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Classical Christmas


Scott Speck, conductor

Martha Guth, soprano

Sara Murphy, mezzo soprano

Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids, Mark Webb, director

Muskegon Chamber Choir, David Wikman, director

WMS Children's Choir, Beth Slimko, director

Friday December 16 at 7:30 pm*

Frauenthal Theater

* this event has passed

Single tickets: $23, $28, $43, $54
Student tickets: $10

Martha Guth, Sara Murphy

Enjoy the majesty of Christmas and the classical music that accompanies it when West Michigan Symphony and Scott Speck welcome special guest vocalists Martha Guth and Sara Murphy. These two spectacular singers will help us ring in the season with an evening of classical and holiday works that include Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival”; excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, including “Rejoice Greatly” and “Hallelujah”; “Gesu’ Bambino”; “Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel and “The Flower Duet” from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakme.

A Christmas Festival: Leroy Anderson
“Rejoice Greatly” from The Messiah: George Frederick Handel
“He Shall Feed His Flock” from The Messiah: George Frederick Handel
Gesu Bambino: Pietro Yon, arr. Gordon Ring
Fantasia on “Greensleeves”: Ralph Vaughan Williams
This Christmastide (Jessye’s Carol): Donald Fraser
Pine Forest in Winter and Waltz of the Snowflakes from The Nutcracker: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Deck the Halls: Traditional, arr. Carmen Dragon
Maria Wiegenlied: Max Reger
I Wonder as I Wander: Traditional
Schlafendes Jesuskind: Hugo Wolf
Flower Duet from Lakmé: Clement Philibert Leo Delibes
Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
“Thou Must Leave Thy Holy Dwelling” from L’enfance du Christ: Hector Berlioz
Away in a Manger: Martin Luther, arr. Carmen Dragon
O Come, All Ye Faithful: John Francis Wade, arr. Mack Wilberg

Soprano Martha Guth brings consummate musicianship,  intelligence and a distinctive tonal palette to a wide range of musical styles.  A much-sought-after concert soloist, her repertoire includes soprano 1 in Mozart’s C Minor Mass (New York’s Sacred Music in a Sacred Space in St. Ignatius Loyola Cathedral and Columbus, Ohio’s ProMusic Chamber Orchestra), Orff’s Carmina Burana (West Michigan, Mobile, Lima Symphonies, Florida Orchestra), the Brahms Requiem (Washington, D.C.’s Cathedral Choral Society, New York’s Voices of Ascension, Grand Rapids’ Calvin College), Britten’s  Spring Symphony (Choral Society of Durham), Händel’s Messiah (Santa Fe Symphony, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky), Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Columbia Pro Cantare and Gloriae Dei Cantores), Mahler’s Second Symphony (Evansville Philharmonic) and Fourth Symphony (Flagstaff Symphony) , Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Fort Wayne Philharmonic) and Missa solemnis (Bachakademie Stuttgart), Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate (Hamilton Philharmonic) and Concert Arias (Germany’s Bad Reichenhaller Philharmonie), Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été (Canadian Opera Company orchestra), Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (New Mexico Symphony) and Poulenc’s Stabat Mater (Spokane Symphony). Forthcoming from Naxos is her recording of Roberto Sierra’s Beyond the Silence of Sorrow with Maximiano Valdés conducting the Puerto Rico Symphony. In addition, she has collaborated with John Nelson, Helmuth Rilling, and both Seiji Ozwa and Robert Spano at Tanglewood and been guest soloist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony.


A persuasive actress, Ms. Guth scored a big success as Frau Fluth in the Boston Midsummer Opera’s recent production of Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Past operatic forays include Mozart’s  Le Nozze di Figaro(Countess) and Don Giovanni (Donna Anna) at Opera Lyra Ottawa;  the same composer’s Die Zauberflöte (Pamina) and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Konstanze) in Göggingen, Germany; the title role of Händel’s Alcina in Lucca, Italy; Lauretta in Bizet’s Dr. Miracle and Norina in Don Pasquale with the Santa Fe Opera (the latter on tour as a past apprentice of the company), and Alyce in Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied at New York’s Chelsea Opera, which she reprises in the 2015-16 season.


A model collaborator, Ms. Guth has earned special distinction for her passionate devotion to recital and chamber repertoire, earning First Prize at the 2007 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in London. She has been welcomed at Wigmore Hall with pianist Graham Johnson, offered recitals in New York with Dalton Baldwin and Malcolm Martineau, and MusicFest Vancouver with Erika Switzer, with whom she co-hosts an online magazine Sparks and Wiry Cries featuring live and recorded performances and discussions with singers, pianists and composers. She also curates the Casement Fund Song Series in New York City.


