2013 Competition

The first Handel Aria Competition took place on July 8, 2013 in Mills Concert Hall as part of the Madison Early Music Festival.   The event featured eight finalists selected in a national search that attracted almost 50 singers.

The singers were accompanied by John Chappell Stowe and Ian Pritchard on harpsichord.  Judges for the first Handel Aria Competition were John Barker, Ellen Hargis and William Hudson

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 by Dean and Carol “Orange” Schroeder, enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel. The purpose of the competition is to encourage emerging singers of all voice types to explore the repertoire of Handel. This year’s entrants included singers from across the US and Canada.  In addition to cash prizes to the top three winners, the audience favorite will receive free tuition to the Madison Early Music Festival.

We invite you to watch videos from the 2013 competition on our YouTube channel.


Prizewinners for the 2013 Handel Aria Competition included (from left to right) Alison Wahl, second prize, Elisa Sutherland, first prize, and Winnie Nieh, third prize and audience favorite.

HAC 2013 winners


sutherland-elisa-headshot-small      Elisa Sutherland loves singing early and new music. She frequently performs with professional ensembles on the East Coast and across the United States, including The Crossing, The Thirteen, Roomful of Teeth, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Ekmeles, and American Bach Soloists. Recent solo performances include Handel’s Messiah in Chicago and DC, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri in Philadelphia and New York, Pärt’s Passio in DC, and Dido in Dido and Aeneas in Brooklyn.  elisasutherland.com

Alison WahlAlison Wahl was seen as Clori in Clori, Tirsi, e Fileno (Haymarket Opera), Pamina in The Magic Flute (NU Opera Studio), La Musique in Les Arts Florissants (Baroque Music Ensemble), and as a soloist with the Contemporary Music Ensemble. She sings with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, the North Shore Choral Society, Music of the Baroque, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. She was the winner of the 2011 Chicago Council auditions of NATS, and was a Studio Artist with Opera North. Alison received an Encouragement Award in the 2012 Met Auditions, won the Farwell-Trust Award in the Musicians Club of Women, and was a Young Artist at the Ravinia Steans Program. She graduated summa cum laude from Amherst College and is a recipient of the Edward Poole Lay Fellowship and Eckstein Scholarship. Alison holds a Masters of Music from Northwestern University and studies with Pamela Hinchman. alisonwahl.com

Winnie NiehWinnie Nieh, soprano, made her European solo debut under Maestro Helmuth Rilling’s baton
in Bach’s Cantata BWV 147 at the 2012 Musikfest Stuttgart. She was recently invited by the Metropolitan Opera Guild to perform at Dawn Upshaw’s masterclass, and this summer she will be working with Julianne Baird and Drew Minter at the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College. Her past engagements include Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria, works by Monteverdi and Schütz, Bach’s St. John Passion, Mass in B Minor and Magnificat, Eve in Die Schöpfung and Amor in Orfeo ed Euridice. An all-round musician with perfect pitch, she received Associate of Trinity College London diplomas in voice, violin and piano, and her B.A. with a Language Citation in French from Harvard University. She won First Place in the 2012 St. Andrews Arts Council International Aria Competition and is currently a Resident Artist with Opera Company of Brooklyn. www.winnienieh.com


Saira FrankSoprano Saira Frank, avid recitalist and concert performer, is a familiar name among Wisconsin opera companies. This summer Frank will perform with the Florentine Opera in concerts at the Wilson Center, Marcus Center, and Milwaukee’s Festa Italiana. Following up her Madison Opera debut in Galileo Galilei as Duchess Christina, Frank will again join the company for Dead Man Walking in 2014. A favorite of Madison’s Opera for the Young, Frank has performed their last six productions, as well as the first three of Madison’s new, unconventional opera company, Fresco Opera. Frank earned her MM in opera from UW-Madison and holds degrees in vocal performance and French from Northwestern University. Other roles in Frank’s repertory include Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, the title roles in The Merry Widow and Alcina, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, and Armidoro in La Buona Figliuola. Frank teaches voice and performs faculty performs faculty recitals at Carroll Academy in Waukesha. sairafrank.com

blake-morgan-2016    Tenor Blake Morgan is from Kalamazoo, MI. Blake completely his undergraduate studies in Vocal Performance and Choral Music Education at Western Michigan University. He joined the acclaimed American a cappella groups Cantus and then Chanticleer before going to England to sing with ensemble VOCES8.  Blake also maintains a presence as an up-and-coming folk artist and composer. In 2012, Blake’s compositions received an award in Downbeat Magazine.  Blake was invited to sing with Yale’s Norfolk Chamber Chorus under the baton of Simon Carrington, founder of the King’s Singers. Blake’s musical talents have taken him to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Central Europe, and even Alaska!  Blake is an accomplished studio musician and has released over five CD’s of original music; his voice can be heard in various recordings promoted on youtube, itunes, andhalleaonard.com.  Blake Morgan

