ARTISTS: DO-IT-YOURSELF MESSIAH
STANLEY SPERBER, Conductor
Maestro Sperber, one of Israel’s preeminent choral and orchestral conductors, served as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2000, following which he was appointed Laureate Conductor. A native of New York, he immigrated to Israel in 1972, and made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1973. He has toured extensively in Europe and North America and was the first Israeli conductor to take the podium in the former Soviet Union and in Czechoslovakia.
Maestro Sperber has appeared as guest conductor with the Symphony Orchestra of Baku, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), the Budapest Philharmonic, the Saloniki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra. The Israeli Composers Association awarded him its Order of Merit, and he and the Haifa Symphony Orchestra were accorded First Prize for the Performance of Israeli Music by the National Council for the Arts and Culture.
Over recent seasons, Maestro Sperber has conducted orchestras in North America and Europe, including the Edmonton Philharmonic, the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Chamber Orchestra, in addition to performances with the Israel Philharmonic and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. In 2004, Mr. Sperber made his debut in China with the Shanghai Opera Company, and returned in 2006 to conduct Messiah.
In 2014, he led the Gala Opening Concert of the prestigious International Rubinstein Piano competition in Tel Aviv with Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. In 2015, he led a concert tour of the Jerusalem Chamber Choir to Frankfurt and Munich where he conducted concerts in commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. And in June 2016, he led the Jerusalem Chamber Choir in a series of concerts in Wroclaw, in honor of that city being chosen the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2016.
In 2017, Maestro Sperber conducted an all-Mozart program with the Israel Chamber Orchestra including a fully staged production of Mozart’s The Impresario. In May, with the combined forces of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Jerusalem Chamber Choir, he led a performance of the B Minor Mass in the annual Jerusalem Festival.
He has served as conductor of the Do-It-Yourself Messiah for 17 annual performances.
In 1998, Maestro Sperber was appointed to the faculty of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, where he holds the position of Professor of Conducting.
A man of varied talents, Stanley Sperber is also an internationally certified tennis chair umpire, and has represented Israel in many major competitions including the Davis Cup and the U.S. Open.
MICHELLE AREYZAGA, Soprano
Michelle Areyzaga has sung leading roles with the New York City Opera and the Chicago Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s In the Neighborhoods programs, Chicago Light Opera Works, Chicago Chamber Opera. She has appeared as soloist with the Grant Park Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Chicago Master Singers, Apollo Chorus, the Rochester Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, Springfield Symphony, and the San Antonio Symphony.
Ms. Areyzaga is a frequent guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the New York Festival of Song. She has recorded song cycles by Gwyneth Walker, The Sun Is Love, Songs from Spoon River by Lita Grier, and The Small Hours, songs by William Ferris. She was named Artist of the Year by Pioneer Press and has been an award recipient from the Julian Autrey Song Foundation, William C. Byrd International Young Artist Competition, Shreveport Opera Singer of the Year, Marguerite McCammon Vocal Competition (Ft. Worth Opera), NATSAA—National Finalist Outstanding Artist chosen by Teresa Stratas, Metropolitan Opera National Council (Central Region), Viñas Concurs International, and the Concert Artist Guild.
RYAN BELONGIE, Alto
Countertenor Ryan Belongie has been praised for his “oft-astounding vocalism,” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “a remarkably warm, evenly produced voice whose supple phrasing included many an exquisite shade,” (Opera News), and musicianship that “brought wonderfully stylish singing.” (Chicago Tribune). Recent debuts include Rinaldo (Mago) with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Semele (Athamas) with Canadian Opera Company. Operatic engagements include A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Wolf Trap Opera, The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera, Agrippina, Xerxes (Arsamene), and L’Incoronazione di Poppea (Ottone) with West Edge Opera, Angle Heart opposite Frederica Von Stade with Napa Valley Festival, Theodora with Opera Bergen, Norway, La Circe with Ars Minerva, and returning to the rosters of San Francisco Opera and Canadian Opera Company.
Concert appearances include Alabama Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, Grant Park Orchestra, Il Complesso Barocco, Kansas City Symphony, Leipzig Baroque Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic, Music of the Baroque, San Diego Symphony, Seattle Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Utah Festival Opera, and Utah Symphony. Mr. Belongie is a graduate of the Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera, and has been the recipient of numerous competition prizes and career grant awards from the Metropolitan Opera among others.
JOHN TESSIER, Tenor
Juno Award-winning tenor, John Tessier, has worked with many of the most notable conductors of our day including David Robertson, Leonard Slatkin, Plácido Domingo, John Nelson, Franz Welser-Möst, Emmanuelle Haïm, Charles Dutoit, Donald Runnicles, Robert Spano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Bernard Labadie.
In the 2017-18 season, Mr. Tessier returns for a fourth consecutive year to the stage of the Wiener Staatsoper and also joins the Edmonton and Calgary operas. Concert performances include Messiah in Chicago and Denver, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Calgary and Ottawa, and a Mozart Festival in Indianapolis.
A broad discography spans repertoire from Bach to Bernstein and highlights include John Corigliano’s A Dylan Thomas Trilogy (Slatkin/Nashville Symphony), Haydn’s The Creation (Glover/Music of the Baroque), Mozart Requiem (Labadie/Les Violons du Roy; Runnicles/Atlanta Symphony), and Stephen Paulus’ To Be Certain of the Dawn (Vänskä/Minnesota Orchestra).
