Chamber Singers of Iowa City

The Chamber Singers of Iowa City will present Handel’s oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, Saturday, April 25 at 7:15 p.m. in West High auditorium, 2901 Melrose Avenue in Iowa City.

Preceding the concert at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Jordan Smith of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa will speak on the topic “Judas Maccabaeus: God’s Divine Hammer.”

Judas Maccabaeus is produced in conjunction with the American Handel Society National Conference. It serves as the finale of their meeting at the University of Iowa. Many of the scholars who write about Handel will be in the audience.

For this performance, David Puderbaugh, music director, has chosen a new edition of the oratorio based on the latest scholarship on Handel and his music.

The soloists for this performance have all sung with Chamber Singers previously.

Barbara Clements, soprano, holds a D. M. degree from Florida State University. She is Assistant Professor of Music at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas. Barbara has previously appeared with Chamber Singers in Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons, Mozart’s Grabmusik, and Beethoven’s Mass in C minor.

Lisa White, mezzo-soprano, is the Director of Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving at Cornell College. She received her M.M.A at the University of Iowa, completed doctoral work at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and has taught voice at Cornell College, the University of Northern Iowa and elsewhere. Lisa has been a member of the Chamber Singers of Iowa City since 2012, and has sung as a soloist with the Singers most recently in last February’s “Vignettes.”

James Judd, tenor, regularly sings with the Chicago Symphony under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti. He holds an M.M.A. degree in Vocal Performance from The University of Iowa, as well as Bachelor of Music degrees in both Education and Vocal Performance from SUNY Fredonia. James is an active interpreter of both operatic and concert repertoire. He has performed a variety of works with Chamber Singers, among them: Haydn’s The Seasons, Handel’s Messiah, and Brahms’ Neue Liebesliederwalzer.

Jon F. Clements, baritone, also a faculty member at Arkansas Tech University, has previously appeared with the Chamber Singers in performances of Bach’s Mass in G minor, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor, Mozart’s Grabmusik, and Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons.

Maestro Puderbaugh describes Judas Maccabaeus as “one of the most famous Handel oratorios, after Messiah and on a comparable level of notoriety as Israel in Egypt.  Within the oratorio are very famous movements:  the bass aria “Arm, arm, ye brave,” the tenor aria “Sound the alarm,” and such famous choral pieces as “See, the conquering hero comes,” “Sing unto God,” and “Hallelujah, Amen.”  It’s a thrilling sing!”


The Chamber Singers Orchestra will perform superbly as always. Lynda Hakken, the Singers’ long-time accompanist, will play harpsichord for this performance.

For ticket information and more, visit Buying tickets at the website is a great way to avoid long lines at the box office.

James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.


Regular readers will recall that most Chamber Singers of Iowa City concerts are performed on Sundays at 3:00 p.m., and that the spring concert is usually sung in May or June.  However, for the upcoming performance of Judas Maccabaeus, the concert date has been moved to April 25 at 7:00 p.m.  There is a reason, and it is a good one. 

The American Handel Society’s 2015 convention will be held that week at the University of Iowa, and the Chamber Singers have been invited to perform the gala closing event of the convention.  To allow for the expected large audience for this performance, the venue will be the expansive West High Auditorium.  Everyone is welcome to attend this performance. 

David Puderbaugh, music director, says, “All the Handel experts I’ve read in preparing for this concert will be in the audience that evening.”  That could give any director or singer pause; however, the Chamber Singers and maestro Puderbaugh are undaunted.  From the first rehearsal in February, the level of singing has been extraordinarily fine, with intense focus and attention to detail.  Though rehearsal dates are fewer than normal, the sound is already exquisite. 

For this performance, Puderbaugh has chosen a new edition by Merlin Channon based on Handel’s 1747 score plus, “See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” which Handel had originally intended for Joshua, and the famous and thrilling march. 

The libretto by Thomas Morell is taken from I Maccabees 1-8 and II Maccabees 5-15 in the Apocrypha.  According to Channon, “he also used additional material from Book 12 of Flavius Josephus’s The Antiquities of the Jews.

Handel was a master – perhaps the best – at tone painting, the technique of using music that helps the listener enter more deeply into the music by sounding like the emotion it is meant to evoke.  While with his most famous work, Messiah, Handel was using biblical texts to tell a religious story, inJudas Maccabaeus, there is certainly a religious context, but it is primarily a great story of heroism after crushing defeat at the hands of Israel’s oppressors.  

