Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas


St. matthew passion singers

The appearance of these singers is made possible in part by a grant from the Russell County Area Community Foundation and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. 

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American soprano AANI BOURASSA is a versatile actress of emotional depth, praised for her “brilliant, yet sparkling high notes” (Burlington Hawkeye). In addition to her artist in residency at Ad Astra, noteworthy engagements include Larina (Eugene Onegin) and Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte) with Bel Cantanti Opera; solo recitals featuring the works of Bach, Purcell, and Barbara Strozzi; Passion and Resurrection (Ešenvalds) as part of the Latvian Embassy’s celebration of Latvia’s centennial; a world premiere of The Night Psalms by composer Griffin Candey and Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams) with the Marquette Choral Society, as well as other oratorio, choral, and concert work. In addition to performing, Ms. Bourassa works as a producer for Acis Productions, a classical recording label and sings with the Songs by Heart Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for those suffering with age-related memory issues through music therapy.

MADELINE APPLE HEALEY, soprano, is known for her “gorgeous singing" (Washington Post) and “fetching combination of vocal radiance and dramatic awareness” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). This season's engagements include appearances at Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht, National Sawdust, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, Ad Astra Music Festival, and PROTOTYPE Festival, as well as collaborations with Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra, Variant 6, and les soûls d'amour. Operatic credits include Olympia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), La Musica/Ninfa (L'Orfeo), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Despina (Cosi fan tutte), and Cunegonde (Candide). She is a member of the GRAMMY- nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, co-founder of AMPERSAND, a chamber ensemble that prioritizes the work of female artists, and appears internationally as a soloist and ensemble singer. A Cleveland, Ohio native, she now resides in Brooklyn, NY where, when she's not making music, she can be found baking cakes, eating french fries, and tending to her houseplants.;

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NATHAN HODGSON is a New York-based tenor specializing in early and chamber music. He sings full-time with the Bach Vespers program at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City and performs regularly with ensembles across the nation. Recent performances include appearances with Ensemble VIII in Austin, TX; with The Thirteen Chamber Choir in Washington, D.C., Skylark Vocal Ensemble, and with Bricolage Ensemble in a series of workshops and performances in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A recent graduate of the University of North Texas, Nathan sang with the school's prestigious A Cappella Choir on their tour to South Korea and performance at the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas, Texas, and with the school's early music ensemble, Collegium. Before moving to New York, Nathan sang in the Dallas area with the Orpheus Chamber Singers, Dallas Bach Society, and Denton Bach Society.

With her "vivid, deeply satisfying sound" and “rich, smooth mezzo soprano”, KIM LEEDS has soloed with the Bach Society of St. Louis, the Tafelmusik Baroque Chamber Orchestra and Choir, American Bach Soloists Academy, and has performed with the Carmel Bach Festival as a Virginia Best Adams Fellow. As a choral artist, Ms. Leeds has toured with Helmuth Rilling and the Weimar Bach Academy in Eastern Germany and toured Northern Italy and Southern Germany with the Junges Stuttgart Bach Ensemble. In the US, she has performed with the Oregon Bach Festival and the Handel and Haydn Society. In the Boston area, Ms. Leeds has appeared as a soloist with the Commonwealth Chorale, Cantata Singers, Music at Marsh Chapel, and can be heard on the 2017 Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s recording of Jeremy Gill’s “Before the Wresting Tides.” Ms. Leeds holds degrees from Mannes College of Music and the Boston Conservatory.

