Performers Archive

Documentary video produced by Edward Seaton

In Memoriam: Veronica McHale (1975-2009)

Veronica M McHale, 33, new to Handel Week, died suddenly August 26, 2009 of complications from sinus surgery. She sang as alto soloist in The Messiah in Handel Week 2009. She had a promising career and had sung with Union Avenue Opera, received the cover role of Dame Quickly in Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Falstaff, and was featured in the Classical Singer January 2008 issue.

Just before appearing with Handel Week, she had returned from performing Dame Quickly in a New York Opera Society production of Falstaff at the Municipal Theatre of Castres, in France. Other recent appearances were with the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, The Bel Canto Chorus, the Chamber singers of Algoma in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, and premiered the song cycle (Songs of Love and Transience) at the Chicago Cultural Center. All who performed with her, had her as a teacher, or knew her musically deeply mourn her passing.

Erik Liefrinck, harpsichordist

Growing up in the Netherlands Erik studied piano with professor Alexander Warenberg. After completing his Bachelors in Music Education and hi Masters in Music Performance he moved to Austria to study Concert Stage Performance with Wolfgang Glemser.

Feeling the need to expand his horizon, repertoire and skills, Erik moved to London where he worked with singers and instrumentalists. Focusing on chamber music and vocal coaching Erik won first prizes in the Elizabeth Potter Competition and the Musica Brittanica Competition. As a soloist Erik concentrated on interpreting French Impressionist compositions by Debussy and Ravel under the guidance of professor Paul Roberts.

As a vocal coach he was engaged by the International Opera Studio Netherlands working with vocalists on launching their careers. In addition to performing widely in Europe, the UK and the United States Erik held teaching positions at various schools and music institutes.

Erik has been a guest performer in various editions of the Handel Week Festival in Oak Park, IL, and is glad to return on stage for the 2017 edition of Handel Week Festival.

Sarah Gartshore, soprano

Canadian soprano Sarah Gartshore was recently described by the Chicago Tribune as "particularly impressive" and possessing a "rich, shining soprano" after performances with Music of the Baroque and Chicago's Apollo Chorus.

As a Santa Fe Opera apprentice artist, Ms. Gartshore made her debut as the First Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflote and later covered roles in Mozart's Cozi fan tutte and Rameau's Platee. In the summer of 2016, she sang the title role in Handel's Agrippina with the San Francisco Bay Area's West Edge Opera, and she portrayed Magda in Chamber Opera Chicago's recent production of Menotti's The Consul.

Career highlights include a Ravinia Festival debut with Music of the Baroque performing Handel's Israel in Egypt, her Symphony Center debut with the Apollo Chorus performing Brahms's Requiem, and performances of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with American Opera Group, Micaela in Bizet's Carmen with Chamber Opera Chicago, Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana with the Skokie Valley Symphony, the title role in Barber's Vanessa with Chamber Opera Chicago, and Brahms' Requiem with the Kingston Symphony (Ontario). She was a featured soloist in a concert tour of China with the Valparaiso University Orchestra.

Much in demand on the concert stage, Ms. Gartshore has sung in Dvorak's Mass with the International Choral Arts Festival of Jihlava in the Czech Republic; Messiah with the Richmond and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestras; Mozart's Coronation Mass, Haydn's Heiligmesse, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, and Charpentier's Te Deum with Music of the Baroque; Brahms's Requiem and Mahler's Fourth Symphony with the Richmond Symphony, and Mahler's Second Symphony and Verdi's Requiem with the Muncie Symphony (Indiana). As a nine-year veteran of The Handel Week Festival, she has performed several solo cantatas and sung roles in Judas Maccabaeus, Esther, Ezio, and Acis and Galatea.

Ms. Gartshore is also heard performing with guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad on Merry: A Holiday Journey, a CD of selections for Christmas by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and friends.

William Bouvel, tenor

Tenor William Bouvel has performed across the United States and Europe with Opera Lafayette (Washington, DC), Haymarket Opera (Chicago), Park Opera, Brighton Early Music Festival, Madison Early Music Festival, and Baroque Band. His most recent roles were Lysander in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, Count Almaviva in Rossini's Barber of Seville, and Damon in Handel's Acis and Galatea. He is also a frequent performer of Bach's cantatas and oratorio works.

A current student of Philip Doghan, Mr. Bouvel completed his master's degree in music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received a commendation in the Major van Someren-Godfrey Prize for English Song competition.

Mr. Bouvel has established himself as a producer through his project Song recycle, a concept developed in his dissertation on concert programming at the Royal Academy of Music and hailed as "an intriguing reimagining of the song recital idea" (Planet Hugill). He continues to invent new programs that cast older repertoire in a modern context. On Palm Sunday 2015 he premiered a pastiche of Handel oratorio music, St. Mark Passion, at Southwark Cathedral. In other projects he has explored the English song, German lieder, Italian madrigal, and Baroque song repertoires.