Martha Guth was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds an undergraduate degree from the  Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a Master’s from the Cincinnati College/Conservatory of Music, and a post-graduate degree from the Hochschule für Musik in Augsburg/Nürnberg where she studied with Edith Wiens.


Sara Murphy, “a gorgeous, deep, dark mezzo-soprano” (New York Times), is a concert, opera and recital artist who has been called “absolutely unforgettable for her versatility and ability to conquer any sensitive soul” (El Nacional, Dominican Republic). In October 2016, she will make her company and role debut at Opera Theater of Rome as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera under the baton of Jesús López-Cobos.


Current season highlights include two appearances at New York City's Carnegie Hall: A Prayer for Peace with music of Leonard Bernstein and Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun with MidAtlantic Opera and Handel's Messiah with Oratorio Society of New York. Sara appears again with Oratorio Society of New York in two performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand," one with full orchestra and one with a world premiere organ transcription by David Briggs. Sara returns to Cincinnati May Festival as Emilia in Verdi's Otello and mezzo soprano soloist in Mendelssohn's Elijah.


The recently released recording of Hindemith's The Long Christmas Dinner on Bridge Records was named one of the "Top Ten Opera Recordings of 2015" in Opera News, and  made the top of Arts Beat's playlist in the New York Times. Additionally, Opera NewsThe Guardian and Gramophone all praise her portrayal of Mother Bayard and Ermengarde: “Sara Murphy’s closing aria as Ermengarde … is marvellously poignant,” writes Gramophone.


During 2014-2015, performances included the Ligeti Requiem, Schnittke's Nagasaki and Hindemith's The Long Christmas Dinner with American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein, Handel's Messiah and the Verdi Requiem with Oratorio Society of New York conducted by Kent Tritle and a recital at Cincinnati May Festival.


In 2013-2014, she debuted at Cincinnati’s May Festival in Mahler's Symphony No. 8, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Tchaikovsky's Ode to Joy with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Conlon. Other notable performances included the Verdi Requiem at Bard College with conductor Leon Botstein and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius at Berkshire Choral Festival with conductor Kent Tritle.


Sara debuted at the Ravinia Festival in 2013 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Conlon, earning critical acclaim for Britten's Phaedra, Barber's Dover Beach and High Priestess in Verdi's Aida from the Chicago Tribune: "Sara Murphy brought a rich, voluminous mezzo voice, excellent diction and an acute feeling for words and music." The 2013 season also included numerous performances of the Verdi Requiem as well as two concerts with the MidAtlantic Opera Orchestra and conductor Jason Tramm. Additionally, she joined the Ensemble for the Romantic Century for the theatrical concert Frankenstein singing music of Bach and Schubert, and was alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah and the Rachmaninoff Vespers. Sara was the first-prize winner in the 2013 Oratorio Society of New York Solo Vocal Competition and received an Inter-Cities Performing Arts grant in the same year.


Since 2012 Sara has appeared in concert and semi-staged productions of Wagner's Die Walküre (Fricka), Verdi's Il Trovatore (Azucena) and Aida (Amneris). She has also performed abridged versions or scenes from Verdi’s Don Carlo (Eboli), Un Ballo in Maschera (Ulrica) and Nabucco (Fenena); Wagner’s Lohengrin (Ortrud) and Die Walküre (Sieglinde); Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (Santuzza); Mozart's Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira), Bellini’s Norma (Adalgisa) and Puccini's Madama Butterfly (Suzuki).


Sara is a frequent soloist on the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space concert series in New York City, performing such works as Mozart's Requiem and Solemn Vespers, Bach's Magnificat, Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Duruflé's Requiem and the Rachmaninoff Vespers. In addition to these works, her oratorio repertoire includes Verdi's Requiem, Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, Dvorak's Stabat Mater, Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Mass in C.


In recital, Sara has frequently presented Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder and Mahler's Rückert Lieder, and her collaborators have included pianist Dalton Baldwin and duo pianists Pascal and Ami Rogé.


Sara earned a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a Master's degree from Catholic University. In 2010 she was awarded an honorable mention in the George London Foundation Competition and was a finalist in the Joy in Singing Competition, as well as a recipient of a Wagner Society of New York grant.