Countertenor Brandon Harris (Courtesy Photo)

On April 29 and 30, The Verdi Chorus’ 39th season will finish with “VERDISSIMO! Plus!” for two performances only at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica.

Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus. Countertenor Brandon Harris will be performing with the chorus and shared a little bit about performing in the concert and working with Ketchum.

“I really enjoyed singing this music, and getting to know all the amazing and talented individuals within the chorus as well as working under the direction of Anne Marie,” said Harris. “[It’s] been a very gratifying experience.”

Harris grew up in and around Southern California and attended Corvallis Middle School and Norwalk High School. He grew up in a musical family, and sang in church, but it wasn’t until high school and attending Idyllwild Arts Academy Summer Program that he wanted to continue music professionally.

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“It was at Cal State Fullerton, where I first delved into performing opera,” said Harris. “I played the role of Sesto in our ‘Julius Caesar’ in our opera scenes, the role of Prince Orlofsky in our full production of ‘Die Fledermaus, and the role of Don Octave and our production of ‘The Stoned Guest.’”

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music education, with the emphasis in voice and choral conducting, from Cal State Fullerton. Harris went on to teach high school choir before receiving his Master of Music and vocal chamber music, from the University of Redlands. He has been teaching at John Rowland High School for seven years and loves working with the youth.

“It has been one of the greatest ventures in my life,” said Harris. “I get to make beautiful music with the students, but also create wonderful experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives, while creating a space, where students feel safe to be their authentic selves, and discover their true talents.”

Harris is a countertenor, a male singer who sings in the soprano/mezzo soprano/alto range.

“I’ve always sang in a higher octave, even growing up,” said Harris. “When I was getting ready to finish high school, and I had to tell my choir teacher I wanted to study music, she [was] the first person that ever told me what a countertenor [was] and explained that I might be one.”

Founding Artistic Director of the Verdi Chorus, Anne Marie Ketchum (Courtesy Photo)

Harris has performed with the LA Opera appearing in the West Coast, premiere of “Omar”, which he describes as “an amazing experience, because it was a cast of mostly Black singers, which we don’t get to see often, and the majority of the opera was a bunch of course music.”

Harris continued, “Through this experience, my voice has grown extremely, and my artistry and my professionalism have also grown.

“It was through the LA Opera course that I got the opportunity to start performing with the Hour of Power Choir, and that has been an absolute amazing experience so far. It is unlike any other church choir, because it’s filled with many individuals who are professional singers, and we do a lot of complex music.

“It was also an amazing experience to sing with this choir at the national ACDA conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, this past February.”

“VERDISSIMO! Plus!” will feature selections from four Verdi operas – “Otello, Il trovatore”, “La forza del destino”, and “Un ballo in Maschera,” as well as beloved melodies from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. The program will also feature four guest soloists: soprano Jessica Tivens Schneiderman, celebrated mezzo soprano Danielle Marcelle Bond, and renowned baritone Roberto Perlas Gómez.

These performances are made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Sahm Family Foundation and by grant funding from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.

Conductor Ketchum stated about the concert, “When I started looking for possibilities for this concert, the more I searched, the more I realized everything I was coming up with was Verdi, and I thought to myself ‘of course it’s all Verdi, why not?’ It’s simply some of the greatest music there is, especially for an opera chorus. “

Founding Artistic Director of the Verdi Chorus, Anne Marie Ketchum (Courtesy Photo)

The Chorus is also proud to continue with the Sahm Foundation Apprentice Singers program that was established in 2015, which talented vocal music students at the college level gain the opportunity to work with the Chorus in rehearsals and sing operatic music in concert. Each receives a scholarship to provide funds with which they can broaden their music studies.  Harris shared that he was honored to be one of the apprentices of the program.

“I am first, very grateful that I was one of the recipients,” said Harris. “So far, it has been a very pleasant, fun, and enlightening experience being a part of this wonderful group.”

He continued, “The music in the upcoming program has been very fun to learn, but also challenging and has been stretching my vocal abilities and such a natural way and I’m really, really excited to sing in this upcoming program.”

Performance times are Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, April 30 at 4:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 1220 2nd Street in Santa Monica. Priority seating is available for $40, general admission is $30, seniors are $25, and students aged 25 and under with a valid ID are $10.  Tickets are now available for purchase at