Mr. Bouvel is fortunate to have sung in some of the world's greatest choirs, including the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, London's Philharmonia Chorus, and Apollo's Fire. With these groups he has been a part of several well-received recordings, including the 2011 Grammy winner for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance, Verdi's Messa da Requiem, conducted by Riccardo Muti.

Philip A. Kraus, bass baritone

Bass baritone Philip Kraus divides his time between singing with Lyric Opera of Chicago and teaching at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

In 2011 and 2012 he was a featured artist in Lyric Opera's annual Fantasy of the Opera. In 2012 he sang five of Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs with the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra. In 2012 he sang the role of the bailiff in Massenet's Werther and covered the title role in Don Pasquale and two supporting roles in La Boheme. In 2010, he was Push Tish in Mikado and Sid in La Fanciulla del West. In the 2007-2008 Lyric season he played the part of Baron Douphol with Renee Fleming in La Traviata and the role of Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, and in 2006 he sang in Der Rosenkavalier.

Since Handel Week's founding in 2000, besides serving as an officer and board member, Mr. Kraus has been a major contributor to Handel Week's success, singing every year of the festival. He has been a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago since 1990. In recent years, he has performed in operas in Cleveland and Los Angeles and with major orchestras of Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee, and Denver. He has spent several summers teaching in Italy and has appeared at colleges and universities across America.

Celia Williams, soprano

Celia Williams currently sings at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago with Stephen Buzard. She also sings with Cantate, led by Benjamin Rivera, and carols with Season's Greetings. In May 2019 she will be singing with The Bach Week Festival Chorus with Richard Webster. She studies with Kimberly Roberts, an instructor with the Des Moines Metro Opera. This summer, Ms. Williams performed as Venere in Cavalli's La Didone for the Haymarket Opera Company's Summer Opera Course in Chicago directed by Craig Trompeter and Drew Minter. Other roles include Poppea in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea in 2015 and Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro in 2016 with Illinois Wesleyan University Opera. With the Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana, under the direction of Dr. Chet Alwes, Ms. Williams performed the roles of Filia in Carissimi's Jephte and Clorinda in Monteverdi's Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

In 2016, she was a First Place Winner of the Illinois Wesleyan University Charles Memorial Concerto/Aria Competition, in which she sang "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. She received the David Nott Scholarship and the Presser Foundation Award the same year. Ms. Williams earned a Bachelor's in Vocal Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2017 where she studied with Drs. Linda Farquharson and Jennifer Schuetz.

Jeff Hunt

We are delighted to welcome conductor Jeff Hunt to our Handel Week family to conduct our performance of Acis and Galatea. Jeff Hunt brings his focus on outstanding repertoire, communicative performances, and sincere singing to his programs, and is known for his lively - yet always sensitive - guidance of his choir. As founder and Music Director of St. Charles Singers, Hunt's emphasis on musicality with understanding, imagination, and transparency has resulted in beautifully polished and endearing performances by an ensemble known for its exquisite singing. Hunt, in addition to directing St. Charles Singers, is Director of Music at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, serves as adjunct faculty at Elgin (IL) Community College, is active in several choral directors' associations, and maintains a voice studio. He received a B.M. from Taylor University and an M.M. in Choral Conducting from Northwestern University.

Amy Conn, Soprano

Soprano Amy Conn is in demand throughout the Midwest. She is known for her pure tone, communicative warmth and musical intelligence. Amy appears on both the concert and theater stage in music of many periods, with a special love for baroque repertoire. Recent performances include Mozart's Mass in C Minor and Exsultate, jubilate, Charpentier's Te Deum, Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri, Purcell's King Arthur, Bach's Mass in B Minor, Handel's Israel in Egypt, Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus, Couperin's Leçon du Ténèbres, Orff's Carmina Burana, and Haydn's Creation, “Lord Nelson” Mass and Theresienmesse. Ms. Conn has soloed with Music of the Baroque, Baroque Band, The Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Elgin Choral Union and Symphony, Chorus Angelorum, North Shore Choral Society, Lutheran Choir of Chicago and Bach Chamber Choir. She is a former long time member of Chicago a cappella. Stage appearances include lead roles in Acis and Galatea, The Turn of the Screw, Yeomen of the Guard and The Pirates of Penzance. In 2010, she made her debut with Chicago Opera Theater, covering the role of Isifile in Cavalli's Giasone.

Ms. Conn enjoys many opportunities in chamber music and has performed with Eighth Blackbird, The Orion Ensemble, The Newberry Consort, The Madison Bach Musicians, Trio Settecento, Rembrandt Chamber Players and Ars Antigua.