This is opera at its best, though un-staged.  Handel puts us at the heart of the action.  In the first chorus, “Mourn, ye afflicted children” we grieve deeply the loss of the of the nation’s leader.  The word “mourn” is repeated throughout, in halting pulses, sighs and catches in the breath that emphasize their terrible loss.  While the chorus sings “your friend and father is no more,” each vocal section repeats a descending musical line of broken chords in G-minor that are so heartbreaking as to be difficult to sing. 

Contrast the above with “We come in bright array,” which is as jubilant as “Mourn” is sorrowful, and we get another glimpse of Handel’s brilliance. 

For ticket information and more about Handel and this performance, please go to

James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City, and has fallen wildly in love (again) with Handel’s music.  

Thank you!

February 24 2015 - In: General

A huge thank you to everyone who made it to our concert last weekend. It was a pleasure performing for you and it makes all the difference to have friends, family, and familiar faces in the audience. There’s no way we’d be the organization we are today without your support! Thanks again. We’ll see you in April.

Musical Moments in Time

February 8 2015 - In: General

One of the many pleasures of singing with Chamber Singers of Iowa City is the broad range of music one learns and then shares with the audience. The upcoming concert “Vignettes” is a fine example. David Puderbaugh, music director, has chosen five themes for these musical moments in time: “Music,” “Night,” “Troubled Thoughts,” “Faith” and “Love.”

In the vignette “Music,” we’ll hear Lloyd Pfautsch’s “Consecrate the Place and Day,” a stirring piece that sounds at once like trumpets at a coronation, and again like a bit of rollicking fun. John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” is a lovely hymn, that works very well here as a study in musical contrasts. William Billings was America’s first choral composer (writing in the 18th century). His “Modern Music” explains everything one needs to know about listening to fine music — including when the audience should applaud.

“Night” brings us music from Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg and his luscious “Õhtul“ (In the Evening), a charming reverie combining a flowing melody with unexpected chords and meters, deeply romantic.

A more familiar piece, Samuel Barber’s “Sure, on This Shining Night,” is a mystical song that speaks of love and wandering, and even “shadows on the stars.” Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob” begins as a triumphant prophecy then takes a darker, even chilling, turn, then returns to the original theme and ends with a transcendent blessing. Randall Thompson’s “Choose Something Like a Star” finishes the “Night” vignette with music set to Robert Frost’s poem, part of the “Frostiana“ collection.

“Troubled Thoughts” is Brahms’ all-too-real description of a sleepless night with its fears, worries and downright terrors. With a fevered run of notes in the piano accompaniment and a driving five-four meter, we are pulled along on a nightmarish ride, ending only at dawn, with the insomniac forced to face another day.

It is an honor to write that all six of the soloists for this concert come from within Chamber Singers: Alison Burchett, soprano; Kristen Eisenhammer, soprano; Hillary Foster, alto; Lisa White, alto; Richard Hanson, tenor; Patrick Gilpin, bass.

Ms. Foster’s and Ms. White’s duet of Schumann’s “Erste Begegnung“ (First Encounter) is a delight about roses and new beginnings to warm us on a cold winter’s afternoon.

The final vignettes, “Faith” and “Love” include works by Haydn, Palestrina, Martini, Schumann, Dello Joio, and a jaundiced look at love entitled “Lost Love.”

Guest pianist Nathanael Filippelli, a doctoral student at the University of Iowa will perform Franz Liszt’s “Nuages gris,’ a short piano solo and an excellent example of tone painting. With its gentle, brooding quality, the careful listener might imagine the gray clouds of the title. Filippelli will also play Johannes Brahms: Intermezzo, Op. 116, No. 5, a piece with a honeyed, ambling, quality, and a loud-soft, soft-loud dynamic that is very, very Brahms.

James Petersen sings with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

If you go

What: The Chamber Singers of Iowa City present “Vignettes.”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15.

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 2701 Rochester, Iowa City


  • November 16, 2014 – Polychoral Splendor
    3:00 pm, Concert
  • February 15, 2015 – Vignettes
    3:00 pm, Concert
  • April 25, 2015 – George Frideric Handel: Judas Maccabaeus
    7:15 pm, Concert

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