MEET THE SOLOIST: Isaiah Bell, tenor: Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 14

Isaiah Bell, tenor

Performs Handel’s Messiah

7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at The VETS, Providence



Background: Born in the northern town of Fort St. John, British Columbia.  Studied voice at the University of Victoria .

Professional Accomplishments:

  • A writer and composer of 4 operas and other original pieces, most notably for his critically acclaimed original solo show, The Book of My Shames.
  • Played the central role of Marlow in the American premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Opera Parallèle, a performance described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “sung with exquisite lyricism and an air of heroism”
  • Created the role of Antinous, lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian at the Canadian Opera Company

2019-2020 Season Highlights:

  • Directed Handel’s Acis and Galatea the opening production this season for the University of Toronto’s Early Music program.
  • Debuted at Vancouver Opera as Almaviva in The Barber of Seville,
  • Performed at Carnegie Hall for Paul Moravec’s new Ellis Island oratorio, A Nation of Others.
  • Appears with Opera Atelier (Handel’s The Resurrection), the Toronto Symphony (Messiah), and the Bethlehem Bach Festival.

Critical Praise:

  • “As Hadrian’s lover, Antinous, the impressive Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell sang with a high, well-rounded, English-style tenor that suited a haughty young male on the brink of manhood.” – Opera News​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • “Isaiah Bell’s clear tenor and youthful physique made him a believable Antinous. His aria also brought spontaneous applause from the audience, one of only two singers so rewarded.” – ludvig van TORONTO
  • “Bell boasts a strong, glorious voice with heroic, oratorio-style ring. Soaring easily into light sweetness at the start of the duet, he subsequently demonstrated that he can produce multiple colors lower in the range and darken his instrument to proclaim with authority when necessary…Bell’s sound is so classic English, and so fresh, that one can simply hope that he will sing as wonderfully as he did on Friday for decades to come.”- San Francisco Classical Voice

MEET THE SOLOIST: Andriana Chuchman, soprano: Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 14

Andriana Chuchman, soprano

Performs Handel’s Messiah

7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at The VETS, Providence


Background: Born in Winnipeg, Ms. Chuchman received her Bachelor’s Degree in Voice Performance from the School of Music at the University of Manitoba.

Professional Accomplishments:

  • San Francisco Opera’s 2019 Emerging Star of the Year
  • Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2017 Mabel Dorn Reeder Award
  • Prizewinner at the Finals of the 2009 Neue Stimmen Competition in Germany

2019-2020 Season Highlights:

  • Michal in Handel’s Saul at the Houston Grand Opera,
  • Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Opera Omaha
  • Gilda in Rigoletto at Opera San Antonio
  • Eurydice in Orphée et Eurydice at 2020 Salzburg Whitsun Festival

Critical Praise:

  • “Stealing scene after scene, the buoyant soprano combined vocal brilliance, physical agility and vintage calendar-girl looks.” – ​The New York Times​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • “Ms. Chuchman radiates enough vocal allure, physical beauty and charm to light up the stage.” – Chicago Tribune
  • “Chuchman had a full, sure, glorious sound you wanted to sink into.” – The Washington Post

THE STORY BEHIND: Handel’s Messiah

On December 14, four world class soloists will join the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Providence Singers to perform the holiday music tradition of Handel’s Messiah

For more information visit


THE STORY BEHIND: Handel’s Messiah

Title: Messiah, HWV 56

Composer: George Fredric Handel (1685–1759)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: December 15, 2018

The Story: 

Handel settled permanently in England in 1712. He wanted to make his reputation and fortune there as an opera composer. For many years, he was successful in that endeavor, becoming the director of the Royal Academy of Music, an enterprise sponsored partially by the King for the production of Italian-style opera, Handel’s specialty. Public taste always changes, however, and Handel became the victim of the fickle crowd in 1728, when London went crazy over the first English ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera. Little by little, the Academy’s loyal subscribers lost interest in stilted Italian opera in favor of the more earthy and entertaining ballad operas, which were capturing the city’s theaters.