Ms. Conn is featured on a CD of Celtic Baroque music with Ars Antigua. In 2006 she participated in the Handel Singing Competition in London and was a semi-finalist in the American Bach Soloists Young Artist's Competition in Berkeley (CA). In 2010 Amy was a finalist in the New York Oratorio Society's Young Artist Competition, performing in Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall and was a winner of the Bel Canto Chorus Regional Artist's Competition.

In 2011-12 Amy recorded Cantatas with the Madison Bach Musicians, performed the Coffee Cantata and other Arias with the Rembrandt Chamber Players, was featured in Music of the Baroque's Holiday Brass and Choral Program and stepped in at the eleventh hour to sing the role of the Angel in Baroque Band's performance of La Resurrezione. She also performed recitals with Trevor Stephenson at the fortepiano, pianist Shannon McGinnis and sang Faure's Requiem with the Alabama Symphony.

2012-13 will mark Amy's first performance at the Latin American Music Festival in Chicago, presenting Spanish and South American music with longtime recital partner, Shannon McGinnis. 2 CDs Amy has recorded in recent years will be released, one with the Madison Bach Musicians and one with the Grant Park Chorus, both of which feature her as a soloist. Music of the Baroque will also be featuring her in their Brass and Choral concerts and in Handel's Israel in Egypt.

Jake Barlow, countertenor

Jake read for a degree in Literae Humaniores as a Choral Scholar at Worcester College, University of Oxford. An alumnus of the famous Schola Cantorum of Oxford and Truro Cathedral, Cornwall, he is currently a Choral Scholar at Norwich Cathedral, where he sings with the cathedral choirs for their seven regular weekly services, as well as for concerts, tours, broadcasts, and recordings.

A two-time winner of the Douglas Steele Foundation award for musical development, he has already built an impressive concert repertoire, working as a soloist with ensembles such as the BBC Philharmonic, the Brook Street Band, the Amadeus Orchestra, Hieronymus, and the Ensemble Orquestra. Appearances include Handel’s Messiah, J.S.Bach’s Magnificat, Johannes-Passion, and Mass in B minor, Mozart’s Requiem, Buxtehüde’s Membra Jesu Nostri, J.S.Bach’s Widerstehe doch der Sünde, and Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater at the Golowan Festival, and Purcell’s Come ye Sons of Art with Norwich Baroque, as well as Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Hastings Philharmonic Choir, to name but a few.

He is also comfortable on the dramatic stage, where appearances include Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, the role of Didymus in Handel’s Theodora and the role of the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as part of the Woodhouse Opera Festival, one of England’s premier garden festivals. More recently he has played the role of Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Tolomeo in Handel’s Giulio Cesare with the Hoxton Opera Studio and the New London Opera Players.

Jake is a committed recitalist, and has performed recitals in historic venues around the UK, Belgium, and Hungary, including two successful solo tours of the South Coast of England. Signed as an artist to Willowhayne Records, he released a solo album of English, French, and American art songs, “Under the Greenwood Tree”, in the summer of 2015.

He currently studies voice with Colin Baldy, and has participated in masterclasses with Nicholas Clapton, James Bowman, Kathryn Harries, Mark Rowlinson, Justin Bindley, and John Treleaven. He holds (with distinction) the Licentiate Diploma of Trinity College, London in Music Performance. He also holds a Fellowship of the London College of Music.

Jake is passionate about education. Formerly the Vocal Coach in Residence for New Cornwall Opera, he has his own teaching studio in Norwich, and works as a Specialist Tutor in Voice. for the Wharf Academy and Norfolk County Music Hub.

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Julia Bentley, Mezzo-soprano

Since completing apprenticeships with the Santa Fe Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera, mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley has appeared in leading operatic roles (Carmen, Rosina, Dorbella, Despina, and both Rossini and Massenet Cinderellas) from Anchorage to New York, and has been featured as a soloist with orchestras led by George Manahan, Raymond Leppard, Oliver Knussen, Robert Shaw and Pierre Boulez. She performs in Chicago with Mostly Music, CUBE, the Contemporary Chamber Players, the Orion Ensemble, Pinotage, the New Budapest Orpheum Society, Ensemble Noamnesia, Fulcrum Point, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago Opera Theater, Concertante di Chicago, the Newberry Consort, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Lyric Opera and the MusicNOW series at Symphony Center with conductor Cliff Colnot. She has appeared to critical acclaim at Weill Hall with Pierre Boulez as the soloist in Le Marteau Sans Maître, and recorded on the Albany, Cedille and Tintagel labels. Recent engagements have included performances of La Damnation de Faust with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Pierrot Lunaire with eighth blackbird, La Cenerentola with Sacramento Opera, Little Women with the Dayton Opera, and the Bach B Minor Mass with the Apollo Chorus as well as chamber music series in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. After leading the Composer Focus project at the DePaul University School of Music for six years, she is currently teaching voice at Concordia University, and the graduate Art Song Seminar at North Park University. She coaches privately, specializing in audition preparation and advanced vocal literature. This season features first-time collaborations with Sarah Rothenberg, the Emerson Quartet and the Spektral Quartet, as well as continuing escapades with pianist Kuang-Hao Huang.

