JEFFREY THOMAS has brought thoughtful, meaningful, and informed perspectives to his performances as Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists for more than 25 years. Recognized worldwide as one of the foremost interpreters of the music of Bach and the Baroque, he continues to inspire audiences and performers alike through his keen insights into the passions behind musical expression. He has directed and conducted recordings of more than 20 cantatas, the Mass in B Minor, Brandenburg Concertos, St. Matthew Passion, various concertos, and works by Schütz, Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Beethoven. Fanfare Magazine has praised his series of Bach recordings, stating that “Thomas’ direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music…there is no higher praise for Bach performance.” Before devoting all of his time to conducting, he was one of the first recipients of the San Francisco Opera Company’s prestigious Adler Fellowships. Cited by The Wall Street Journal as “a superstar among oratorio tenors,” Mr. Thomas’ extensive discography of vocal music includes dozens of recordings of major works for Decca, EMI, Erato, Koch International Classics, Denon, Harmonia Mundi, Smithsonian, Newport Classics, and Arabesque. Mr. Thomas has appeared with the Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Detroit, Houston, National, Rochester, Minnesota, and San Francisco symphony orchestras; with the Vienna Symphony and the New Japan Philharmonic; with virtually every American Baroque orchestra; and in Austria, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. He has performed at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Spoleto USA Festival, Ravinia Festival, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, Boston Early Music Festival, Bethlehem Bach Festival, Göttingen Festival, Tage Alte Musik Festival in Regensburg, E. Nakamichi Baroque Festival in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Institution, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave Festival,” and he has collaborated on several occasions as conductor with the Mark Morris Dance Group.
Educated at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music, with further studies in English literature at Cambridge University, he has taught at the Amherst Early Music Workshop, Oberlin College Conservatory Baroque Performance Institute, San Francisco Early Music Society, and Southern Utah Early Music Workshops, presented master classes at the Eastman School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, SUNY at Buffalo, Swarthmore College, and Washington University, been on the faculty of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and was artist-in-residence at the University of California, where he is now professor of music (Barbara K. Jackson Chair in Choral Conducting) and director of choral ensembles in the Department of Music at UC Davis. He was a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellow from 2001 to 2006; and the Rockefeller Foundation awarded him a prestigious Residency at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center at Villa Serbelloni for April 2007, to work on his manuscript, “Handel’s Messiah: A Life of Its Own.” Mr. Thomas serves on the board of Early Music America and hosts two public radio programs on Classical KDFC.
MARY WILSON (soprano) is acknowledged as one of today’s most exciting artists. Cultivating a wide-ranging career singing chamber music, oratorio and operatic repertoire, her “bright soprano seems to know no terrors, wrapping itself seductively around every phrase” (Dallas Morning News). Receiving consistent critical acclaim from coast to coast, “she proves why many in the opera world are heralding her as an emerging star. She is simply amazing, with a voice that induces goose bumps and a stage presence that is mesmerizing. She literally stole the spotlight…” (Arizona Daily Star). In high demand on the concert stage, she has most recently appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Detroit Symphony, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Jacksonville Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, VocalEssence, and at the Hollywood Bowl. She has worked with conductors including Jeffrey Thomas, Bernard Labadie, Martin Pearlman, Martin Haselböck, JoAnn Falletta, Nicholas McGegan, Michael Stern, Anton Armstrong, Philip Brunelle, and Leonard Slatkin. An exciting interpreter of Baroque repertoire, especially Handel, she has appeared with American Bach Soloists, Boston Baroque, Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Bach Society of St. Louis, Musica Angelica, Baltimore Handel Choir, Florida Bach Festival, Philharmonia Baroque, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Casals Festival, and the Carmel Bach Festival. With the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, she sang the world premiere of the song cycle, Songs Old and New, written especially for her by Ned Rorem. On the opera stage, she is especially noted for her portrayals of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susannah in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Gilda in Rigoletto. She has created leading roles in North American and World premiere performances of Dove’s Flight, Glass’ Galileo Galilei, and Petitgirard’s Joseph Merrick dit L’Elephant Man. She has appeared most recently with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Dayton Opera, Arizona Opera, Tulsa Opera, Mississippi Opera, Southwest Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Goodman Theatre. An accomplished pianist, Ms. Wilson holds performance degrees from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Currently she is on the voice faculty at the University of Memphis and resides in Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband, son, and two dogs.
