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Local Events

Ad Astra Music Festival Held July 12-28

2019 Ad Astra Music Festival LogoEach July, the Ad Astra Music Festival, founded by Russell native Alex Underwood, colors central Kansas with classical music by integrating emerging young artists, community members, and professional musicians. Audiences have come to expect fresh, new music alongside vibrant performances of history's richest musical works of art.

The festival's young artists Christina Han, Grace Volker, Bo Shimmin and Jacob Lay sing songs exploring the American Civil War. This main stage concert will take place from 7:30-8:30 p.m on July 19 at Trinity United Methodist Church (221 North Maple Street in Russell). Works by Jennifer Higdon, Richard Danielpour and C. Curtis-Smith feature soldier camp songs, the words of the preeminent American poet Walt Whitman and a speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln.

In Proving Up, a 2017 opera by critically acclaimed composer Missy Mazzoli, a Nebraska family struggles to acquire land through the Homestead Act of 1862. Sasha Hildebrand is the stage director, Austin McWilliams is the music director and a cast of Gregorio Taniguchi, Dominic Aragon, Aani Bourassa, Courtney Evans, Alyssa Toepfer and Gabe McGuire endeavor to perform this challenging work alongside a chamber ensemble on July 20 from 7:30-8:45 p.m. at LaSada Lodge (3721 183rd St, Russell, KS 67665).

In a collaboration with Russell artist Dustin Poché, house mezzo Katelyn Mattson-Levy explores four archetypes of women: maid, mother, crone and enchantress, featuring music from Amy Beach, Florence Price, Ellen Mandel, Lori Laitman, Ethel Smyth and Rebecca Clarke. This concert entitled Feminine Experiences will be from 2:00-3:00 p.m. on July 21 at the Deines Cultural Center in Russell. Katelyn will be joined by Victoria-native Matthew Piatt, now assistant director for Chicago Lyric Opera and San Francisco Opera, on piano.

Next to be featured is an a cappella group formed by students at Northern Arizona University. Unaccompanied is a nationally recognized a cappella and vocal jazz group whose original arrangements fuse popular stylings with sophisticated jazz harmonies. From the tradition that brought the film Pitch Perfect and the popularity of the Pentatonix, Unaccompanied delivers its music with a sleek vibrancy. In fact, a few members of Unaccompanied have been featured on Pentatonix recordings. This event will take place from 7:30-8:30 p.m. on July 26 at the Deines Cultural Center.

The festival is returning to its tradition of producing a semi-staged oratorio with a performance of Theodora from 7:30-9:00 p.m. on July 27 at Trinity United Methodist Church. This tragic love story centers around Christian martyr Theodora and her converted lover Didymus. Often disliked in Handel's day, the work is now a favorite in part thanks to a brilliant 1996 production by Peter Sellars. Artistic director Alex Underwood will conduct this performance, Sasha Hildebrand is the stage director, and the cast includes Madeline Healey, Tim Parsons, Gregorio Taniguchi, Katelyn Mattson-Levy, and the Ad Astra Chamber Choir.

The finale of this year's festival will be held at the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria on July 28 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. The festival's young artists and some of the principles from Handel's Theodora will come together to perform Musikalische Exequien by Heinrich Schütz.

Each ticket for a main stage event will cost $20, and each ticket for a chamber music event will cost $10. Season passes start at $100.

Visit adastramusicfestival.org for more information on this year's events and prices.

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