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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.