Past Event

The Country and the City: Christine Brewer and Noam Pikelny in Performance

The Country and the City: Common Ground in the Prairie State? logo

Discover the connections that bring rural and urban communities together through a conversation with community leaders from across Illinois and a performance by operatic soprano Christine Brewer and banjoist Noam Pikelny.

This event is part of The Country and the City: Common Ground in the Prairie State?, a year-long, statewide initiative that features text-based discussions of issues that affect both rural and urban Illinois communities, involving panelists who are well-versed in those issues from both perspectives.

5:30 PM: Conversations & Refreshments

Performances begin at 7:00 PM


The Performers

Grammy Award-winning American soprano Christine Brewer’s appearances in opera, concert, and recital are marked by her own unique timbre, at once warm and brilliant, combined with a vibrant personality and emotional honesty reminiscent of the great sopranos of the past. Named one of the top 20 sopranos of all time (BBC Music), her range, golden tone, boundless power, and control make her a favorite of the stage and a highly sought-after recording artist, one who is “in her prime and sounding glorious” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times). On the opera stage, Brewer is highly regarded for her striking portrayal of the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, which she has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Théatre du Chatelet, Santa Fe Opera, English National Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Attracting glowing reviews with each role, she has performed Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at San Francisco Opera, Gluck’s Alceste with Santa Fe Opera, the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Paris Opera, and Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring at Santa Fe Opera and the Los Angeles Opera.  She created the role of Sister Aloysius in the world premiere of Doug Cuomo’s opera Doubt with the Minnesota Opera in 2013 and reprised the role in 2016 with the Union Avenue Opera in St. Louis. Originally from Grand Tower, IL, Brewer resides in Lebanon, IL.

Christine Brewer is accompanied by Canadian baritone, Hugh Russell, who continues to receive high praise for his charisma, dramatic energy, and vocal beauty. He is widely acclaimed for his performances in the operas of Mozart and Rossini and is regularly invited to perform with symphony orchestras throughout North America. At the center of his orchestral repertoire is Orff’s popular Carmina Burana, which Russell has performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, and the Pittsburgh Symphony, among others. The New Orleans Times-Picayune said, “Baritone Hugh Russell also grasped the theatrical nature of Orff’s work, nearly stealing the show with a voice that ranged from organ-deep rumbles to flute-like falsetto – and an acting style that drew roars of laughter as he captured the bullishness of an intoxicated medieval abbot.” In the 2018-2019 season, Russell performs Carmina Burana with the Kansas City Symphony and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he sings Pangloss in Candide in Salt Lake City and Seoul, South Korea, Abimelech in Samson et Dalila with North Carolina Opera, and reprises the role of Noah Joad in Grapes of Wrath with Michigan Opera Theater. An accomplished pianist as well, Russell performs in that capacity this evening.


Noam Pikelny has emerged as the preeminent banjoist of his generation. He is a founding member of Grammy-winning Punch Brothers and was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2010. Universal Favorite is the fourth record Noam Pikelny has released under his own name, but it’s truly his solo debut. His previous solo efforts—including 2014’s landmark Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe—were fullband affairs that revealed his abilities as a dynamic bandleader while reinforcing his reputation as an inventive accompanist. Universal Favorite features only the man himself, playing lovely originals and covers that showcase his unique approach to the instrument and compositional flair. He recorded them live in the studio without accompaniment, coaxing a wide array of sounds and colors out of his instruments, embracing the challenges and exploring the new possibilities of the solo setting. And, for the first time in his career, Pikelny even sings. It turns out he has a striking deadpan baritone that conveys humor and melancholy in equal measure. This album, he says, is “is the most personal statement I’ve put forward. The setting couldn’t be more stark and I think it lays bare my musical core. Most importantly, it’s an incredibly honest solo album, in that there are honestly no other people on this record. Originally from Skokie, IL, Pikelny resides in Nashville, TN.



For more information, please contact Matt Meacham at or (618) 468-5580.