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FREE Courtroom Concert: Charles Eaton, baritone & Celeste Marie Johnson, piano; Kirsten Whitson, cello; Chione Quintet

Thursday, February 16, 12:00PM

Landmark Center

Charles Eaton, baritone & Celeste Marie Johnson, piano;
Kirsten Whitson, cello; Chione Quintet

Hosted by composer Abbie Betinis, our popular Courtroom Concerts take place at noon most Thursdays in the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul. This series features accomplished musicians and composers from the Twin Cities and surrounding area, as well as occasional musical newcomers to the area. These one-hour concerts are free and open to the public.


About the Artists:

Charles H. Eaton, a top-prize winner in the 2021 Lotte Lenya Competition, makes his recital debut with The Musicians of Ma’alwyck in the 2021-2022 season (featuring Finzi’s By footpath and stile performed with string quartet). He covers the role of Mr. Lindquist in A Little Night Music at Arizona Opera, and returns to Minnesota Opera to perform Moralès in their brand new production of Carmen directed by Denyce Graves. In the 2022-2023 season, he will join the Resident Artist Program at Minnesota Opera and make role debuts as Argante in Rinaldo, the Corporal in La fille du régiment, and Masetto in Don Giovanni. He will also cover the role of Bryce in the world premiere of Edward Tulane by Paola Prestini and Mark Campbell.

In the 2019-2020 season, Mr. Eaton made his role and company debut as Marcello in La Bohème with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra (Lakeland Opera). He also made company debuts as a soloist in the 15th annual Jukebox Gala with Pensacola Opera, and as the English Ambassador in The Ghosts of Versailles with the Château de Versailles Spectacles. In the previous season, he made role and company debuts as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia with New York City Opera in Bryant Park, William Dale in Silent Night with Minnesota Opera, and Vitellius in Hérodiade with New Amsterdam Opera. He returned to Madison Opera as Carl-Magnus in their A Little Night Music, and to Minnesota Opera to create the roles of Arnold Rothstein and George Gorman in the world premiere of Joel Puckett’s The Fix. He also returned to The Glimmerglass Festival for the 2019 summer season to perform Steve / Max in Show Boat and cover Figaro in The Ghosts of Versailles.

In the 2017-2018 season, Mr. Eaton made multiple company debuts, including German Sentry/Soldier #3 in Silent Night with The Glimmerglass Festival as a member of the young artist program, Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance with Park Square Theater, and Moralès in Carmen with Madison Opera. He also made his concert debut with The Mankato Symphony Orchestra as Riff in West Side Story.

In May of 2017, Charles completed a second year as a resident artist with Opera Colorado, where he performed Figaro in the touring production of The Barber of Seville, Bello in La fanciulla del West and Enrico in the student matinee of Lucia di Lammermoor.  In the previous season, he sang the Father in the touring production of Hansel and Gretel and Governor Bellingham in the student matinee of the world premiere of The Scarlet Letter. He returned to Des Moines Metro Opera in 2017 for a second summer as an apprentice, where he sang Mr. Lindquist and covered Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music. In their 2015 season, he covered Lescaut in Manon and participated in the ensemble of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice.

Mr. Eaton has extensive experience with new American works. In addition to his creation of two roles in the world premiere, he participated in multiple workshops (various roles) for The Fix at Minnesota Opera. He was also featured in their Act I workshop for The Shining (premiered 2016), where he prepared the role of Horace Derwent. In May of 2014, he shared the lead baritone role (Hurstwood) in a workshop performance of Sister Carrie at Florentine Opera (premiered 2016).

Charles received his Bachelor of Music degree in 2013 from the University of Connecticut where he sang Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Thomas Putnam in The Crucible and more. In the summer of 2013, he performed the role of John Brooke (Little Women) with the Hartford Opera Theater.  He received his Master of Music from the University of Minnesota where credits included Conte Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, the Forrester in The Cunning Little Vixen and Masetto in Don Giovanni.  In his second year of studies, he was a participant of the ECCO Program, which facilitated hours of coaching and exchange between promising young artists in the School of Music and the music staff at Minnesota Opera.