ERIC JURENAS (countertenor) has been declared by The New York Times as an artist with “beautiful, well-supported tone and compelling expression,” and defined as having a “rich, mature voice” (Third Coast Digest), with “incredible power” (Opus Colorado). He has performed as a featured soloist with The Santa Fe Opera, The Dayton Philharmonic, Opera Philadelphia, Michigan Opera Theatre, American Bach Soloists, Colorado Bach Ensemble, Calvin College Choirs, Kentucky Bach Choir, and the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee, among others. Highlights of 2013-2014 season included performances with American Bach Soloists in Bach’s Magnificat and Handel’s Messiah, and appearances with Juilliard415, New Juilliard Ensemble, and Burlington Choral Society. He recently performed with Michigan Opera Theatre (Handel’s Giulio Cesare) where he was applauded by Opera News for his “performances of admirable gusto.” His Northern California debut was in Handel’s Ariodante at the American Bach Soloists Academy. Mr. Jurenas received his Bachelor’s degree from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School. An avid competitor around the country and the world, Mr. Jurenas has won and received awards from several vocal competitions including a prestigious award from The Sullivan Foundation, first place in the Hal Leonard Online Vocal Competition, and prizes from the Dayton Opera Guild Competition, Kentucky Bach Choir Competition, and the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee Competition.
KYLE STEGALL (tenor) enjoys a career spanning concert, opera, recital, and chamber repertoire. Even in the early stages of his career, he has already appeared as soloist under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas, Simon Carrington, Joseph Flummerfelt, Masaaki Suzuki, Nicholas McGegan, and David Hill among others. He has performed the role of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah and Alexander’s Feast, and Bach’s Mass in B Minor with ensembles such as Juilliard415, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and Yale Symphony Orchestra. He has toured throughout Japan and Singapore as soloist in performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. He has also appeared with the Yale Voxtet in The Peoples Republic of Myanmar before traveling to Suffolk, U.K. to be in residence at the world-renowned Britten-Pears Young Artist Development Programme. The program is part of the Aldeburgh Music Festival, and featured Mr. Stegall with his frequent collaborator Steven McGhee in recitals of the music of Britten and Schubert. At the American Bach Soloists Academy, he performed as soloist in Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Handel’s Esther. A zealous chamber musician and ensemble singer, Mr. Stegall recently made his University Musical Society debut in Ann Arbor, MI in collaboration with pianist Martin Katz singing the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes. He is also a founding member of Prometheus: an American Vocal Consort. On the operatic stage, he has been seen in Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary repertoire. Notable among his roles are Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Laurie in Little Women, Le Chevalier Danois in Gluck’s Armide, and Little Bat in Susannah. Mr. Stegall received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Missouri School of Music in his hometown of Columbia. He then earned his Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and he has most recently completed additional studies at Yale University’s School of Music.
JESSE BLUMBERG (baritone) is equally at home on opera, concert, and recital stages, performing repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque to the 21st century. His performances have included the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath at Minnesota Opera, Agostino Steffani’s 17th-century opera Niobe, Regina di Tebe at the Boston Early Music Festival, Bernstein’s MASS at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and appearances with New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. Recital highlights include appearances with the Marilyn Horne Foundation and New York Festival of Song, and performances of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise with pianist Martin Katz. He has performed major works with American Bach Soloists, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Oratorio Society of New York, Apollo’s Fire, Berkshire Choral Festival, TENET/Green Mountain Project, and on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. Additionally, he has given the world premieres of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Green Sneakers, Lisa Bielawa’s The Lay of the Love and Death, Conrad Cummings’ Positions 1956, and Tom Cipullo’s Excelsior, and has collaborated with several other renowned composers as a member of the Mirror Visions Ensemble. In the 2014-15 season, Mr. Blumberg returns to Boston Early Music Festival in November for Pergolesi chamber operas, and in January for a European concert tour of Niobe, Regina di Tebe. He will also return to American Bach Soloists, Boston Baroque, and Apollo’s Fire, and will make debuts in the spring with Hawaii Opera Theatre and Atlanta Opera. His 2013-14 season included debuts with Kentucky Opera, Opera Omnia, and Boston Baroque, and a return to Minnesota Opera for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Mr. Blumberg’s extraordinary singing has been recognized in several competitions, and he was awarded Third Prize at the 2008 International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau, becoming its first American prizewinner in over thirty years. He received a Master of Music degree from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and received undergraduate degrees in History and Music from the University of Michigan. He is also the founder and artistic director of Five Boroughs Music Festival, which brings chamber music of many genres to every corner of New York City.
The AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS (“ABS”) were founded in 1989 with the mission of introducing contemporary audiences to the cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach through historically informed performances. Under the leadership of co-founder and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, the ensemble has achieved its vision of assembling the world’s finest vocalists and period-instrument performers to bring this brilliant music to life.
For more than two decades, Jeffrey Thomas has brought thoughtful, meaningful, and informed perspectives to his performances as Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists. Recognized worldwide as one of the foremost interpreters of the music of Bach and the Baroque, he continues to inspire audiences and performers alike through his keen insights into the passions behind musical expression. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed that “Thomas’ direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music…there is no higher praise for Bach performance.”
Critical acclaim has been extensive: The Washington Post named ABS “the best American specialists in early music…a flawless ensemble…a level of musical finesse one rarely encounters.” San Francisco Classical Voice declared “there is nothing routine or settled about their work. Jeffrey Thomas is still pushing the musical Baroque envelope.” And the San Francisco Chronicle has extolled the ensemble’s “divinely inspired singing.”