DARREN K. STOKES - Bass Baritone
American bass-baritone Darren K. Stokes is an artist of exceptional vocal ability. An alumnus of the distinguished Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, he has had the pleasure of performing with prominent opera companies and orchestras throughout the US. The 2017/16 season started with an extended tour in Germany as Crown PORGY AND BESS, a role he later reprised that season in Ithica, New York. He made his mainstage debut with New York City Opera as Sciarrone TOSCA and went on to sing Escamillo CARMEN , also for New York City Opera on tour throughout Europe and the Middle East. Other recent performances include Figaro LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with Toledo Opera and Amarillo Opera, Talbot MARIA STUARDA for Knoxville Opera and Il Maestro in Respighi LA CAMPANA SOMMERSA with New York City Opera. Recent concert appearances include Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Berlioz Roméo et Juliette with the Richmond Symphony. Recent operatic engagements include Escamillo CARMEN for Hawaii Opera Theatre and LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST with New York City Opera.
As a concert artist, Mr. Stokes has been heard in Rachmaninoff The Bells, Elgar Elijah, Fauré Requiem, Mozart Requiem and in Anthony Davis’ Sound Breaking Away. Mr. Stokes began classical vocal study during his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Norfolk State University. Upon graduation, he pursued a career in chemistry for several years until he began to seriously focus upon an operatic career, quickly earning positions in prestigious young artist programs: Sarasota Opera (where he was awarded the Leo M. Rogers Scholarship for Outstanding Apprentice), Glimmerglass Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center. Mr. Stokes is also an award recipient from the prestigious William Matheus Sullivan Musical Foundation.
DAVID SCHRADER, Harpsichord
David Schrader is a musical omnivore, excelling on the organ, the harpsichord, the clavichord, and the early and modern piano. He has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under many different conductors, has performed at the Boston Early Music Festival, the Staunton Music Festival, and was a founding member of both the Rembrandt Chamber Players and of Baroque Band. As an organist, he has been a featured performer for the American Guild of Organists’ National Conventions on four different occasions, and for three National Conventions of the Organ Historical Society. For thirty-five years, he served as the organist of The Church of the Ascension in Chicago, and has also played with Callipygian Players, the Newberry Consort, and many other groups. Mr. Schrader has performed many times on Chicago’s WFMT radio station from the Levin Studio, and has recorded for the London, Crest, CRI, Centaur, and Cedille labels. He teaches at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts, where he teaches, among other things, baroque, classical, and romantic performance practice. Among his most influential teachers have been Abbey Simon, Storm Bull, Anthony Newman, and McNeil Robinson. This is Mr. Schrader’s twentieth performance as harpsichordist for the DIYM.
AARON KRISTER JOHNSON, Organist
Now in his 15th year as organist for the DIYM, Aaron Krister Johnson is a multi-keyboardist and composer who has received glowing words from Keyboard Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Windy City Times, Chicagocritic.com, and Tokafi.com. In 2007 he founded UnTwelve.org, dedicated to music beyond the standard 12-note tuning. In October 2016, Aaron released a much-anticipated recording of Federico Mompou’s complete Musica Callada, and has an upcoming Fauré piano/cello sonata project with cellist Jean Hatmaker. Past appearances include 60×60 (NYC); Chicago Human Rhythm Project; Electronic Music Midwest; Thirsty Ear Festival (WFMT); The International Beethoven Project; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Irish Fest; Milwaukee Irish Fest; Old Town School of Folk Music; and The Artistic Home, where his score for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt received a 2005 Jeff nomination.
RICHARD YOUNG, Concertmaster
Richard Young has been soloist with orchestras, and given solo and chamber music recitals across the globe. From 1985, he was the violist of the renowned Vermeer String Quartet. He has recorded over three dozen works, and received three Grammy nominations. He produced the Vermeer Quartet’s CD of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ. He has taught at Northern Illinois University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and North Park University. Recent master classes include the Paris Conservatory, FEMUSC in Brazil, the Dutch String Quartet Academy in Amsterdam, and the Hochschule fur Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin.
In addition to his more traditional teaching activities, Mr. Young has done considerable volunteer work for the benefit of disadvantaged children – at the People’s Music School in Chicago, and as a supervisor of the International Music Foundation’s outreach program. He has also been seriously involved with social/music projects, including the YOURS Project in Chicago, NEOJIBA in Brazil where he taught string pedagogy and chamber music, and BATUTA in Colombia. His most recent publication is a Comprehensive String Pedagogy & Curriculum which provides uncommon assistance for teachers and conductors of both Sistema-inspired projects and traditional youth orchestras.
PAUL SEMANIC, Trumpet
Paul Semanic, a Chicago native, has been the Do-It-Yourself Messiah trumpet soloist for over 25 years. He is a member of the Rockford Symphony and has performed with the Bach Institute and the symphonies in Grant Park, Northwest Indiana, Elgin, New Philharmonic, Knoxville and Southwest Michigan.
Mr. Semanic is the Artistic Director and Principal Trumpet with the Stonegate Brass Quintet and the Brass String Chamber Ensemble. He has been a featured guest artist on the WFMT broadcast of the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert series.
As a soloist specializing in baroque trumpet literature, Paul performs recitals and presents master classes and clinics to young brass enthusiasts. In the spirit of community service, Paul leads free Tai Chi workshops (“Heart of Chi”) in the Northwest Suburbs. “A healthy mind/body/spirit is good for the individual, the community and for music…Hallelujah!”