In addition to singing in the full-time chorus at Lyric Opera of Chicago, soprano Desirée Hassler has sung and covered roles at Lyric in Tannhäuser, Oklahoma!, Manon, Macbeth, Boris Godunov, Show Boat and Elektra. Recent performances include Bach’s B Minor mass with Chicago Bach Project (John Nelson, conductor), Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra, Ellen in Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Kondja in The Rose of Stambul with Chicago Folks Operetta, soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem (Los Angeles, CA), Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915 with the Prairie Ensemble, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, as well as Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Wichita Symphony.
A California native, Desirée has successfully competed from the regional to International levels at the Bel Canto Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, International Franz Liszt Competition and is the recipient of many distinguished awards.
The soprano enjoys performing music from the Renaissance to the 21st century, in recital, concert and opera mediums. Hassler graduated in 2011 with a doctorate in Vocal Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she completed a master’s degree in 2003. Dr. Hassler serves on the voice faculty of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. When she’s not doing lip trills or drinking coffee, Desirée is likely gardening or riding bikes with her super-husband Dan and four fabulous children.
Mezzo-Soprano Jo Rodenburg’s affinity for German song literature was showcased in Germany, where critics have described her voice as “warm, lustrous and heart-rendingly beautiful” during her concert tour featuring songs of Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms.
Ms. Rodenburg appeared as Eduige in the Handel Week Festival production of Rodelinda, which was warmly praised by the Chicago Tribune with her singing characterized by its “big, dark, alto-ish mezzo.”
Ms. Rodenburg was the featured soloist along with David Byrne for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s premiere performance of “The Forest” by composer David Byrne, the former lead man of the band Talking Heads, as well as alto soloist under conductors Sir Georg Solti, James Levine, and Margaret Hillis in works of Berlioz, Verdi, Corigliano, and Pergolesi. Ms. Rodenburg has appeared in performances with Chicago Opera Theater, Light Opera Works of Chicago, Pamiro Opera, Union Avenue Opera of Saint Louis, and Chamber Opera Chicago. She lists among her operatic credits the roles of Carmen, Prince Orlofsky, Dorabella, and Charlotte.
Ms. Rodenburg is in demand on the concert stage. Her repertoire includes numerous oratorios and cantatas of Handel, J.S. Bach, Mozart, and Haydn as well as Elgar’s Sea-Pictures, Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, a performance that the Dubuque Herald described as “Phenomenal . . . gorgeous and bravely edged.”
She is a member of the Juliani Chamber Ensemble, a group comprising musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Orchestra and musicians who also teach at Northwestern University and University of Chicago. Ms. Rodenburg enjoys her work training young professional and emerging operatic talent at her downtown Chicago studio.
This is Ms. Rodenburg’s sixth season at the helm of the Grande Prairie Singers as artistic director.
The Grande Prairie Singers (formerly the Park Forest Singers) was organized in 1977 by Sandy Chabot, a choral music teacher at Bloom and Bloom Trail High School in the 1970s while working on her Doctorate at the University of Illinois.
The musicians of the Grande Prairie Singers have been dedicated to sharing their passion for the vocal arts, and breathing life into the classic and modern masterworks of choral literature for almost 40 years. They are doctors, students, engineers, teachers, lawyers, and accountants from communities across the Chicago Southland who gather weekly to perfect their craft and revel in each other’s love for song. Under the inspiring direction of Jo Rodenburg, the Grande Prairie Singers continues to build upon the foundation of excellence that has led it to be recognized as one of the region’s premier arts organizations.
Audiences have enjoyed professional soloists as well as local students and local instrumentalists as guest artists. They have performed with other Arts organizations, including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, the Southwest Symphony Orchestra and with legendary Margaret Hillis and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus. They have performed with the University of Chicago Chorus and the Rockefeller Chapel Choir.
Although based in Park Forest, the Singers became recognized internationally through their concert tours to Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, England, Scotland, Wales, Hungary, and Slovakia. They represented the State of Illinois while singing at the Papal Audience with John Paul II.
Many children have had the opportunity to study music in the Grande Prairie Children’s Choir, important when funding for the arts in local schools has been cut. Students from Kindergarten through 8th grade benefit from the power of singing in their lives and share in the joy that only ensemble singing can bring.
Through the years, this group has been guided by many excellent Music Directors, Board Members, donors and audiences. Current director, Jo Rodenberg, a voice teacher at DePaul University, and Board President, Sue Koelling, have worked closely with Prairie State College to give local students performance opportunities to help them go on to University or Conservatory programs.
Information on our 2016-2017 season and auditions is available on our website at grandeprairiechoral.org.
