Dec. 3-4: Master Players Concert Series continues with Handel's 'Messiah'
The acclaimed University of Delaware Chorale will perform Handel's "Messiah" in a Master Players Concert Series presentation.
Paul Head, director of the UD Chorale

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8:31 a.m., Nov. 24, 2010----The 2010-2011 University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series will present Handel's Messiah as its inaugural holiday concert, with performances at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, in Mitchell Hall.

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The concert will feature the international award-winning UD Chorale, under the direction of Paul D. Head, the East China Normal University Orchestra, and soloists Lauren Conrad (soprano), Augustine Mercante (countertenor), Blake Smith (tenor) and Robert Brandt (bass).

In the spirit of the season, Mitchell Hall will be decorated in holiday finery.

Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and UD staff, and $10 for students.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the REP box office in the Roselle Center for the Arts or by calling (302) 831-2204. A $2 processing fee applies. The REP box office is open noon to 5 p.m. weekdays.

UD Chorale

The University of Delaware Chorale is among the most highly regarded college choirs in the eastern United States. In recent years, the choir has been invited to perform at both regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and also has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and Verizon Hall in Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Arts.

In addition to annual regional tours, the chorale has traveled extensively throughout Europe with appearances in Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Austria and Finland.

In 2007, the chorale competed in the Tallinn International Choral Competition hosted by the Estonian Choral Directors Association as part of a 10-day tour of Sweden, Finland and Estonia. It captured the first place grand prix over 40 other choirs.

In June 2009, the chorale was invited on a performance tour of China where it was featured in several collaborative concert appearances on Chinese university campuses in Shanghai and Beijing.

This fall, the chorale won four awards at the 42nd Tolosa Choral Contest in Spain, placing in every category in which it competed against choirs from around the world.

East China Normal University

The East China Normal University Department of Music celebrates 60 years of excellent education in music, and is considered one of the most established university music programs in China.

The East China Normal University Symphony Orchestra (ESO) was founded in 2006. Renowned conductor Runyu Hou is the director and conductor of this orchestra, which consists of more than 70 musicians. The UD performances features selected members of the ESO.

The ESO has given many performances all over China, U.S. and Austria. For the event celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, ESO performed his early Opera La Finta Giardiniera with vocal students and faculty members of ECNU and Austria's University of Music and Dramatic Performing Arts in Vienna.

Lauren E. Conrad

Lauren E. Conrad is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in vocal performance and a master's degree in choral conducting.

She has appeared as a soloist in the Christ Church Christiana Hundred Messiah performances and has also been featured in the Delaware premiere performance of the John Rutter Mass of the Children, with Rutter conducting.

Conrad is the director of choral music at Alexis I. du Pont High School in Wilmington, Del., and previously served as the assistant director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Performing Arts Masterworks Choir.

Augustine Mercante

Augustine Mercante enjoys an active career performing repertoire from the Baroque to the recently created. He began his year in Augsburg, Germany, as a 2010 Fulbright Scholar in the Arts, where he studied with Edith Wiens and performed Vivaldi's Orlando furioso in Munich's Prinzregententheater and Gluck's Orfeo with Nürnberg State Opera in the catacombs of Nürnberg.

This December, in addition to these concerts, he also sings Bach's Christmas Oratorio in Marburg, Germany, and Messiah at Old St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia.

Mercante is the founder of LifeSongs, an organization that produces benefit concerts to provide financial assistance to individuals with special needs and noteworthy community-centered projects. He earned the artist diploma from the Conservatory of Music in Augsburg, Germany, in 2010, the master of music degree from the University of North Texas in 2009 and was the inaugural recipient of the University of Delaware's Robert King Memorial Scholarship from 1998-2003.

Blake Smith

Blake Smith is an assistant professor of voice and opera at the University of Delaware, where he teaches applied voice and diction and is co-director of UD's Opera Theatre and Opera Workshop.

A native of Texas, Smith earned a bachelor of music in vocal performance from the University of Texas at Tyler, where he was a student of soprano Robin Flood-Fincher and tenor Mark Johnson. He then completed master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees at Texas Tech University under the direction of legendary oratorio and concert tenor Karl Dent.

Smith has appeared extensively in operatic, oratorio and concert repertoire throughout Texas and the Midwest. He has garnered special attention for his performances of the oratorios of Handel, the operas of Mozart and the art song and vocal chamber repertoire of the English Renaissance.

Robert Brandt

Robert Brandt is an assistant professor of voice at the University of Delaware, and teaches applied voice, German diction and Opera Workshop. He earned a doctor of music in vocal performance and literature from Indiana University, where he studied with Costanza Cuccaro, and earned both a bachelor of music and master of music vocal performance from Brigham Young University, studying with J. Arden Hopkin and Clayne Robison.

Brandt appears regularly on the operatic and concert stage in repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the 21st century. In a review of his performance of Mandryka in Richard Strauss's Arabella, Opera News said, “Robert Brandt had it all. Handsome, with an ebullient personality, Brandt has innate musical simplicity and honesty and delivered the German text with amazing clarity of diction.”

Since moving to Delaware in 2007, he has been active locally and regionally as a concert soloist. Highlights include performances of the title role in Mendelssohn's Elijah in Wilmington, Del., and Abington, Pa. On campus he soloed with the University of Delaware Symphony Orchestra in Haydn's The Creation and Brahms's German Requiem.

Brandt is a full member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and recent graduates from his vocal studio have been accepted for graduate study at esteemed programs such as Indiana University, Eastman School of Music, the University of North Texas, and Westminster Choir College of Rider University

Future Master Players concerts

Handel's Messiah will be held at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, in Mitchell Hall. The MPCS holiday orchestra and international award-winning UD Chorale under the direction of Paul D. Head, UD's director of choral studies, will perform Handel's glorious oratorio Messiah. In the spirit of the season, Mitchell Hall will be decorated in holiday finery.

David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Marian Lee, faculty pianist, is part of the new Concertmasters Series. They will perform at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 13, in Mitchell Hall. The new recital series features beloved concertmasters from around the world. The series kicks off with Kim, concertmaster from the Philadelphia Orchestra, who gives a dynamic recital of an all Brahms program with his fellow Juilliard classmate, UD faculty pianist Marian Lee. This marks Kim's second MPCS appearance. The event is co-presented by the Korean American Association of Delaware.

Delaware Idols A Winners' Concert will be held at 8 p.m., Friday, March 18, in Gore Recital Hall of the Roselle Center for the Arts with Julie Nishimura, Delaware Idols official accompanist and faculty pianist. The 2009 Delaware Idols impressively concluded last year's MPCS season with a fiery performance with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. This year, the winners of the 2011 Delaware National String Competition compete on the MPCS stage for cash prizes and a professional concert engagement.

iMusic 4: China Magpie will be held at 8 p.m. on both Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, in Mitchell Hall. The iMusic productions created by internationally known violinist and MPCS founding artistic director Xiang Gao are creative and engaging pops concerts that humanize music in ways audiences have never imagined. Last year, iMusic 3 celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with many of today's leading artists and the cross-generational MPCS audience. This year, the internationally acclaimed ensemble China Magpie, of which Gao is a founding member, returns for its third appearance with MPCS. Established by Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Project, China Magpie performs crossover music with its own arrangements and compositions.

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