Mr. Eaton was a third-prize winner in the 2021 Lotte Lenya Competition, a finalist in the 2021 Opera Ithaca Edward M. Murray Vocal Competition, a semi-finalist in the 2020 Premiere Opera Foundation / NYIOP International Voice Competition, a second place winner of the 2019 American Prize Competition, a district winner of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition and the first place winner of the 2015 Thursday Musical competition in Minneapolis, MN.

Chione is a Twin Cities-based woodwind quintet comprised of innovative and cross-disciplinary women. The unique and evolving medium provides an outlet to explore and create new sounds while redefining and rediscovering lesser known music. Chione is committed to collaborating with professionals of all genres and creative outlets, with particular interests in commissioning new pieces and performing works by women artists. Throughout each endeavor, Chione aims to reach a wide range of audiences with the hopes of inspiring contemporary and aspiring artists as well as supporters of the arts.

Since Chione’s inception, the ensemble has performed live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio, they have performed as pop-up classical artists representing Classical MPR at the 2017 Saint Paul Winter Carnival Beer Dabbler as well as the Current’s 2018 Rock the Cradle event.  Chione will hold their 3nd annual quINTENS!VE Chamber Music Camp in August, working with middle and high school students through coaching and performing chamber music.  Chione performs numerous self-presented performances throughout the year in venues such as the Schubert Club, Macphail Center for Music, Icehouse Minneapolis, Can Can Wonderland and the Woman’s Club.  In March of 2018 Chione made their debut as Courtroom Concert Artists at the Schubert Club, performing a concert of works written solely by women. Throughout the 2018-2019 school year Chione has had the pleasure of performing their “Story Time with Chione” program with elementary schools throughout Minnesota as Classical Minnesota Public Radio Class Notes Artists.

Cellist Kirsten Whitson performs extensively as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician. She has played throughout the US, Europe, Japan, and Cuba with Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic. She has also performed at the Festival of the Lakes in Alexandria, MN, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd, MN, and with Zeitgeist New Music.

Kirsten has presented solo cello concerts throughout the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota for over 20 years. She has been featured on programs broadcast by KFAI and Minnesota Public Radio. She is passionate about the extensive repertoire available for solo cello and has premiered several commissioned pieces. Composers Timothy C. Takach, David Evan Thomas, Carl Witt, and Jocelyn Hagen have written music for her. One of Jocelyn Hagen’s pieces for her involved live digital looping. Kirsten recorded Louise Farrenc’s Sonata in Bb Major, Opus 46, with Mary Ellen Haupert for Centaur Records.

Kirsten received a B.M. and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University, where she studied with Fritz Magg and Janos Starker. While at Indiana University, Kirsten was Fritz Magg’s assistant and won a coveted Performer’s Certificate.

Kirsten received Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2002 and 2018, a grant from the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers in 2020, a Creative Support Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2021, and is a 2020 McKnight Artist Fellow. She was selected as a 2022 Resident Artist at Ragdale, supported by the McKnight Foundation.

Pianist Celeste Marie Johnson, described as “eloquent” by the Baltimore Sun, is dedicated to storytelling through the powerful intersection of text and music in vocal repertoire. A sought-after recital partner, she has performed throughout the US, most recently with LOFT Recital and as part of Minnesota Opera’s Apart Together Artist Showcase series. In 2020, Celeste was selected to be a participant in Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall and completed her DMA in collaborative piano at Boston University. In 2018-19, she was a Young Artist with Opera Saratoga, received the Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at SongFest, and was a faculty coach at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Celeste is currently in her second season as a Resident Artist with Minnesota Opera, where she has been music staff for Opera in the Outfield, Albert Herring, Ópera Afuera, MNiatures, and L’Amant Anonyme. Previously, Celeste has played for productions with the Boston University Opera Institute, Odyssey Opera, Inland Northwest Opera, Atlantic Music Festival, Hawai’i Performing Arts Festival, and Peabody Opera Theatre. An avid choral pianist, she has performed with the Massachusetts Music Educators All-State Choir, Coro Allegro: Boston’s LGBTQ+ and Allied Classical Chorus, and choirs at Boston University, Gonzaga University, and Baylor University.

Celeste holds additional degrees in piano performance from Baylor University (BM) and vocal accompanying from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University (MM). In November 2021, she became a Certified Professional Coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. When not at a piano or working on her new life coaching business, you can find Celeste practicing yoga, hiking, reading poetry, or doting over her cat, Pushkin.