Pianist ELIZABETH JOY ROE has been hailed “brilliant” (The New York Times), “an artist to be taken seriously” (The Chicago Tribune), “impressive” (BBC Radio), “a mature, fascinating interpreter and an artist of intelligence, insight, and a genuine grace” (The Southampton Press), and “electrifying” (The Dallas Morning News), and she was named one of the classical music world’s “Six on the Rise: Young Artists to Watch” by Symphony Magazine. The recipient of the prestigious William Petschek Piano Debut Recital Award, she has appeared as orchestral soloist, recitalist, and collaborative musician at major venues worldwide, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Seoul Arts Center, the National Performing Arts Center (Beijing), the Ravinia Festival (Chicago), Salle Cortot (Paris), Teatro Argentino (Buenos Aires), the Esplanade (Singapore), the Adrienne Arsht Center (Miami), the Banff Centre (Canada), and the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany).
Ms. Roe’s multifaceted career includes performance broadcasts on the BBC, KBS, NPR, and PBS; new music premieres; and a diverse range of artistic projects and collaborations. A recording artist for Decca Classics, her latest album (released in May 2016) is of the complete Nocturnes by John Field, and her previous album of the Britten and Barber Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra was released to critical acclaim. Her discography also comprises a solo album, Images Poetiques (Universal Classics/Deutsche Grammophon), and four piano duo albums, of which When Words Fade (Steinway Label) spent over a dozen weeks at the top of the Billboard classical chart. An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated with an array of esteemed artists, including violinist Daniel Hope, violist Richard O’Neill, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, the Parker Quartet, and jazz pianist Shelly Berg; she is also a member of Decoda (the first ever Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall) and Trio Ariadne (ensemble-in-residence at the Green Music Center in California). Most notably, she co-founded the groundbreaking Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, whose concerts, compositions, social media presence, and Emmy-nominated music videos (viewed by millions on YouTube) have captivated audiences around the globe. Additional career highlights include the PBS broadcast of “Jazz & the Philharmonic” (in which she performed alongside jazz legends Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and more); the Carnegie Hall premiere of Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen for the composer’s centennial celebration, hosted by Pierre Boulez; performance presentations for the United Nations and at various international leadership symposia, including the EG Conference, Chicago Ideas Week, and La Ciudad de las Ideas; and an artistic residency sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Argentina.
Ms. Roe made her concerto debut in 1997 with the Chicago Philharmonic, eliciting critical acclaim fromThe Chicago Tribune’s John Von Rhein: “Elizabeth Joy Roe supplied scintillation in the Grieg [Concerto] … A lot of pianists play the Grieg but not many adults twice the age of Miss Roe could make this familiar score sing so poetically or with such spontaneity.” She has since appeared with the Hartford, Tucson, Santa Fe, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Waco, Winnipeg, Chautauqua, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, and Ars Viva Symphony Orchestras; the Juilliard Orchestra; the Calgary and Seongnam Philharmonic Orchestras; the Indianapolis and Milwaukee Chamber Orchestras; and members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, among others. In 2003, she stepped in on short notice to replace the late John Browning for subscription performances of the Barber Piano Concerto (Browning’s signature work) with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra; The Delaware News Journal pronounced her pianism as “astonishing” and “stunning.”
Committed to arts advocacy, Ms. Roe was one of the inaugural fellows of The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and The Weill Music Institute. As part of this professional fellowship, she performed regularly at Carnegie Hall with Ensemble ACJW, taught at PS 131Q in Queens, and co-directed the Children’s Music Campaign NYC. In recognition of her educational and leadership endeavors, she was awarded the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Robert Sherman Award for Music Education and Community Outreach. She has also held faculty positions at Smith College as Visiting Artist and Lecturer in Music and at Sonoma State University as Weill Hall Artist-in-Residence.
A Chicago native, Ms. Roe was 13 years old when she won the grand prize at the IBLA International Piano Competition in Italy. Throughout her career she has received honors from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, the Music for Youth Foundation, the National Association for Professional Asian Women, and the Samsung Foundation of Culture. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School as a full scholarship student, graduating with Scholastic Distinction for her thesis on representations of music in the fiction of Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, and E.M. Forster. A Steinway Artist and Soros Fellow, Ms. Roe’s mission is to connect with others through the inspiration, joy and essential humanity of music.
Michael Soto studied organ performance at the University of Texas at Austin under Frank
Speller and Gerre Hancock, and he studied privately in Paris under Vincent Warnier.
Michael has served as organist and music director in churches across the U.S., as well as
in Paris and Tunisia, where he also performed with the Chamber Orchestra of Sfax. He is
currently the music director of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Flossmoor, he is the
accompanist of the Grande Prairie Choral Arts Society, and he performs frequently
throughout the Chicago area. Musically, Michael enjoys exploring the historical narratives
that connected and influenced composers and their work, with an emphasis on French
romantic and modern music for the organ and the harmonium.