Handel was not the sort of composer to dabble in such lowbrow pastiches, no matter how financially successful they had become. Steadfast, he clung to his operatic enterprise, which he operated by himself. The company struggled along, producing more failures than successes. Then during Lent in 1732, an event took place that affected the future direction of Handel’s career and permanently changed English musical history. Handel’s Esther was performed. It was the first oratorio ever given in London, and it created a real stir. That May, Handel presented six more performances of Esther, which the public received enthusiastically, in spite of his Italian singers that “made rare work with the English tongue you would have sworn it had been Welch,” according to one review.

ProvSignersHandel still did not give up Italian opera, however, and he continued to write new operas and revive the old ones. Each spring also brought some new (or revised) oratorio including Alexander’s Feast, Saul and Israel in Egypt. By the spring of 1741, it looked as though Handel had worn out his welcome in England. Rumors spread in London that Handel was considering moving back to the Continent. Then in August, he received an invitation to present a concert for the benefit of Dublin’s charities. Using a libretto by Charles Jennens (author of Saul), Handel composed Messiah between August 22 and September 14 — a period of only 24 days! The astonishing thing is that a work written in such haste should be such a consistent, peerless masterpiece. One might even speak of divine inspiration, for Handel once declared, “When I composed the Hallelujah Chorus, I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself.”

The resounding success of Messiah and other Handel works in Dublin during 1741– 42 virtually inaugurated a new career for the composer, though it also had its difficulties. The London premiere of Messiah in 1743 had to be billed simply as “a new sacred oratorio,” since its title might be offensive to the puritanical element. Unfortunately, that was not all. Messiah was a failure at first, and only began to gain some success in 1750 when Handel conducted it for charity. Messiah, however, more than any other oratorio, set the trajectory for Handel’s re-emergence as a composer in England. Of course, it turned out to be the trajectory of a rocket to the stars for Handel’s future position in music and in the hearts of his listeners.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


FROM THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL Review: Tania Miller commands R.I. Philharmonic with Shostakovich

CL4 OR3 Tania Miller2 400 by 252

By Channing Gray
Special to The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s new conductor, had to skip Saturday night’s concert at Veterans Memorial Auditorium to undergo cancer treatment. But the orchestra ended up getting the next best thing: Tania Miller, a young Canadian conductor whose recent visits here have proved her to be an exciting musician and a perfect fit for the Philharmonic.

Her take on Shostakovich’s brooding Tenth Symphony, which closed out an evening of lesser-known selections, never failed to keep the big picture in view. The loneliness, the darkness of the vast opening movement, and the searing portrait of Soviet strongman Josef Stalin in the second were an emotional tsunami.

Shostakovich, who faced constant Soviet censorship, had not written a symphony since the end of World War II. But in 1953, just months after the death of Stalin, he sat down to pen the Tenth.

Miller, who stepped in for Tovey on two weeks’ notice, seemed so petite on the podium, but she took hold of the epic score and led the audience on a journey they won’t soon forget.

But the breaking news of the night was the appearance of pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, an audience favorite at the Newport Music Festival years ago. She brought with her Tchaikovsky’s rambling, episodic Second Piano Concerto, which I’ve never heard live.

Tchaikovsky actually wrote three piano concertos, but the last two have been overshadowed by the popular, and overplayed, B-Flat Minor.

There were some tender moments in the lyrical middle movement, where McDermott teamed up with concertmaster Charles Dimmick, and she brought more than a bit of glitter to the concluding section.

But try as they might, McDermott and Miller just couldn’t pull the opening movement together. It’s music in fits and starts, where every few pages the orchestra would stop and McDermott would plow through unimpressive solos cobbled together from scales and a few alternating chords.

Not inventive, imaginative music, in other words. And McDermott was unable to do much to change that with what amounted to a dutiful interpretation.

As for the obligatory encore, she tore into the Prelude from Bach’s Second English Suite, sounding quite frantic at first, but eventually relaxing and making the intricate music sing.

Miller opened the evening with another unfamiliar offering, the African American composer William Grant Still’s “In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy.” The score, chosen as a Veterans Day tribute, is laced with harmonies that sound like spirituals and made a nice change of pace from tired Italian opera overtures.

Original Link –


THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto

On November 16, world renowned pianist Anne-Marie McDermott makes her Rhode Island debut when she performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2

For more information visit


THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto

Title: Piano Concerto No.2 in G Major, Op.44

Composer: PETER I. TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere.

