Our next Main Series concert features two soloists, Helena Brown and Edward J. Tipton, as well as the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut conducted by Carole Ann Maxwell.
Lauded as having a "stunningly large round sound," as well as a “steely, velvety” timbre, American dramatic soprano Helena Brown is quickly distinguishing herself as a force of nature for the international stages. She was recently awarded the Sergio Franchi Award in the Deborah Voigt/Vero Beach Opera Competition, Second Place in the Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera Vocal Competition, as well as awards from the Cooper-Bing, Opera at Florham, Opera Birmingham, and Opera Ebony Benjamin Matthews vocal competitions. Helena additionally received grants from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Giulio Gari Foundation, and Encouragement Grants from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Philadelphia, Jensen Foundation, the Wagner Society of New York, and the MetroWest Opera Vocal Competition in Boston. Helena was a member of Sarasota Opera for their 2017 winter season as a Studio Artist, covering the role of Madame Lidoine (New Prioress) in the Dialogues of the Carmelites. That summer, she returned to the Glimmerglass Festival to sing Isabella in the American premiere of The Siege of Calais and covered Serena in Porgy and Bess. In 2018, Helena made her role debuts as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Rioja Lirica/DIVAria Productions and Sieglinde in Die Walküre with Miami Wagner Institute.
Formerly a mezzo-soprano, Helena was a young artist at the 2016 Glimmerglass Festival where she performed Rebecca Nurse and covered Tituba under the baton of Nicole Paiement in Francesca Zambello’s acclaimed production of The Crucible. She made her European debut as Serena and Strawberry Woman in Porgy & Bess with New York Harlem Productions, appearing in theaters such as Grand Théâtre de Genève, Chassé Theater, and Amsterdam RAI. Additionally, Helena appeared with Minnesota Opera, performing Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos; portrayed Bloody Mary in South Pacific at Opera Roanoke; sang Addie in Regina and Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring at Bronx Opera; covered Mama McCourt in Ballad of Baby Doe with Chautauqua Opera; and covered Grandmother Buryjovka in Jenůfa with Des Moines Metro Opera, where she also appeared in scenes concerts as Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Martha in Faust, and Filippyevna in Eugene Onegin.
As a Masters student at Manhattan School of Music, Helena Brown performed the roles of the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel, Klementia in Hindemith’s Sancta Susanna, Madame Halitiere in Cendrillon, Queen Jezebel and Angel in Elijah, and in Mignon Dunn’s beloved scenes program, played Martha in Faust, Leonora in La Favorita, and Erste Magd in Elektra. She also appeared at the Crittenden Opera Festival as La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and Marcellina in scenes from Le Nozze di Figaro.
No stranger to contemporary music, Helena has premiered compositions as well as principal roles in opera and theater. Recently, she collaborated with Rebecca Erin Smith in the premiere of Feast for Pierrot ensemble at Manhattan School of Music. Helena also performed the actor-singer role of Mother in Bellocq’s Ophelia, written by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, which was presented in festival at the Kennedy Center.
Helena holds a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Music, Summa Cum Laude, from Hollins University where she also studied arts management and theatre.
Edward “Ned” Tipton began his musical studies at the age of four, and gave his first recital at the age of six. He soon took up the violin, organ, trumpet, oboe, and flute. His first post as church organist was at the age of fourteen in his native Asheville, North Carolina, where he was a student of Marilyn Keiser and William Dan Hardin. As a winner of a Rotary International Foundation Scholarship for the school year 1979-1980, he continued his piano studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris, as a student of Jules Gentil. He received his BM in Piano and his MM in Choral Conducting from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio. His studies of the organ works of Maurice Duruflé were with the wife of the composer, Marie-Madeline Duruflé-Chevalier.
From 1989 until 2010 he served as Canon for Music and Organist-Choirmaster of the American Cathedral in Paris. He was Artistic Director of Les Arts George V, the American Cathedral’s not-for-profit arts association. In 1994 he co-founded the Paris Choral Society, and under his 16-year tenure as Music Director and Conductor the “PCS” performed an impressive number of the major works for symphonic chorus and orchestra (among which were the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony, the Verdi Requiem, and the complete choral works of Maurice Duruflé during the centenary year of the composer’s birth, 2002.). He served as Canon for Music Ministry and Cathedral Arts, at St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles, from 2010 until 2017. He remains a permanent member of the International Steering Committee of the Association Maurice et Marie-Madeleine Duruflé. A resident of Atlanta from 1986 until late 1989, he was Assistant Administrator and Interim Director of the Robert Shaw Institute at Emory University, and rehearsal assistant for and a member of the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Chamber Chorus.
