Meet our Messiah 2022 soloists
Soprano Hannah De Priest
Possessing a “voice that is theater itself” (Classique News), soprano Hannah De Priest is a fearless performer of an increasingly wide range of lyric repertoire. Especially renowned for her “masterful’ (Olyrix) singing of baroque repertoire, recent stage triumphs include her recent European debut as Gilde in L’amazzone corsara for the Innsbruck Early Music Festival, an “irresistible” (L’Opera) Belinda in Dido & Aeneas, Ïole in Handel’s Hercules, and Oberto and Morgana in Alcina. 2022-23 debuts include Serpina in a French production of Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona with Opera Lafayette and two productions with the Boston Early Music Festival in June 2023. On the concert stage, notable upcoming and recent engagements include Handel’s Messiah with Apollo Chorus & Orchestra and Billings Symphony Orchestra, Bach’s Johannes-Passion with Columbus Symphony and Elmhurst Symphony, and Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Elgin Master Chorale & Symphony.
Her “glittering, easy soprano” (Merkur) is equally at home on the opera stage and in chamber music. Her critically-acclaimed debut performing French baroque cantatas with Les Délices was hailed as “sensational” (Schmopera) and more engagements with the renowned Cleveland ensemble have followed. Other favorite chamber music performances include appearances The Newberry Consort, Madison Bach Musicians, and many collaborative projects with Ars Musica Chicago. With partner Michael Pecak, she performs song repertoire that spans centuries. This fall the duo traveled to upstate New York, where they toured a program inspired by 18th-cent. soprano Josepha Duschek, featuring songs and concert arias by Mozart and Beethoven. In December, they debut a new program of favorite Romantic and 21st-century songs.
Hannah has garnered attention at numerous important competitions, recently winning 2nd Prize at the 2021 International Cesti Competition for Baroque Singing. She has been a finalist in The Handel Aria Competition (2021), Le Concours Corneille (2019), Audrey Rooney Bach Competition (2020), and the Bethlehem Bach Competition (2021). She is also a laureate of the prestigious Luminarts Cultural Foundation’s competition’s Encouragement Award (2022).
As an emerging artist, Hannah has attended the Carmel Bach Festival as a Virginia Best Adams Vocal Fellow, performed in the ensemble and covered the lead soprano role in André Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise with the Boston Early Music Festival, and performed Bach’s Trauerode and B Minor Mass as part of the American Bach Soloists Academy. Hannah has also participated in Oxford Lieder’s esteemed training program and the Cleveland Art Song Festival’s mastercourse. She has also studied 17th-cent. vocal technique through the Schloss Weißenbrunn Foundation and NYC-based ARTEK.
Hannah holds an M.Mus in vocal performance from McGill University in Montréal, where she held an elite fellowship and studied with renowned Canadian soprano Joanne Kolomyjec, and an MM in historical performance practices from Case Western Reserve University. She graduated from William Jewell College magna cum laude with honors in music. During her undergraduate degree, she spent a year abroad at the University of Cambridge, performing and extensively touring with the Sidney Sussex College Choir under the direction of David Skinner. She currently studies with soprano Tracy Cox.
When she’s not practicing or daydreaming about future singing projects, Hannah enjoys cooking vegetarian food, reading detective novels, watching stand-up, and going on long walks with her rescue dog, Teddy.
Countertenor Ryan Belongie
American countertenor Ryan Belongie has been praised for his "oft-astounding vocalism" by San Francisco Classical Voice, for possessing a "remarkably warm, evenly produced voice whose supple phrasing included many an exquisite shade," by Opera News, and by the Chicago Tribune for musicianship that "brought wonderfully stylish singing,” in repertoire spanning early music and baroque to contemporary and new music.
On the operatic stage, Mr. Belongie has appeared with Lyric Opera of Chicago as the Mago Cristiano in Rinaldo and Canadian Opera Company as Athamas in Semele. He has returned to Canadian Opera Company to cover Lychas in Hercules and to San Francisco Opera to cover Armindo in Partenope as well as appearing as Summer alongside Frederica Von Stade as Winter in Luna Pearl Woolf's Angel Heart at Festival Napa Valley. Recent and upcoming operatic engagements include the Page / Emcee / Chanteuse in a new immersive production of Salome at Tulsa Opera, Athamas in Semele at St. Petersburg Opera, Ottone in L’incoronazione di Poppea at Boston Baroque, Lysander in The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera, First Angel / Boy (cover) in George Benjamin's Written On Skin at Opera de Montréal, Ottone in Agrippina with West Edge Opera, Pirro in Pietro Andrea Ziani's La Circe at Ars Minerva in San Francisco, Angel in the world premiere of Aleksandra Vrebalov's Abraham in Flames in San Francisco, and soloist in the Hart Institute for Women Conductors concert at The Dallas Opera. Recent and upcoming concert engagements include Carmina Burana with Alabama Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Utah Symphony, Messiah with Kansas City Symphony and Lexington Philharmonic, MacMillan's Quickening with the Grant Park Orchestra, a Midwest tour of St. John Passion with the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra, a return to Music of the Baroque for Dettingen Te Deum, a return to the International Music Foundation of Chicago sing-a-long Messiah, St. John Passion with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and Elmhurst Symphony, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Mozart's Requiem with the St. Cecilia Orchestra.
Previous engagements include Carmina Burana with St. Louis Symphony, Messiah with Alabama Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Seattle Symphony, St. Matthew Passion with Utah Festival Opera and Grand Rapids Symphony, Chichester Psalms and Bach Cantata 170 - Vergnügte Ruh with the Grant Park Orchestra at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park, Ottone in L’incoronazione di Poppea at West Edge Opera, Katte in the Metropolitan Opera's workshop of Scott Wheeler's The Sorrows of Frederick, and B minor Mass with the American Festival Chorus at Utah State University and Bach Institute at Valparaiso University.
Earlier career highlights include Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream with Wolf Trap Opera, Didymus in Theodora with Opera Bergen, Norway, Arsamene in Xerxes with both San Francisco Opera (cover) and with Alan Curtis at West Edge Opera, Lychas (cover) in Hercules with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gesualdo’s Responsoria with Il Complesso Barocco in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Bernstein's Missa Brevis with the Grant Park Music Festival, Purcell’s Ode to St. Cecilia, Spirit in Dido and Aeneas, and Secresie / alto soloist in The Fairy Queen at Music of the Baroque, and soloist with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet in Lyon, France. Mr. Belongie has been heard on Chicago’s classical music station WFMT in numerous performances with Music of the Baroque in addition to a solo recital on the network’s series, “Live from WFMT,” and has appeared on PBS across the United States in A Renaissance Christmas.
Born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, Mr. Belongie is a graduate of San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship, and the Vocal Honors Program at Northwestern University. In addition to being a two-time national semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he was the first place winner of the Igor Gorin Memorial Award, the recipient of a career grant from the Metropolitan Opera, a Shouse Career Grant from Wolf Trap Opera, two Richard F. Gold Career Grants from the Shoshana Foundation, and the Lola Fletcher Award from the American Opera Society of Chicago.
Tenor Ryan Townsend Strand
Ryan Townsend Strand, tenor, is a Minnesota native whose "beautiful vocalism" (San Francisco Chronicle) and "pliant tenor” (Chicago Classical Review) have afforded him an expanding career as a concert and oratorio soloist. Strand most recently was a featured soloist with Apollo Chorus performing Bach’s Johannes-Passion with the Elmhurst Symphony. Along with being thrilled to return to Bach Cantata Vespers in River Forest, highlights of the 2021-2022 season include Bach's, Wally Gunn's The Ascendant with the William Ferris Chorale, and Kevin Puts' To Touch The Sky with La Caccina & Constellation Men's Ensemble.
Strand made his professional Chicago opera debut in Haymarket Opera Theater’s production of Alessandro Scarlatti’s Gli equivoci nel sembiante (Armindo). In the fall of 2020, he premiered Acis & Galatea in HD (Chorus, Acis Cover) with Haymarket Opera as part of “a sparkling group of singers,” (Hyde Park Herald). He will return to Haymarket for their production of L’incoronazione di Poppea in September 2022 as the Primo Soldato. Other operatic productions include Handel’s Beauty’s Truth (Pleasure) & Così fan tutte (Ferrando) with Transgressive Theater-Opera & Elmhurst Symphony; Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Laurie), Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (Nero), and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath (Al Joad) with Northwestern Opera Theater. With Chicago Opera Theater, Strand most recently performed Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick and has sung other chorus roles in productions of Philip Glass’ The Perfect American, Mozart’s Lucio Silla, and Bloch’s Macbeth. He would have made his onstage debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago in Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung prior to COVID-19.
Strand has sung with the Grammy award-winning contemporary vocal ensemble The Crossing in Philadelphia under the direction of Donald Nally. Locally, he performs with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Music of the Baroque, Stare at the Sun, Bella Voce, William Ferris Chorale, and the Grant Park Festival Chorus. Strand is a founding member and executive director of Constellation Men’s Ensemble in Chicago.
Baritone Bill McMurray
With more than forty operatic roles to his credit, baritone Bill McMurray continues to have success across the country with such noted roles as “Figaro” in Il baribiere di Sivigila, “Count Almaviva” in Le nozze di Figaro, “Marcello” in La Boheme and “Escamillo” in Carmen. He has sung with noted companies such as Florida Grand Opera, Opera North, Knoxville Opera, Mobile Opera, Lyric Opera Chicago, Skylight Music Theater and Opera Carolina. He has been seen in several productions with Chicago Opera Theater, including the Midwest premiere Stefan Weisman's The Scarlet Ibis in 2018. For the 21-22 season he debuted with Opera San Antonio in their production of Rigoletto. The 22-23 season will have him returning to Chicago Opera Theater to sing the role of “The Vicar” in Benjamin Britten's opera Albert Herring. He will also be the baritone soloist with the Illinois Philharmonic in two productions, a Porgy and Bess concert and the Messiah, soloist in the Mozart Requiem with the Chicago Bar Association and will also sing the baritone solo in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with South Bend Symphony Orchestra.
As a concert soloist Bill has found success in works such as Mendelssohn's Elijah and Handel's The Messiah, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs, Aaron Copland's Old American Songs and the Faure Requiem. In the summer of 2017 he was the bass soloist in the final movement of Haydn's The Creation at the Ravinia Festival, under the baton of James Levine, former Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera. He recently sang the baritone solos in Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time with the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Other orchestral appearances include the New Philharmonic Orchestra, the Elmhurst Orchestra and Choral Society, Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Civic Orchestra, Skokie Valley Symphony, Chicago Arts Orchestra, New Millennium Orchestra and the Waukegan Symphony. Recently, Bill won his first Grammy award as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.