The Benedict Sixteen Choir

Richard Sparks, Conductor

Richard Sparks is the principal conductor of “The Benedict Sixteen,” the Benedict XVI Institute’s sixteen-voice professional choir. In addition he will lead the East Coast premiere of the Mass of the Americas at the iconic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. on November 16.

The Bay Area 2019 season for the Benedict XVI Institute under Richard Sparks’s musical leadership includes an All Soul’s Day Requiem Mass for the Homeless Dead at St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Nicholas Day prayer service featuring the O Antiphons at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park.

Richard Sparks distinguished career includes:

  • Founding Seattle Pro Musica in 1973 and in seven seasons conducted over 70 different programs with three ensembles.
  • Principal Conductor of the Pacific Northwest Bach Festival.
  • Director of Choral Activities at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) and led the Choir of the West from 1983-2001
  • Conducting Seattle Symphony Chorale for four years.
  • Conducting the Seattle Symphony Chorale for nine recordings on the Delos label including a Grammy-nominated recording of Hanson’s Lament of Beowulf.
  • Founder andartistic director of Choral Arts Northwest for 11 years, making three CDs on the Loft/Gothic label.
  • Artistic Director of Pro Coro Canada, a professional chamber choir in Edmonton, Alberta, from 1999-2011.
  • Professor of Music and Chair of the Division of Conducting & Ensembles at the University of North Texas for 10 years. Many of his performances can be found on YouTube, including a Vivaldi Gloria with over two million views, Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers, and the 1725 version of the St. John Passion.
  • Experience with both traditional Gregorian Chant and Anglican Chant

Richard’s latest book, The Conductor’s Toolbox: Transforming Yourself as Musician and Conductor, can be found at GIA Music.

Sparks is one of the few Americans invited to work with the famed Swedish Radio Choir in 2002, 2007, and 2008, including preparing the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem for a performance with Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic,which is on DVD with BIS Records. He has also guest conducted the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, and the Anchorage Music Festival among many others.

Archbishop Cordileone and the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship are honored that Richard Sparks brings his distinguished talents to the B16 mission of offering great and elevating works of sacred music, both old and new, in the context in which they were made to be heard: as prayer, not performance.

Rebekah Wu, Choir Administrator

Rebekah Wu is a soprano, known in the music community to be an instigator of innovative sacred music projects. From Choralis in 2007 with Richard Sparks as Artistic Director, to Chalice Consort in 2008 to 2015, that drew Directors from all over the world including Davitt Maroney, Ragnar Bohlin, and Jeremy Summerly. She also produced the first ever Early Music Mining Conference in 2010 where Chalice world- premiered newly resurrected Renaissance sacred choral music, that were transcribed into modern notation by global scholars, that had never been published or publicly performed before. There, the world for the first time, heard stunning sacred choral music composed by Simone Molinaro. Dr. Peter Poulos, who discovered Molinaro’s choral music, won the competition that year. Rebekah has a special love for singing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and compositions by St. Hildegarde von Bingen. She is currently the Music Director and Soprano at the Benedict XVI Schola (a.k.a The Archbishop’s Choir).

Principal Singers

Sopranos

Rebekah Wu – Soprano 1

Rebekah Wu is a soprano, known in the music community to be an instigator of innovative sacred music projects. From Choralis in 2007 with Richard Sparks as Artistic Director, to Chalice Consort in 2008 to 2015, that drew Directors from all over the world including Davitt Maroney, Ragnar Bohlin, and Jeremy Summerly. She also produced the first ever Early Music Mining Conference in 2010 where Chalice world- premiered newly resurrected Renaissance sacred choral music, that were transcribed into modern notation by global scholars, that had never been published or publicly performed before. There, the world for the first time, heard stunning sacred choral music composed by Simone Molinaro. Dr. Peter Poulos, who discovered Molinaro’s choral music, won the competition that year. Rebekah has a special love for singing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and compositions by St. Hildegarde von Bingen. She is currently the Music Director and Soprano at the Benedict XVI Schola (a.k.a The Archbishop’s Choir).

Natalie Ingrisano – Soprano 1/Soprano 2

Natalie Ingrisano, soprano, enjoys performing as a soloist, chamber singer, and professional chorister in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest. As a soloist, Ingrisano’s 2019/2020 seasons included performing on the Seattle concert series Pacific MusicWorks Underground, Sanctuary in the City, and Bach’s Lunch, as well as performing with the Cantaré Ensemble and Bellevue Chamber Chorus. Recent favorite solo performances include Charpentier’s Te Deum, Vivaldi’s Vespers, collaborating with The Beggar Boys, and a feature appearance with Seattle’s Epiphany Music Guild. She has twice had the honor of performing the United States and French National Anthems at Alliance Française and City of Chicago’s Bastille Day celebration in Daley Plaza, and she also rocked it hard as a chorister with the Rolling Stones. Ingrisano received her Master’s in Music from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and holds the Artist Diploma in Early Music from Cornish College of the Arts.

