Shepherd of the Bay Presents “An Evening at the Opera”

(Left to right) Desiree Hassler, John Concepcion, Pamela Williams, and Michael Cavalieri perform May 24 and 25 at Shepherd of the Bay. Photo submitted.

When Judith Jackson – professional pianist, accompanist, and vocal coach – retired from working with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Opera Theater and moved to Door County, singers still wanted to work with her.

“They would make the trek from Chicago to Sister Bay,” says Jackson, who also works as a pianist and choral director with Peninsula Music Festival. “I love working with the people, making their presentation the strongest possible. I like to prepare them and send them off to Berlin or New York and hear about their success. My husband, a psychiatrist, says I use more psychiatry than he does.”

Six years ago, four female Opera singers from Chicago were planning their annual girls weekend – no children, no spouses.

“Come to Door County!” said Jackson. “If you sing for my church, you can write some expenses off.”

The women came, performed and established an annual Memorial Day Weekend event at Shepherd of the Bay in Ellison Bay. Opera singers throughout Chicago ask to be a part of the special program every year.

This year the concert titled “Chicago On Tour: An Evening at the Opera” will feature soprano Desiree Hassler, messo soprano Pamela Williams, tenor John Concepcion, and baritone Michael Cavalieri. “It’s kind of a rush of activity and adrenaline, but it’s great, great fun,” says Jackson, who accompanies the performers and leads rehearsals.

Often the performers arrive with new music they wish to try out. “They know how I play,” says Jackson. “They generally bring music no one else will want to tackle.”

Professional pianist, accompanist, and vocal coach Judith Jackson continues to work with members of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Opera Theater.

The May 24 performance will feature “something more familiar to our audience,” explains Jackson, including works by Mozart, Bernstein, and more.

What of those who are a little apprehensive of Opera?

“There is nothing to be afraid of,” laughs Jackson. “It’s basically theater. The music is attractive. There will be some acting, maybe some costumes. This is not going to be a stuffy time where performers stand up, fold their hands, and sing. This is about entertainment, bringing people to a place they have never gone before.”

After the program, which lasts a little more than an hour, a reception will take place. “The singers love Door County because they get to talk to people who have just heard them sing,” says Jackson.

The next morning, the soloists will join members of the Kleinen Choir (Little Chorus), Bach Orchestra, and Pastor Bruce Foster in an annual Memorial Day Sunday tradition at Shepherd of the Bay with a special worship modeled in the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach and the early Lutheran Church.

“Our pastor – Bruce Foster – is very interested in all things Bach. Well, we’re Lutheran and [Bach] prepared early Lutheran music,” explains Jackson, adding, “Opera singers have a real strong interest in church music, sacred music.”

All are encouraged to attend the event; admission is a freewill offering. “There is a lot of energy, a lot of entertainment value,” says Jackson, noting that the Lutheran tradition also means the reception will include “a lot of food.”

Shepherd of the Bay is located at 11836 Highway 42 in Ellison Bay. The May 24th program will begin at 7 pm; the May 25th program will begin at 9 am. For more information call 920.854.2988 or visit

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