Tipton, who maintains an active international career as an organist, was a featured recitalist of the 2009 conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians in Los Angeles. In June of 2015 he was named one of six Honorary Canons of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul (the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles) by Bishop J. Jon Bruno. In September of 2017 he performed Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani with the National Symphony of Costa Rica, under the baton of Maestro John Nelson. Future recitals include Trinity Episcopal Church in Asheville, and St. Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta.
The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut (MCC) was founded in 1984 by alumni of the Fairfield University Chamber Singers who wished to continue their musical association with Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell. Under Dr. Maxwell’s leadership, the Choir has performed a wide range of repertoire in New England, New York, and many European capitals. The Choir’s renditions of the world’s greatest choral masterpieces have earned it a reputation as one of the leading vocal ensembles of the region. Its diverse programming reflects an extensive repertoire from all periods and genres – from classical to contemporary and from opera to theater, film, and pop. The MCC embraces a mission of developing and promoting the choral arts – a mission that begins with the training of its own members and reaches out to the entire community of Fairfield County.
The Choir’s repertory has included Bach’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Meeresstille und gluckliche Fahrt, Schubert’s Miriam’s Siegesgesang, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Brahm’s Alto Rhapsody and Liebeslieder Waltzes, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony and Toward the Unknown Region, Honegger’s King David, Orff’s Carmina Burana and Citulli Carmina, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, and the Stabat Mater and the Armed Man Mass of Karl Jenkins. The MCC has performed Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, Faure, Durufle, and Rutter, as well as American songbook entries from Gershwin, Sondheim, and many others and film score chorales by John Williams and Patrick Doyle. Opera in concert has been a recurring feature, including performances of Verdi’s Aida, Bizet’s Carmen, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
Over the years, the MCC has been honored to present the world premieres of The Child in Us All and the Prologue from North and South, by Tony Award winner Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz’s Academy Award-winning song “When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, and “Chief Seattle” by Gregg Smith. In celebration of its Silver Anniversary, the Choir commissioned a work by Randal Alan Bass, O Divine Music, which it premiered in May 2010. That same year MCC also introduced Connecticut composer Edward Thompson’s What the Ivy Said to the Fallen Snow. In 2014 the Choir premiered Child of War by Jin Hi Kim, a setting of texts by the Vietnamese peace activist Kim Phuc.
The Choir has performed regularly with the symphony orchestras of Bridgeport, Norwalk, Wallingford, and New Haven. The ensemble has appeared several times in Carnegie Hall under the auspices of both Distinguished Choirs International and Mid-America Productions. In addition to a memorable performance at the 2006 National Pastoral Musician’s Conference in Norwalk, the Choir has also sung to enthusiastic audiences in Rome, Florence, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Galway and Dublin.
Beyond its artistic achievements, the MCC plays an important civic role through its local outreach programs, notably its Mendelssingers ensemble. The Mendelssingers regularly perform in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities and at various community events to bring the wonder and awe of live choral music to the broadest spectrum of the Connecticut public. The Choir receives support from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, the Carstenson Foundation, and many generous corporations, businesses and individuals throughout Fairfield County.
One of America’s preeminent conductors of collegiate, community and professional choral ensembles, Carole Ann Maxwell, DSM, has been the Director of Choral Activities at Fairfield University since 1980. She is also the Founding Artistic Director and Conductor of The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut. In these and all her affiliations, Dr. Maxwell continuously strives for choral excellence through the total commitment and magnificent voices of thousands of gifted singers who gladly audition and travel great distances for the opportunity to work with her.
Noted for immense energy, consummate professionalism and complete dedication to the choral arts, Dr. Maxwell’s mission is to inspire and challenge each singer’s musical potential. Combining her talent with a wonderful sense of humor has set Dr. Maxwell aside from other conductors, making her extremely unique, and placing her in great demand. Her distinctive style and artistic leadership have produced critically acclaimed results from podiums throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. In addition, Dr. Maxwell is a favorite Chorus Master for area orchestras and is a member of the Board of The Fairfield County Children’s Choir.
Dr. Maxwell has been recognized for her artistic achievements with numerous awards. In 1992, Immaculata College presented Dr. Maxwell with the prestigious “Distinguished Music Alumna” award. The National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda, honored her with membership citing her excellence and outstanding contributions in the field of choral music. The Connecticut Post named Dr. Maxwell a recipient of the “Woman of Substance” Award, celebrating outstanding women of the region, and Oxford Health Care honored her with its Humancare Award for her exceptional efforts in the community. In 2000, Dr. Maxwell was named “Woman of the Year” by Fairfield University Women’s Studies Program and is the 2016 recipient of the Fairfield University Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award. Dr. Maxwell has been named to the National Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu.