of God
MANDEL | Poetry of E.E. Cummings
LARSEN | My Antonia
KOUYOUMDJIAN | Where Once & Everlastingness (from "Gorky")
The festival's 2017 Young Artists champion new music, singing sets of songs composed in the last fifteen years. Designed by Katelyn Mattson-Levy, Memories never finish is a program exploring varying recollections: visceral, foggy, haunting, comforting, complex. Accompanying the Young Artists is the endlessly talented Victoria native Matthew Piatt.
PRESTINI | Body Maps
HAYDN | Op. 77, No. 2 in F Major
SHAW | Entr'acte
Ben Cline and Aani Bourassa perform the work of Paola Prestini for the Kansas premiere of this interdisciplinary work. Combining the visual art of Erika Harrsch, Body Maps features cello and soprano in an exploration of the strengths and vulnerabilities of our bodies. The Ad Astra String Quartet plays a work by Classical composer Haydn, followed by a contemporary piece reflecting on Haydn's by 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw.
BERNSTEIN | Chichester Psalms
STILL | Ennanga
LARSEN | Cowboy Songs
MECHEM | Dan-u-el
Leonard Bernstein's colorful choral masterpiece will feature the community choir, Noël Wan on harp, Russellites Jacob Long and Alex Lofland on percussion, and, returning to play the magnificent organ at Trinity United Methodist Church, Jonathan Young. This all-American program spotlights a collaboration between the Ad Astra String Quartet and our guest harpist and showcases soprano Megan Pachecano and pianist Matthew Piatt. The evening closes with a chorus from Kansas composer Kirke Mechem's opera John Brown.
Aani Bourassa, Janie Brokenicky, Calder Craig, Michael Davidson, Dan Moore, and Katelyn Mattson-Levy perform Second Nature, composed in 2015 by rising opera hot-shot Matthew Aucoin. Conducted by Max Holman, this post-apocalyptic tale delves into themes of generational conflict and temptation to explore the unknown. View a full synopsis of the hour-long work here. Mary Box (piano), Kristin Pisano (clarinet), and Allison Lint (violin) round out the chamber ensemble.
Russell native and Ft. Hays State University jazz professor Brad Dawson leads Kansas City Jazz in an evening performance at Granny Mae's Barn. Cocktails and bar snacks will be served.
Matt Otto, saxophone | Brad Dawson, trumpet | Roger Wilder, piano | Gerald Spaits, bass | Todd Strait, drums
BYRD | Corpus Christi Propers
BRITTEN | The Evening Primrose | Ballad of Green Broom
BENNETT | A Good-Night
THEOFANIDIS | Messages to Myself III
SMILEY | Loud, My Soul (2017 Festival Commission)
The festival kicks off with a choral concert meditating on themes of transformation, change, and metamorphosis, including the world premiere of a commission from Moira Smiley featuring the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and Kansas bluegrass duo Scenic Roots. The commission is made possible by a grant from the Russell County Area Community Foundation and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
The Young Artists with special guest, Nathan Hilger, will sing this beautiful mid-Renaissance mass. Not only is it historically relevant, but Josquin’s polyphony is sublimely stunning to experience live and during a complete mass. Like all Masses at the Basilica, this Mass is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
The Ad Astra Chamber Choir & Festival Orchestra retell Handel's dramatic oratorio in a semi-staged production for the final performance of the 2016 Ad Astra Music Festival.
Matthew Anderson, Jephtha | Megan Pachecano, Iphis | Katelyn Mattson-Levy, Storgé | Timothy Parsons, Hamor | Daniel Moore, Zebul
Alex Underwood, conductor
The festival's Young Artists with Matthew Piatt at the keyboard present a program that pairs personal stories of Russellites with matching art songs. The program is designed by artist-in-residence, Katelyn Mattson-Levy.
Nini Marchese, soprano | Jessica Kerler, contralto | Francis Williams, tenor | John Bitsas, baritone | Matthew Piatt, piano
The Ad Astra Baroque Consort participates in the liturgy at St. John Lutheran Church with J.S. Bach's cantata, Was frag ich nach der Welt. The Young Artists will be the soloists and the Baroque orchestra will include Russell native, Earle Dumler, as principal oboist. Like all services at St. John Lutheran Church, this service is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
John Irving, conductor
In the first half of the evening, keyboardist Max Holman and string artist-in-residence Benjamin Cline share Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel" and Bach: Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, Prelude and Fugue No. 15 in G major from WTC Book 2, and Viola da Gamba Sonata No. 1 in G major. In the second half, the Ad Astra String Quartet digs into the chamber music repertory in its inaugural season. They'll play Nico Muhly's 2011 composition, Diacritical Marks and close with the finale of Dvorak's American Quartet.
Artistic directors Alex Underwood and John Irving will join Young Artist, Nini Marchese in an historically-informed performance of this late Renaissance English masterpiece during the 10:30am Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hays. As with any Mass at St. Joseph's, this Mass is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
Come hear the cool sounds of Brad Dawson and Kansas City Jazz as the summer Kansas sun sets at Granny Mae's Barn near Dorrance. Cocktails and snacks will be available for purchase.
Brad Dawson, trumpet | Matt Otto, saxophone | Roger Wilder, piano | Gerald Spaits, bass | Todd Strait, drums