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About the Soloists

Fall 2015 - Mass Appeal
Lana Walmer (mezzo-soprano) is a graduate of Mansfield University with a BS degree in Music Education with Vocal and Piano concentration.  Lana has been featured as a soloist with the Central Pennsylvania Choral Festival.  Lana has performed with the Masterworks Chorale in Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Wales, and Ireland as well as with the Market Square Singers in Italy.  She was a member and President of the Alumni Chorale of Lebanon Valley College. Lana has also been a soprano soloist with Fifth Street Methodist Church and with Salem United Church of Christ in Harrisburg.  She currently sings with the Market Square Presbyterian Church Choir.  She also appears as guest soloist throughout Central Pennsylvania.   Lana has appeared in numerous musical productions in such theaters as Theater Harrisburg, Oyster Mill Playhouse, Little Theater of Mechanicsburg, Ephrata Playhouse, Capitol Dinner Theater, One Broadway Dance Company and Actor’s Company of Pennsylvania.  She has produced and performed musical revues for the Shriner Organization.  A theatrical highlight for Lana was performing the role of Della in Mount Gretna’s production of O. Henry’s, “The Gift of the Magi.”

Karen Smith is a graduate of West Chester University with a BS Degree in Music Education, Vocal Choral concentration. She has sung with the Chamber Singers of Harrisburg, Harrisburg Singers, Harrisburg Civic Opera, Jubilate, Opera Harrisburg, Market Square Singers who performed in Italy in 2012, and Central PA Oratorio Singers. She was soprano soloist at Fourth United Church of Christ / Shared Ministry and Second UCC of Harrisburg and currently sings in the choir at Market Square Presbyterian Church. She is now enjoying retirement from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Christine Riley (alto) has worked as a Director of Music and vocal instructor since graduating from Westminster Choir College with a Bachelor of Music degree. While living in Ohio, she was the Director of the Canton Children’s Chorus for 15 years and sang with Voices of Canton and Singers Company. In 2001 Christine performed in Corofest Umbria and soloed in the Ora Mystica series at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Italy. Christine has also sung with the James River Opera Company and the Richmond International Festival of Music in Virginia. While in upstate NY for 15 years, she sang with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Syracuse Vocal Ensemble, Syracuse Opera Company and the Artpark Opera Productions in Lewiston. Presently retired, Christine is active in the Market Square Church music program and sings in the Wheatland Chorale. She enjoys playing golf and tennis and growing organic vegetables in the summer.

Saralee Riggs (mezzo-soprano) fell under the spell of opera from the founding days of Lancaster Opera Workshop. She has performed many wonderful roles in opera and musical theater in the central PA area for Harrisburg Opera Association, Harrisburg Community Theater, Harrisburg Symphony, and Opera Lancaster. Her solo Oratorio work includes the Mozart Requiem, and a staged production of Elijah. Some of her favorite roles include Pamina (Magic Flute), Aldonza / Dulcinea (Man of La Mancha), Hansel (Hansel and Gretel), Lalume (Kismet), and the title role in Carmen. She solos regularly with Bel Canto Lyric Opera Company of Philadelphia. Saralee is a 2013 winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. Present and former Vocal Study/Coaching include: John Darrenkamp, Metropolitan Opera, New York City; Marianne Casiello, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia; Oren Brown, New York City and currently, Marvin Keenze, Westminster Choir College (retired).

Sherry Powell has studied voice with Mary Jelly Good, Nancy Tuttle, and Kay Lorenz. She has sung with the Central Pennsylvania Oratorio Singers since its inception, and also currently sings with the Bel Voce, the Penbrook Church of God choir, and the El Shaddai Singers. Former soloist at the Salem United Church of Christ, Harrisburg, she has sung with the Harrisburg Opera and is a member of the Wednesday Club. She has appeared as guest soloist with many area churches.

Debra Hancock (soprano) is a graduate of Messiah College, where she majored in voice, and performed with many college groups. She has directed the choir at Baughman United Methodist Church in New Cumberland, and teaches both voice and piano. She has been member of the Central Pennsylvania Oratorio Singers since its inception.

John Sharpe (bass) has a wide range of experience in opera, oratorio, and recitals. In the Harrisburg area, he has appeared with the Harrisburg Opera, Capitol City Opera, and Center Stage Opera, including such roles as "Oroveso" in Bellini’s "Norma" and "Timur" in Puccini’s "Turandot". He has been soloist at Grace United Methodist Church, and is currently soloist at Pine Street Presbyterian Church. He is a past president of The Wednesday Club, and is a performing member of that group. He has appeared as soloist with the Central Pennsylvania Oratorio Singers several times in oratorios such as "St. Paul" and"Elijah" by Mendelssohn, and "The Seven Last Words" by Haydn. In the New York City area, he appeared as soloist with several choral groups, in Manhattan and on Long Island, including a concert in NYC’s Town Hall of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He presented recitals ( most notably in Carnegie Recital Hall), and sang with several regional opera companies. He appeared in the Glimmerglass Opera company in Cooperstown, NY as "Colline" in "La Boheme". He wqs also a professional chorister under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, Bruno Walter, Abraham Kaplan and Julius Rudel, among others, and also in the chorus of NYC Opera Co. John has conducted church choirs on Long Island, NY, and in Jacksonville, Florida.

James Riggs (bass) has sung many bass-baritone roles in local and regional opera productions, including Don Alfonso (Cosi fan tutte), Dr. Dulcamara (Elixir of Love), Dr. Bartolo (Barber of Seville), Count Almaviva and Dr. Bartolo (Marriage of Figaro), and Leporello (Don Giovanni). He has studied voice with Marianne Casiello (former Curtis Institute faculty) and currently studies with Marvin Keenze (former Westminster Choir College faculty). He sings regularly with Bel Canto Lyric Opera Company of Philadelphia, and at Market Square Presbyterian in Harrisburg. Jim has struck out on his own as an opera producer and has mounted productions of Only a Miracle, a Christmas opera by Seymour Barab, and of Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for area churches and theaters. As a composer, Jim was a finalist in the 2011 art song competition sponsored by the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Jim is also a licensed speech-language pathologist, and is employed full-time as a therapy manager for Austill’s Rehabilitation Services, Inc., Exton, PA.

Jacob Mandell (tenor), from Clearfield Pennsylvania, is an undergraduate music education major in his third year of study at Messiah College, with a dual emphasis in vocal and saxophone studies. His primary teachers include Dr. Damian Savarino and Dr. Todd Goranson. At the college, Jacob is an active member of the Messiah College Chamber Singers, the Opera Workshop, and the Messiah College Concert Choir, where he serves as President and as tenor section leader. He also serves as tenor saxophonist with the saxophone quartet as well as with the Messiah College Wind Ensemble.  Jacob is an active soloist in the Greater Harrisburg Area, with recent appearances at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church and Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church, while also being a regular choir member at Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission. He has also appeared with the critically-acclaimed Susquehanna Chorale, with whom he will appear again this coming December.  Jacob is an active member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), where he serves as Secretary for the Messiah College Chapter of the organization.