Morgan Balfour – Soprano 2/Soprano 1

Morgan Balfour, an Australian soprano, has been praised for her “thrilling clarity” (Sydney Morning Herald), and “impressive vocal control and dynamic sensitivity” (SFCV). With an affinity for early music, Morgan was the 2019 Handel Aria Competition First Prize winner, and will perform a recital at the London Handel Festival. She has previously performed with Pinchgut Opera, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, California Bach Society, Canberra Symphony, Sydney Philharmonia and Brisbane Baroque Festival. Future engagements will see Morgan appear as a soloist with Madison Bach Musicians and attend the 2021 Carmel Bach Festival as a Virginia Best Adams Fellow. For the 2019/20 Season, Morgan joined Lyric Opera of Kansas City as a Resident Artist. For the 2018/2019 season, she was an AGMA chorister with the San Francisco Symphony. Morgan holds a Master’s Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor’s Degree from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

Phoebe Rosquist – Soprano 2

Phoebe Jevtović Rosquist’s singing spans repertoire from the medieval to the contemporary, with a specialty in the baroque era. She calls California home, but she was born in Germany and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Phoebe began her undergraduate studies with the intention of becoming a jazz singer, but soon discovered that early and classical music was her true calling. She has appeared with the Waverly Consort, Voices of Music, American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque, Musica Angelica, Bach Collegium San Diego, and North Holland Opera. Roles Phoebe has performed include Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Filia in Carissimi’s Jephte, Amphitrite in Locke’s Tempest, Josephine in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, and the title role in Rossi’s Orfeo. Among her varied collaborations are art songs with celebrated pianist Robert Thies, early music and dance with Italy’s visionary Art Monastery Project and the Italian ensemble Cappella Artemisia. Phoebe has also toured the US and Indonesia with Gamelan X and sung Balkan & folk music with Kitka and VOCO. Phoebe completed her Master of Arts degree in Early Music Performance at the University of Southern California, and has edited a book of 17th century solo songs by Tarquinio Merula published by A-R Editions.

Altos

Luke Elmer – Alto 1

Luke Elmer, countertenor, was born and raised in Flower Mound, Texas. Having studied classical piano, concert percussion, and classical singing from a young age, he has always been passionate about excellence in music. He received a Bachelor’s degree in 2019 from Brigham Young University in Vocal Performance, studying under Dr. Robert Brandt and Professor Darrell Babidge. Luke sang in the Brigham Young University Singers for 3 years under Dr. Andrew Crane, serving as the alto section leader for the final year, and culminating in a tour to Indonesia and Vietnam. In 2018, he won an Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Utah District Auditions. Presently, he studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under César Ulloa, where he expects to graduate with his Master’s degree in Vocal Performance in 2021. In his free time, Luke enjoys cooking, hiking, video games, and watching movies.

Celeste Winant – Alto 1

Celeste Winant, mezzo-soprano, performs regularly as an ensemble member with American Bach Soloists, Gaude, Philharmonia Chorale, Vajra Voices, and Volti. Her voice has been described by San Francisco Classical Voice as “attractive”; “a true, rich alto.”  Solo highlights include touring with San Francisco Lyric Opera’s production of David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion in Odense, Denmark, singing Luciano Berio’s rarely-performed Sinfonia with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, and performing the knotty contralto solos from Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Three Chants with Volti at the Bard Music West Music Festival.  Other ensembles with whom she has appeared as oratorio soloist include the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men & Boys, the Stanford University Singers, the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, and the UC Davis Choral Ensembles.  She presently studies with Karen R. Clark.  In addition to singing, Celeste has a PhD in physics and puts her quantitative skills to use as a demography researcher at UC Berkeley.

Gabe Fanelli – Alto 2

Gabriel Fanelli is the director of the Cathedral Camerata at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

Leandra Ramm – Alto 2

Leandra Ramm is a versatile mezzo-soprano whose “beautiful and quite moving” (Nordstjernan Newspaper) performances have graced prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The United Nations, and Symphony Space. A 2019 National Finalist in The American Prize, she recently performed the title role in La Cenerentola with San Francisco Opera Guild and appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, and Bach’s Magnificat, conducted by Ragnar Bohlin. Opera highlights include roles in Little Women with Island City Opera, L’enfant et les Sortileges with Pacific Symphony, La Llorona with Opera Cultura, and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera San Jose. Concert work includes alto soloist with SF Choral Society, SF City Chorus and Silicon Valley Philharmonic. She has been a core member of San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Voices of Silicon Valley, Cappella SF, Volti and American Bach Soloists Chorus.

Tenors

Kevin Gino – Tenor 1

Recognized for his “strong, utterly determined” singing, Filipino-American tenor Kevin Gino performs widely in both solo and choral capacities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He currently studies with Cesar Ulloa, and he holds degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Being an alumnus of both the Janiec Opera Company at Brevard Music Center as well as the Music Academy of the West, he has worked with some of the best, including Sir. Thomas Allen, Marilyn Horne, Anthony Dean Griffey, Patrick Summers, Dean Anthony, and Jeffrey Buchman. When Gino is not singing, he keeps busy designing and crafting new leather goods, learning a new recipe to enjoy, and window shopping on amazon and eBay. www.kevingino.com

Jonathan Smucker – Tenor 1

Jonathan Smucker, Ohio-born tenor, maintains a diverse career as a singer and teacher. He has sung more than fifty roles in opera, oratorio, operetta and musical theater, including solo appearances with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Fresno Symphony, Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Opera Parallèle, West Edge Opera, Ars Minerva, Pasadena Opera and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Notable roles include Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Miles in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up, The Witch of Endor in Handel’s Saul, and the title role in Candide.  He is a regular member of the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, and sings frequently with American Bach Choir and San Francisco Opera Chorus.  Jonathan serves on the voice faculty at San José State University, and is the voice department chair at San Francisco Community Music Center, where he recently conceived and coordinated Trans and Singing: A Symposium for Voice Teachers and Singers of All Genders.

