The Worcester Chorus, under the sponsorship of Music Worcester Inc., has the unique distinction of being one of the most outstanding ongoing choral groups in the United States, having been founded in 1858 for the purpose of performing in the first annual Worcester Music Festival, held in the newly built Mechanics Hall.
During its 152 seasons, the Chorus has performed with a variety of symphony orchestras, including appearances with the Prague Symphony in Carnegie Hall (1985), the Hartford Symphony (1994), a performance of the Verdi Requiem with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (2006), and several collaborations with the distinguished Arcadia Players, a period instrument ensemble.
Christopher Shepard, Conductor
Founding conductor of the Sydneian Bach Choir and Orchestra from 2001 to 2008, Chris Shepard was the music director of BACH 2010, a project to perform all of Bach’s choral cantatas. Under his direction, the ensemble performed over seventy-five cantatas, as well as the two Passions, B Minor Mass, and Christmas Oratorio. A Sydney reviewer wrote of the cantata series that “these well-attended events, using a fine choir and perceptive soloists, are high points in our musical terrain.” Resident in Sydney for over a decade, Chris also served as Director of Music at Sydney Grammar School, one of Australia’s most prominent high schools.
Before moving to Sydney, Chris led the choral program at the Taft School in Connecticut, where his Collegium Musicum appeared at the 1994 ACDA Eastern Division convention. While teaching at Taft, he conducted many choirs and orchestras in Connecticut, including the Greater Middletown Chorale and Waterbury Chorale. The Litchfield County Children’s Choir, which he founded in 1990, continues to thrive after nearly two decades. Since 2004, Chris has served as Music Director of the Hotchkiss Summer Portals Chamber Music Program, an intensive chamber music program for advanced young players and singers from around the world. He conducts the chamber orchestra and choir, serving on the faculty alongside such guest ensembles as the Tokyo String Quartet, the Shanghai Quartet and the Philadelphia Singers. In February 2009, Chris was guest conductor at Emmanuel Church in Boston, a church renowned for its three-decade Bach cantata project.
Apart from his work with the music of J.S. Bach, Chris has conducted a number of major choral-orchestral works, including Brahms’ German Requiem, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Orff’s Carmina Burana, the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass, Britten’s Saint Nicolas, Mozart’s Requiem and C Minor Mass, Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, the Fauré Requiem, and Monteverdi’s Vespers. With SBS-TV, one of Australia’s two national public television networks, Chris presented two documentaries, on Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and From Mozart to Morrison with eminent Australian jazz musician James Morrison. He has commissioned new works from many composers, including Gwyneth Walker, Erik Nielsen, Amy Bernon, Richard Charlton, Anna Jacobs and Daniel Rojas.
A committed educator for more than two decades, Chris taught the conducting course in the New South Wales Kodály Institute for more than a decade, and presented workshops and lectures for a number of key music organisations in Australia. He has also given presentations for the American Choral Directors’ Association and has conducted several high school regional festival choirs in New England. In 2000, Chris was chorusmaster with the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs for their performance in the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Christopher Shepard holds a bachelor degree from the Hartt School and a master's degree from the Yale School of Music, where he studied choral conducting with Marguerite Brooks. In 2013, he received his PhD. in Musicology from the University of Sydney, researching the performance history of Bach's B Minor Mass in 20th Century America. Chris has recently been announced the winner of the American Choral Directors Association's 2012 Julius Herford Dissertation Prize for his dissertation "Evolution and Revolution: J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor, BWV232 in New York City, 1900-1980."
Sima Kustanovich is one of the Northeast’s most sought after pianists. Hailed by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette for the “extraordinary intensity and brilliance of her playing,” she concertizes in some of the most acclaimed international venues, including France’s Courchevel Chamber Music Festival, Toronto’s Royal Conservatory Chamber Music Series, Sweden’s St. Jacob’s Cathedral, and major cities of Russia, Italy and Estonia. In 1990 she was the recipient of a rare invitation to perform on Steinway & Sons 500,000th piano that toured the United States from coast to coast.
Through mastery of the keyboard repertoire equipped Ms. Kustanovich with a richly varied career. Cited as the “consummate musician” (Worcester Telegram), she is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, collaborating with such ensembles as the Borodin String Quartet. She received a Masters in Music from the St. Petersburg Conservatory; she then joined its faculty and accepted a coveted appointment to the famed Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater, working intensively with such luminaries as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova.
A recipient of the Telegram & Gazette’s 1995 prestigious Visions 2000 Cultural Enrichment Award, Ms. Kustanovich has won many grants and commendations for community contributions as performer and program administrator. An esteemed teacher, she is on the faculties at Clark University and the Walnut Hill School for Performing Arts. She is Co-Founder/Administrator if the Commonwealth Competition for Young Pianists, Music Director of Brown Bags for Kids at Mechanics Hall, and Founder/Director of the Neighborhood Music Program sponsored by Clark University.