Jeri-Lou Zike

Jeri-Lou Zike is a versatile, energetic musician who enjoys a variety of artistic activities in symphonic, baroque, and chamber music. Jeri-Lou Zike has been performing with Handel Week for over 15 years. We are always so privileged to work under Dennis Northway as this truly is one of our greatest highlights of the winter season. Coming to Oak Park is like coming home. Ms. Zike is concertmaster of the Haymarket Opera Company and also the orchestral manager of the Haymarket Opera Orchestra. She is principal and founding member of the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra and principal second violin of the Chicago Opera Theater. She is also a member of the Chicago Philharmonic, the Joffrey ballet orchestra and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. Other musical credits include principal of Baroque Band, soloist with the Chicago Baroque Ensemble, Concertmaster of the University of Chicago Rockefeller Chapel Concerts, as well as performances with His Majestie's Clerkes, Kansas City Music Consort, and Music of the Baroque. Ms. Zike is also a well-regarded contractor of musicians, providing orchestras for the Apollo Chorus, the Holy Name Cathedral Singers, and Rockefeller Chapel Choir, among others. Jeri-Lou Zike has recorded with GIA, Centaur, and Cedille Records. To balance the intensity of music making, Jeri-Lou loves to swim, bike and run and is a seven-time Ironman race finisher.

Marcia Hustad, flutist

Marcia Hustad began flute studies at the age of 11, and her primary teachers have been Francis Fuge in Louisville, KY, Russell Platz in Wheaton, IL, Fernand Caratgé in Paris, France, and Greg Blackburn in Chicago, IL. She received a Bachelor of Music Education degree with a concentration in flute from Wheaton College. After earning a Master of Management degree from Kellogg Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University, Marcia's professional life took her into banking and money market trading. Following several years of limited musical activity, she began performing again with her father Don Hustad in a number of flute/piano recitals in the U.S. and Norway until his passing in 2013. Marcia has played in the Elmhurst College Philharmonic, the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest, the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, and the Salt Creek Chamber Orchestra. She has performed in many church, theater, and orchestral events including as a featured player with the Singing Men of Oak Brook, and is a member of the Odyssey Woodwind Quintet and the West Suburban Flute Orchestra.

Richard Yeo, cellist

Richard Yeo was born into a musical family; he began playing the piano at the age of six and took up the cello at age nine. He attended Indiana University where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree while studying with Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and Fritz Magg. He later received his Master of Music degree from Northwestern University studying with Hans Jorgen Jensen.

Mr. Yeo was Assistant Principal Cellist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra for ten seasons, and during that time he made his solo orchestral debut playing the Second Cello Concerto of Victor Herbert. Since 1993 he has been a member of the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin, and he currently maintains an active schedule as a free-lance cellist in the Chicago area. Some of the orchestras he performs with include the Grant Park Symphony, the Chicago Philharmonic, and the Lake Forest Symphony.

Stuart Leitch, organist

Stuart Leitch is a pianist, organist, and teacher active in Michigan and Chicago. He studied with Arthur Dann at Oberlin College and privately with John Richardson, Gui Mombaerts, Dmitry Paperno, and Donald Walker.

From 1962 to 1965 he was a member of the ONCE group in Ann Arbor, whose concerts featured prominent avant-garde composers and performers from all over the world. Later in New York City he transcribed books of country blues and worked with The Children of Paradise, recording and creating film music. During his long career in Chicago he coached singers and worked with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Opera Theater. He founded and directed Chamber Opera Chicago and served as staff accompanist at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

This is his third organ concerto performance in Handel Week. He is also active as a pianist, with performances in the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts and solo broadcasts by WFMT-FM. He played and recorded several new works by George Flynn and has performed twice as a featured pianist with Grand Rapids Ballet. He performs in the annual Schubertiade Chicago and is artistic advisor of Schubertiade Oak Park at Unity Temple. He also works as a music engraver, editor, and arranger for several composers, refining their music and publishing their scores.

Mr. Leitch is also the inventor and publisher of Deep Solitaire, a game application for Android phone and tablets. He lives in semiretirement near his family in Grand Rapids and plans to spend the rest of his life deepening his understanding of the musical art, for the glory of God and the refreshment of the human spirit.