Joseph Bates Tenor 2

Joseph Bates, tenor, is a passionate musician, experienced data professional, proud father, and dedicated athlete.  He also enjoys collecting weird hills to die on, such as: T2s and violas get the best lines, humidity is underrated, DC should be a state, Kings Canyon is CA’s most beautiful park, and biathlon is the best sport.

Ryan Matos – Tenor 2

Ryan Matos, tenor, sings to connect deeply with the text, pluck audiences’ heartstrings, and have fun. He is a passionate interpreter of baroque music on both concert and operatic stages. His 2019 season included performances with Philharmonia Baroque, Bach Collegium San Diego, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, Oregon Bach Festival, and consorts around the Bay Area.  Equally at home with contemporary repertoire, Ryan has undertaken several premieres as a soloist, such as Brian Baumbusch’s The Pressure at Other Minds Festival 2019. Ryan is also an expert in Italian food traditions, cooking, wine, and travel. While living in Rome for two years, he learned Italian fluently (working as a translator), studied singing with Italian teachers, sang in several beautiful churches, discovered he is in fact a beach person, and learned how to make guanciale, pancetta, ricotta, amari, and other Italian products.

Basses

Wilford Kelly – Bass 1

Wilford Kelly, Florida-native bass-baritone, is a multi-talented singer based in San Francisco, California under the tutelage of César Ulloa. Currently, he is a full-time member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus and recently graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with his Master of Music Degree in Voice. During his time at the Conservatory, Wilford performed many roles in the SFCM mainstage opera productions including Bartolo in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Gus O’Neill in John Musto’s Later the Same Evening, Leone in Händel’s Tamerlano, and Lackei in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos Wilford has also garnered attention outside of the SFCM performance community, performing in recent engagements with the Jacksonville Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, and as a Studio Artist with Wolf Trap Opera for their 2019 season. He has also achieved success on the competition circuit, having been named a recipient of the Encouragement Award at the San Francisco District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions this past fall. He is happy to be returning to the Benedict XIV for a second year!

Chung-Wai – Bass 1

Chung-Wai Soong has sung with ensembles and companies in Australia and the US, including West Bay Opera, Australian Opera, Cappella SF, Volti and Artists Vocal Ensemble. His extensive repertoire encompasses many genres, including world premieres by David Chesworth (Sabat Jesus) and Lisa Bielawa’s groundbreaking made-for-streaming opera, Vireo. Concert repertoire includes works by Bach, Fauré, Mozart, Dvořák, Berlioz and Handel. Opera repertoire includes roles in Madama Butterfly, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Peter Grimes. His performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe at the Melbourne International Festival was broadcast live nationally on ABC. A longtime member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, he has also been soloist, including as Mityukha in Boris Godunov and bass soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy under Kurt Masur, which he also performed at the Ojai Festival. Recent highlights: Erster Nazarener (Salome), Sadistic Sailor (West Edge Opera’s hit production of Breaking the Waves), Elijah (world premiere of Meira Warshauer’s Elijah’s Violin), and Gran Sacerdote di Belo in Nabucco (Claude Heater Foundation).

Daniel Brakefield – Bass 2

Daniel Brakefield is a bass-baritone, and proud AGMA member, based in the Bay Area who divides his time and work efforts between his greatest passions; food, cocktails, and music. He received his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Western Illinois University and his master’s degree in vocal performance from California State University, East Bay. He has been singing with Benedict XVI since 2018, loving nearly every minute of it. On stage he has performed principal and supporting roles in La Nozze di Figaro, Barbiere di Siviglia, Die Zauberflote, Gianni Schicchi, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Last Romance, The Telephone, The Medium, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Gallantry, and Hansel und Gretel. He has also performed as a soloist in performances of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and the Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. Beyond Benedict XVI, he has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Volti, Cantare con Vivo, Bang on a Can, and Cappella SF. Mr. Brakefield has been recorded on the soundtrack for the Civilization video game franchise, as well as singing on Timeless: Ten Centuries of Music and Mass Transmission: Choral Works by Mason Bates.

Eric Alatorre – Bass 2

Eric Alatorre is the Bass best associated with Chanticleer, where he was a member for nearly 30 years, and is well known for his deep and rich voice. During his tenure with Chanticleer he saw the ensemble grow from a group known best in the United States to an internationally acclaimed ensemble. He has performed in many of the world’s major concert venues on 6 continents, and made nearly 60 recordings which have garnered 3 Grammy awards.