Chelsea MorrisPraised for her “crystal clear, lyric soprano voice,” Chelsea Shephard recently charmed Chicago audiences as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and as Feodora in The Circus Princess by Emmerich Kalman. Ms. Morris’s operatic repertoire also includes Emily Webb/Our Town, title role/L’incoronazione di Poppea, Lauretta/Gianni Schicchi, Anne Sexton/Transformations, and title role/The Fairy Queen. In concert, Ms. Morris has appeared with the Madison Bach Musicians, Chicago Bach Ensemble, and Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. In addition to winning First Place in The Schubert Club, the Michigan native has received awards from the Bel Canto Foundation and the National Opera Association. Ms. Morris holds a Bachelor of Music, summa cum laude, from DePaul University and a Master of Music from Rice University.  In 2013, the rising soprano will bring two more Mozart heroines to the stage: Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Candid Concert Opera) and Despina in Cosi fan tutte (Petite Opera Productions).  www.chelseamorris.com


Caitlin ShirleyNoted for her colorful light lyric soprano and vivacious stage presence, Caitlin Shirley is emerging as a standout in the Chicago classical music scene and nationally.  During the 2012-13 season, she appears with Music of the Baroque, the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Soli Deo Gloria’s Chicago Bach Project, and the Grant Park Music Festival Chorus.  Recent projects include the role of Adina in ‘L’elisir d’amore’ with the “Opera Up Close” series of Governors State University, the role of Uxor Pilati in the ‘St. Matthew Passion’ with the Chicago Bach Project, and numerous chorus engagements with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  A graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Caitlin has participated in the Young Artist Programs of Ash Lawn Opera and Sugar Creek Symphony & Song.  Her numerous competition successes include two Encouragement Awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council. caitlinshirley.net


Jonathan Ten BrinkJonathan Ten Brink is an exciting Bass-Baritone active in opera, oratorio, and chamber music. His “big voice” that “rumbles like foghorns” (Pioneer Press) is regarded as “rich” (Madison Magazine), “heartwarming” (Examiner), and “possessing considerable agility (Grand Rapids Press).

His recent opera credits include singing “Belcore” in L’elisir d’amore; “Tarquinius” in The Rape of Lucretia, and “Alfesibeo” in the North American Premier of Gli more d’Apollo e di Daphne under the musical direction of Paul O’Dette. On the concert stage he has performed with The Minnesota Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival, Exultate, and Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in works including Handel’s Esther, Bach’s Matthäus-Passion as ariaist and Jesus, Elijah, and Carmina Burana. He is also a frequent collaborator in chamber works with The Rose Ensemble, Glorious Revolution Baroque, and Oratory.  He holds a BA in voice from Calvin College, MM from Bowling Green State University, and a DMA from the University of Minnesota.  jonathantenbrink.com



BarkakatyHeadshot3_jpgBiraj Barkakaty, countertenor.  Recent engagements have included Pangar in 3 Weeks the Opera (October 2012), the Child in the World Premiere of Sweet Dreams with Empire Opera, Oberon with the Aspen Music Festival in 2011 and Polinesso in Handel’s Ariodante for the Hub Opera Ensemble in November 2010.  Opera credits include Tolomeo with Bel Cantanti Opera (2009), Oberon with the International Vocal Arts Insititute in Tel Aviv (2009) and Opera Minima in the UK (2005), Joachim in Handel’s Susanna with the Manhattan School of Music (2008), the title in role in the US premiere of Handel’s Silla at the Bay Area Opera Institute (2007), Athamas with British Youth Opera (2004), Ottone with Trinity College of Music (2002).  He has collaborated with many notable early music specialists in Masterclasses and performances including Daniel Taylor, Drew Minter, Julianne Baird, James Bowman, and Stephen Stubbs at the Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera in 2008. He was also a member of the noted Early Music Ensemble ARTEK during their 2008-09 season.  www.birajbarkakaty.com



For the 2013 Handel Aria Competition we were honored to work with John Chappel Stowe and Ian Pritchard.

John Chappell Stowe (AAGO, ChM) is Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. During the 1993-94 academic year, he was Visiting Associate Professor of Organ at the University of Iowa. Before moving to Wisconsin, he was Professor of Organ and Church Music at Houghton College, Houghton, NY. He graduated from Southern Methodist University and Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Robert Anderson and Russell Saunders. Dr. Stowe holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School and was the first-place winner in 1978 of the National Open Organ Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists.

In his appearances throughout the United States as a solo organist, Dr. Stowe’s recital repertoire includes a wide variety of literature extending from 1550 to the present day. His programming reflects both strong commitment to contemporary music and dedication to great repertoire of past generations.