Orchestration: The piece is scored for a solo piano, two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

In 1878, Peter I. Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, that his early compositions fell into two categories: those coming from inner compulsion and those inspired by duty or a commission. Among his mature works, all but one, the Piano Sonata, had been “duty” compositions. However, the following year a second work would be added to the list of “inner compulsion” music: the Second Piano Concerto.

In November 1879, Tchaikovsky traveled to Paris, where his Fourth Symphony was scheduled for performance. It happened, at that juncture, that he was without any commission to complete. While still in St. Petersburg, he had at first been relieved not to have any work responsibility, but he soon became bored. To solve his problem, he performed a rare act: He began to compose something from self-motivation. It was to be his Second Piano Concerto.

Now, enjoying the French capital, Tchaikovsky again took pen in hand to complete the concerto. Beginning with the finale, the composer worked through the movements in reverse order. By December 15, the composer could write to von Meck, “My concerto is ready in rough, and I am very pleased with it, especially the second movement, the

Although critics agree that the Second Piano Concerto is not in a class with the First, there are innovative and important features in the work, and audiences find it a satisfying experience. The chunkiness of the opening material, so reminiscent of Robert Schumann, is nonetheless admirably idiomatic to the piano. Tchaikovsky surprises us with a lyrical second theme introduced in an unexpected key. The movement goes far afield with key shifts in the development section, and even in the recapitulation he reviews the second theme in a key that leads back to the home key rather than (by tradition) staying there in the first place.

Biographer David Brown writes, “If this first movement is the most important Tchaikovsky had composed since that of the Fourth Symphony of 1877, the [concerto’s] slow movement is the most ambitious since the Andante funèbre of the Third String Quartet of 1876.” The most significant innovation of this movement is the use of violin and cello soloists on an equal footing with the piano, predictably bringing objections from early soloists. The long-spun lyrical melodies in the outer sections require these instruments, while the piano is predominant in the central portion.

The final movement is more tightly organized and executed than its predecessors. Again, however, Tchaikovsky brings fresh innovations working with various keys, which create novelties in the movement’s harmony layout. Concurrently, we have music that is straightforward and easy to assimilate. Brown summarizes, “Though its melodic material is not as distinctive as that of the parallel movement of the First Piano Concerto, this finale is in certain respects more individual. . . .”

Alexander Siloti (1863–1945) was a composition student of Tchaikovsky, and he became editor for many of Tchaikovsky’s works, notably the two piano concertos. On the concert stage, it is Siloti’s edition of the First Concerto that is most often performed. His edition of the Second Concerto is presented in this performance.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Meet soloist Anne-Marie McDermott: Appearing with RI Philharmonic for Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, Nov. 16

World Renowned Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott
makes her Rhode Island debut

Performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2.

The TACO Classical Concert is on Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.


For more than 25 years Anne-Marie McDermott has played concerti, recitals and chamber music in hundreds of cities throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. In addition to performing, she also serves as Artistic Director of the Bravo! Vail Music and Ocean Reef Music festivals, and as curator for chamber music for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego.

  • Ms. McDermott’s repertoire reaches from Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Scriabin to works by today’s most influential composers.
  • Recorded the complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, Bach’s English Suites and Partitas, solo works by Chopin, and Gershwin’s Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra with the Dallas Symphony.
  • In 2013, she released a recording of Mozart concerti with the Calder Quartet. Most recently, she recorded five Haydn piano sonatas and two Haydn concerti with the Odense Philharmonic in Denmark, including two cadenzas written by Charles Wuorinen.
  • Ms. McDermott has performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Bramwell Tovey before.  It was in 2012 with the New York Philharmonic

In recent years, Ms. McDermott participated in the New Century Chamber Orchestra’s silver jubilee Gershwin program, and embarked on a cycle of Beethoven concerti at Santa Fe Pro Musica. She premiered and recorded a new concerto by Poul Ruders with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and played Gershwin with the New York Philharmonic at the Bravo! Vail Festival. Ms. McDermott has also performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Donald Runnicles, Bach’s Piano Concerto in D Minor with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with the New York City-based Le Train Bleu. In 2012, Ms. McDermott performed .