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Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Marketing & Communications
(714) 876-2380

Awe-inspiring sounds of praise sing out as Pacific Symphony is joined by Pacific Chorale for the triumphant annual holiday celebration—“Handel’s Glorious Messiah”!

Orange County, Calif. — November 21, 2014

Rejoice in the inspired melodies and theatrical mastery of “Handel’s Glorious Messiah” when Pacific Symphony performs the Baroque masterpiece as a festive prelude to Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth. A holiday tradition across the world, “Messiah” has been performed for more than 250 years, but with each new conductor, orchestra and soloists, it becomes a fresh and newly invigorating experience. Austrian conductor Christoph Campestrini leads the Symphony along with Pacific Chorale and a host of globally distinguished soloists including soprano Katherine Whyte, mezzo-soprano Claire Shackleton, tenor Steven Tharp and baritone Richard Zeller. Full of exciting choral writing, thundering timpani and blazing trumpets, “Messiah” energizes its audience and leaves them singing, “Hallelujah!” Handel’s popular oratorio takes place at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25-$99. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

“It is always a great joy for me to conduct this beautiful masterpiece,” says Maestro Campestrini. “It is such a moving experience to tell together with the soloists, the chorus and the orchestra the ancient story of Jesus’ life, expressed in this most personal artistic statement of Handel. He had just recovered from a stroke when he set these words to music, and the gratitude for having regained his health again is deeply felt in this music.”

Handel was born at the peak of the Baroque era, and he produced many operas before creating “Messiah,” which he compiled solely with biblical references. He was known as the

“master of sacred and secular music,” and his talent of composing for voice and instrument shines in this most famous oratorio through the telling of Christ’s narrative. His talent in this piece seems as though it is “divine inspiration,” with a clear message of religion and exclamation of God’s glory.

“This work has the great spiritual depth of a liturgical masterwork, but as Handel was also one of the most prominent opera composers of his time, it also contains the drama and excitement of a fascinating and thrilling story,” says Campestrini. “In a performance, it can be a uniquely moving experience when performers unite in one musical spirit and reach out to the audience.”

In this year’s rendition, Campestrini aims to keep the piece sounding new by studying past interpretations to gain a better understanding of Handel’s great work. Just like there are different versions of a movie, every conductor gives his unique take on a piece. It is an exciting experience to hear how a new conductor chooses to interpret the music, and how his past experiences are observed in the present performance.

“To keep a musical work of the past fresh is one of the most important challenges for any performer,” says Campestrini. “With repeated performances of a work such as in this case, I study the circumstances of its composition more in depth each time, so that the interpretation as a whole will benefit. In Baroque music it is also quite fascinating to study what early music groups have done in their exploration of this repertoire and to incorporate some of these elements also in performances of traditional symphony orchestras. The combination of both of these worlds can be a wonderful experience.”

Campestrini has conducted more than 120 orchestras across five continents, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Radio Symphony, Vienna Radio Symphony, Prague Philharmonia and the Queensland Philharmonic in Australia. He is also an accomplished opera conductor and has worked with well-known soloists Julian Rachlin, Rudolf Buchbinder, Alisa Weilerstein and Julia Fischer.

In the past few years, Campestrini has proven his talent in the United States, and currently leads orchestras reaching from Philadelphia to Chicago. Along with these, he has performed with the Vancouver Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic. He has previously performed with the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra on a return invitation, and toured Austria multiple times with the Polish National Radio Symphony Katowice and the Wiener Concertverein, along with debut performances in Taiwan and China. Campestrini furthermore recorded music for labels and radio stations in Munich and Heidelberg, Germany; Austria; and the Czech Republic.

  Soprano Katherine Whyte has performed in her native country of Canada, the United States and Europe. Her most recent performances include the role of Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni,” as well as a soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C Major and Handel’s “Messiah.” Whyte has sung with many groups, including the Vancouver Opera, Houston Symphony, and the National Chorale and New Chorale Society. She made her debut as the title role in Canadian Opera Company’s “Iphigénie en Tauride.” Previously, she performed Strauss’ “Die ägyptische Helena” with the Metropolitan Opera as well as “Le Nozze di Figaro” with the Virginia Opera and “Rigoletto” with the English National Opera. She performed Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s “Messiah” with the Houston Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the National Chorale and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem” with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica. Whyte won the Alice Tully Recital Competition and played a solo recital at Weill Hall in 2008.

Mezzo-soprano Claire Shackleton earned her master of music degree at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she played roles consisting of Der Komponist in “Ariadne auf Naxos” and Dorabella in “Cosí fan tutte.” Shackleton also performed Ravel’s “Shéhérazade” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in concert at the conservatory. She is praised for her colorful tone and eye-catching stage presence. Her appearances for the 2014-15 season include Mercédés in “Carmen” with the New Orleans Opera, Annio in “La Clemenza di Tito” with Opera in the Heights and Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Louisiana Philharmonic. She was recently named Young Artist of the Year at Central City Opera in 2013, and has received awards from the Shreveport Opera Singer of the Year Competition and Franco-American Vocal Academy Grand Concours de Chant.

Tenor Steven Tharp is recognized worldwide for his knowledge in a wide variety of repertoire and his sweet-sounding voice. Noticed by The New Yorker and Opera News, Tharp’s voice has been called, “sweetness,” “strong, free and…lyrical in utterance.” Some of his previous performance repertoire includes the roles of Jaquino in “Fidelio,” Nemorino in “L’Elisir d’Amore” and Lysander in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He has appeared in concert with orchestral groups such as the New York Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and Cincinnati Symphony. He has performed more than 50 operatic roles, although his strength lies in pieces by Mozart and Handel. To further his success, Tharp’s world-premiere recording of Edward MacDowell songs, accompanied by James Barbagallo, earned him a Grammy-Award nomination, and he is soon to record a classical piece by Schubert on CD. Tharp has even added stage direction as one of his accomplishments in productions such as the Manhattan School of Music’s Handel Project, which included “Alcina” and “Ariodante.”

Baritone Richard Zeller is commended globally for both his concert and opera roles. Some of his better known roles are Marcello in “La Bohéme,” Ernesto in “Il Pirata” and Eddie in “A View from the Bridge.” He has worked with the Scottish Opera, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the San Diego Opera, performing operas such as “La Traviata,” “Boris Godunov” and “Andrea Chénier.” His appearances on stage include Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” with the Chicago Symphony, “Les Troyens” with the Boston Symphony, Handel’s “Messiah” with the Philadelphia Orchestra and “Carmina Burana” with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Huntsville Symphony. In this 2014-15 season, Zeller rejoins the Oregon Symphony to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 as well as “Elijah” with the Park Bach Festival.

This concert is generously sponsored by Farmers & Merchants Bank.