The American Bach Soloists present an annual Subscription Series with performances in Belvedere, Berkeley, Davis, and San Francisco. Their annual holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah—presented each December before capacity audiences since 1992—have become a Bay Area tradition. Each season culminates with the American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy, held every summer in the spectacular facilities of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Components of the Summer Bach Festival include performances of major works, opera, and oratorio from the Baroque; Distinguished Artist Series; Academy-in-Action Concerts; free Lectures and Master Classes; and public Colloquia on a variety of topics. In addition to their regular subscription season, the American Bach Soloists have been presented at some of the world’s leading early music and chamber music festivals, and have appeared across the continent, in Europe, and in Asia.
ABS has been a leader throughout the Bay Area in its commitment to artistic collaborations. Some examples include a collaboration with two San Francisco dance organizations, Xeno and Ultra Gypsy, at The Crucible in Oakland in 2004 and collaborations with the well-known Mark Morris Dance Group in 2004 and 1999. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary Season, ABS presented a spectacular laser show featuring Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks in Grace Cathedral, and in 2012, ABS teamed up with the San Francisco Girls Chorus in a program titled “Vivaldi’s Venice.” During the 2013 ABS Festival & Academy, ABS presented the first North American performance of Heinrich Biber’s 53-part Missa Salisburgensis—the largest-scaled surviving work from the Baroque—with the composer’s full forces and instrumentation. In 2015, the Festival offered the first performances outside of Europe of Marin Marais’ 1709 opera, Sémélé.
The first public concerts were given in February 1990 at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, where the ensemble serves as Artists-in-Residence. The debut of ABS’s first annual summer festival in Tiburon/Belvedere took place in 1993. By the fifth season, regular performances had been inaugurated in San Francisco and Berkeley, and as a result of highly successful collaborations with the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, ABS’s full concert seasons expanded to the Davis/Sacramento region in 2005. As the audience increased, so the artistic direction of the ensemble expanded to include Bach’s purely instrumental and larger choral masterpieces, as well as music of his contemporaries and that of the early Classical era.
In 1998, in conjunction with the Fifth Biennial Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, ABS established the American Bach Soloists & Henry I. Goldberg International Young Artist Competition as a way to foster emerging musicians who wish to pursue a career in early music.
The Chorus of the American Bach Soloists has shone in repertoire from the Baroque and early Classical eras to works by living composers. With the inception of a Choral Series in 2004, these fine singers have been featured on programs exploring over five centuries of choral music. To acknowledge this splendid work, the American Bach Soloists announced in 2006 a new name for their choral ensemble: American Bach Choir. Critics have acclaimed their “sounds of remarkable transparency and body.”
In July 2010, the American Bach Soloists inaugurated North America’s newest annual professional training program in Historically Informed Performance Practice. Drawing on their distinguished roster of performers, the AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS ACADEMY offers unique opportunities to advanced conservatory-level students and emerging professionals to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment. The Academy is held in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s exquisite facilities in the heart of the city’s arts district.
In 2013, to commemorate ABS music director Jeffrey Thomas’s 25-year tenure of inspired leadership, the American Bach Soloists created the Jeffrey Thomas Award to honor, recognize, and encourage exceptionally gifted emerging professionals in the field of Early Music.
The American Bach Soloists have a discography of nineteen titles on the Koch International Classics, Delos International, and American Bach Soloists labels, including six volumes of Bach cantatas, many performed one on a part. The ensemble’s critically acclaimed disc of Bach’s Mass in B Minor has been called a benchmark recording and a “joyous new performance” (The Washington Post).
One of their most popular offerings is an historically significant version of Handel’s Messiah, recorded live during performances in 2004 at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, and released in November 2005 on the Delos International label.
In 2007, ABS’s entire catalogue—Bach’s Mass in B Minor, cantatas, and transcriptions of Italian music, Haydn Masses, choral and vocal works by Schütz, and other works—was re-released on iTunes, Magnatune.com, Amazon, CDBaby, and ABS’s own excellent and resourceful website, which features free streaming audio of most titles. The same year brought two new and much-anticipated releases: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The following release, 1685 & The Art of Ian Howell, features the remarkable countertenor (and winner of the ABS Young Artist Competition) in works by Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti. ABS’s newest recording features soprano Mary Wilson singing a collection of virtuoso vocal works by Handel, including his setting of the psalm, Laudate pueri Dominum, and the motet, Silete venti.
The American Bach Soloists have been recipients of major grants from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, The Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, The Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation, E. Nakamichi Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, The Wallis Foundation, The AT&T Foundation Matching Gifts Program, The AXA Foundation Matching Gifts Program, Clorox Foundation, County of Marin, and The San Francisco Foundation. An administrative staff and Board of Directors support ABS’s activities as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
The American Bach Soloists are leading performers in the field of Baroque music, dedicated to historically informed performances of Bach and his contemporaries. ABS provides meaningful, memorable, and valuable musical experiences for our audiences through inspiring performances and recordings, and it supports the preservation of early music through educational programs for students and emerging professionals.