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EDMUND MILLY brings “perfect diction” (Los Angeles Times) and “mellifluous” tone (San Francisco Chronicle) to every performance. He appears regularly with the GRAMMY-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and is a founding member of the male vocal sextet, Trident Ensemble. Increasingly in demand as a soloist, he has recently shared the stage with the likes of the Charleston Symphony, Bach Akademie Charlotte, the Oregon Bach Festival, the American Classical Orchestra, Cantata Profana, and the Academy of Sacred Drama, and has also been heard internationally on BBC and CBC. Equally well adapted to working within an ensemble, he enjoys contributing his voice to the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Clarion Choir, Spire Chamber Ensemble, and Musica Sacra. Edmund is a graduate of the American Boychoir School, McGill University, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Baritone DAN MOORE is thrilled to be back at Ad Astra for his third year. Deemed "excellent" by the New York Times and hailed for his "warm" and "voluminous" sound by the South Florida Classical Review, Dan is a sought-after performer of solo and choral classical and new music. As a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist, he has performed throughout the US, Europe and Asia with groups including Grammy-nominated Seraphic Fire, The Chorus of Westerly, Augusta Symphony Orchestra, Audivi, American Classical Orchestra, Clarion Society, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and Spire Chamber Ensemble. Solo performances this past spring include the world premiere of Griffin Candey’s cantata The Night Psalms with the Marquette Choral Society; premiering the role of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Scott Perkins’ new opera, Pierce (libretto by Nat Cassidy); and a concert of Bach and Vivaldi chamber music with the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in NYC.

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TIMOTHY PARSONS, countertenor and conductor, performs in New York City, where he sings regularly with the Grammy-nominated Clarion Music Society and is a member of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. His solo engagements include with Helicon Baroque, New Vintage Baroque, and New York Baroque Incorporated. Devoted to new music, Timothy premiered 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning Angel’s Bone with the Prototype Festival and performs new works with vocal ensemble Ekmeles. Timothy has been hailed as a "most dazzling contributor...whose magnificently muscular singing...made one want to coin a new vocal category just for him — the heldencountertenor, ready to sing Wagnerian roles in his powerful falsetto." (San Francisco Chronicle). International appearances include the Montreal Bach Festival, The Festival Musica Sacra Quito, and the Utrecht Early Music Festival. Timothy is on the voice faculty at William Paterson University and is the Music Director of the Park Slope Singers. This is Timothy’s third season with Ad Astra.         

Praised for “effortlessly mastering the many coloratura embellishments in his arias…” (Bergsträsser Anzeiger), and his “sweet vibrancy” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), tenor GENE STENGER’s solo concert engagements include Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the 33rd annual Northeast Pennsylvania Bach Festival; 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 an international tour of St. Matthew Passion with Helmuth Rilling’s Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart with performances featured in a documentary about Helmuth Rilling’s life entitled Ein Leben mit Bach (A Life with Bach). 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. He currently resides in New Haven, CT, where he serves as instructor of voice at Yale University.

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Hailed as “a strikingly gifted tenor, with a deeply moving, unblemished voice” (, tenor BRIAN THORSETT has been seen and heard across the US and Europe in over 100 roles, as well as a stylistically diversified oratorio repertoire of 250-plus works. An avid recitalist, Brian is closely associated with expanding the vocal-chamber genre and has premiered over 100 works.  His recordings include Transpire (works of Daron Hagen), two song cycles on David Conte’s forthcoming vocal album, Remembering the Voice of Firestone and several as a member of the award-winning Philharmonia Baroque Chorale. Brian has also been heard in commercials and movies as the voice for SoundIron’s library Voice of Rapture: Tenor. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists’ Academy, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, and Music Academy of the West.

DR. ROBERT WARD serves as the Director of Choral Activities at Emporia State University where he conducts the A Cappella Choir, Tallgrass Chamber Choir, and Emporia Chorale. He teaches courses in choral conducting, choral methods, diction, sits on the music education committee, and chairs the graduate committee. Robert holds degrees from Oklahoma State University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of North Texas. As an educator, Robert taught middle and high school choir in North Texas, including eight years at The Oakridge School in Arlington. Robert presented at the Texas Music Educators Association and the Southwest American Choral Directors Association conferences trying to bring the art of choral music and the art of classroom teaching into a singular focus. Robert maintains a full singing schedule as a baritone chorister and soloist with the Orpheus Chamber Singers, South Dakota Chorale, Taylor Festival Choir, Texas Choral Artists, The Choral Pickup, and Vox Humana.

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