Since joining the faculty at UW-Madison, Dr. Stowe has held the posts of Associate Director of the School of Music (1990-93) and Director of Graduate Studies (1996-99, 2005-06). From 1998 to 2004, he served the American Guild of Organists as National Vice President. In addition to organ and harpsichord, his instructional activities currently include improvisation, continuo playing, organ design and literature, and coaching the UW-Madison Early Music Ensemble.

Dr. Stowe has pursued study of Italian organ repertoire with Stefano Innocenti, Umberto Pineschi, and Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, focusing in particular on music of Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, Frescobaldi, and Michelangelo Rossi. He is active throughout the United States in presenting workshops and master classes on topics such as performance practice, church music, and organ literature. His interests include performance techniques of keyboard music of all periods, with emphasis on early Italian and 20th-century music. With John Aley, trumpet, he has recorded Windows of Petr Eben on the T.O.G. label. On his solo CD (Ethereal Recordings) Dr. Stowe performs on the 1863 Wadsworth-Taylor organ at St. James Church in Madison, Wisconsin.


Ian Pritchard has been playing the harpsichord since the age of 13, beginning studies with Susanne Shapiro in his native Los Angeles. He earned his BMus in harpsichord performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Ohio, where he studied with Lisa Crawford.  In 2000 he moved to London to study with the late John Toll at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with Distinction and earning the DipRAM for an exceptional final recital.  He later continued studies on organ and harpsichord with James Johnstone. Being a dual national citizen between the USA and Britain, he had the opportunity to live in Europe until 2007, performing with groups such as Florilegium,  the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,  the Orquesta Nacional de España, and the Irish Baroque Orchestra, and as a chamber musician with Monica Huggett, Rachel Podger, and Peter Holtslag, among others.   With Florilegium he has toured in Cyprus, South America, and throughout Europe. He has appeared frequently on BBC Radio 3 and on the BBC 2 production Vivaldi Unmasked.

Ian won 1st Prize in the 2001 Broadwood Harpsichord Competition and was a prizewinner in the 2003 1stInternational Harpsichord Competition P. Bernardi in Bologna, Italy. In the same year, he was awarded a US Fulbright Scholarship to Italy to research early Italian keyboard music and to study organ and harpsichord with Andrea Marcon and organ with Liuwe Tamminga.  He is currently a PhD candidate in Historical Musicology at USC, where he plans to write his dissertation on Italian keyboard music, notation, and performance practice in the 16th century.  His first solo CD, L’Arpicordo, was released in 2011.


John W. Barker is an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He specializes in medieval history and is a popular lecturer on opera and early music. He is an active music critic, journalist, and author. He currently hosts the weekly WORT FM program entitled “Musica Antiqua.” He regularly reviews performances of classical music for Isthmus and recordings for The American Record Guide.

Highly sought after as a specialist in historical performance, tenorWilliam Hudson has been described as “positively hypnotic” by Gramophone magazine.  An accomplished ensemble singer, Mr. Hudson has performed with many of the nation’s leading early music ensembles including the Boston Early Music Festival Opera, The New York Collegium, The Waverly Consort, The Rose Ensemble, Boston Bach Ensemble, and Ensemble Project Ars Nova (PAN).  As a founding member and director of LIBER: Ensemble for Early Music (formerly Liber unUsualis), he has performed extensively throughout North America and abroad at international music festivals in England, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France, Latvia, Estonia, and Spain.

An active scholar and clinician, Mr. Hudson was the winner of the 2009 Noah Greenberg award and has presented at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. He has led master-classes and given lecture-demonstrations in medieval performance practice at universities throughout North America.  He has recorded with Naxos, Passacaille, Arsis, Titanic, and Dorian.  Mr. Hudson holds a Master’s degree in Historical Performance from the Longy School of Music and a Doctor of Music in Early Music Vocal Performance from Indiana University with minors in Music History and Vocal Pedagogy.  He teaches studio voice and diction at Illinois Wesleyan University.


Ellen Hargis is one of America’s premier early music singers, specializing in repertoire ranging from ballads to opera and oratorio. She has worked with many of the foremost period music conductors of the world, including Andrew Parrott, Gustav Leonhardt, Daniel Harding, Paul Goodwin, John Scott, Monica Huggett, Jane Glover, Nicholas Kraemer, Harry Bickett, Simon Preston, Paul Hillier, Craig Smith, and Jeffery Thomas. She has performed with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Virginia Symphony, Washington Choral Arts Society, Long Beach Opera, CBC Radio Orchestra, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Tragicomedia, The Mozartean Players, Fretwork, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Emmanuel Music and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Ellen Hargis has performed at many of the world’s leading festivals including the Adelaide Festival (Australia), Utrecht Festival (Holland), Resonanzen Festival (Vienna), Tanglewood, the New Music America Festival, Festival Vancouver, the Berkeley Festival (California), and is a frequent guest at the Boston Early Music Festival.

Ellen Hargis teaches voice at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and is Artist-in-Residence with the Newberry Consort at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.