orchestraThe American Prize

Chicago Oratorio Award, 2019

Paid opportunities—selecting soloists for MESSIAH

in Chicago. Make your professional debut or add to your resume of professional experience.

Performance: Wednesday, December 11, 2019

FINAL DEADLINE for emailing of application(s):

Monday, October 21, 2019.
Questions? email:


Perform Handel’s MESSIAH in December 2019 as a soloist with The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and the CBA Chorus, under the baton of CBA Chorus Director, Maestro Stephen Blackwelder, at St James Episcopal Cathedral / Chicago (pictured). This is a "Do-It-Yourself" performance, where those in the audience who wish are invited to sing along with the chorus.



Piano rehearsal: Monday, December 9, 2019, 6-10 pm, Chicago Loop location TBA
Orchestra rehearsal: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at 6:30 pm, St James Cathedral

Performance: Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 7:30 pm, St James Cathedral


To be considered, all applicants MUST be available for the three dates listed above.


For the ninth consecutive year, The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts, David Volosin Katz, chief judge, is sponsoring an online contest to select vocal soloists to be winners of The American Prize Chicago Oratorio Award. This season TAP and the CBASO are offering four $200 prizes in open competition, one each for soprano, mezzo-soprano (alto), tenor, baritone (bass), to be awarded as performance fees to soloists selected to appear under Maestro Stephen Blackwelder’s baton in concert with The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and the CBA Chorus, performing the Christmas portion of Handel’s MESSIAH (sung in English) at St James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago.

The CBASO and CBA Chorus, sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association, are Chicago's unique ensembles made up almost entirely from members of the city's legal community. The orchestra, David Volosin Katz, founding music director, was formed in 1986. The chorus, Stephen Blackwelder, director, is now in its thirteenth season.


Although this year’s contest is geared primarily to provide professional debuts (or early professional experience) to skilled college-age singers or young professionals eager to add to their professional resumes, applications will be accepted from any soprano, mezzo-soprano (alto), tenor, and baritone (bass) interested in being considered. There are no age limits. There is no live competition. Be sure to apply for the Chicago Oratorio Award by Monday, October 21, 2019.  

WHAT is the PRIZE:
Winners will be featured as vocal soloists in the Christmas portion of MESSIAH, under the baton of Maestro Stephen Blackwelder, with The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and the CBA Chorus at St James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago. Each soloist will be designated as a winner of The American Prize Chicago Oratorio Award and will receive a $200 all-inclusive fee (no additional housing, travel or per diem), payment to be made on the day of the performance.  
Although the Chicago Oratorio Award is open to all professional and college/university applicants who may be interested, it is geared primarily to college-age or young professional singers eager to make their MESSIAH debut or to add to their professional resume, and to those who live within comfortable travel distance of Chicago who can make their own housing and travel arrangements.



DOWNLOAD the Chicago Oratorio Award APPLICATION here (PDF)

FINAL DEADLINE to email applications: Monday, October 21, 2019


EMAIL the following information by the deadline date to: theamericanprize@gmail.com

with the words "MESSIAH SOLOIST" in the subject line of the email.

1. APPLICATION FORM: Email the completed application form, sent as a scan or PDF attachment. (Application forms for The American Prize can be filled out on computer, saved and emailed by using Adobe Reader 11. Download it free here.)

2. BIO: A 250 word (maximum) biography of the artist, sent in the body of the email, not as an attachment. The bio will be printed verbatim should the applicant win The American Prize Chicago Oratorio Award.
3. PHOTO: Photograph of artist. (JPEG or PGN only) sent as an attachment. Identify file by name of artist.
4. LINKS: Online links or attachments to MESSIAH audition selections. (See below for specific requirements by voice type.)
5. REFERENCES: The names, emails, and relationship to you of three individuals who can comment about your artistry.
6. OTHER DOCUMENTS (optional): resume, reviews, letters of recommendation—PDFs or scanned attachments only.

7. Confirm in the email that you are available for the rehearsal and performance schedule listed.
8. FEE: The application fee is $12. Pay ONLINE (click "FEES/GIFTS" in the menu bar above, and select "MESSIAH SOLOIST" by scrolling through the menu options) or use this link and scroll down: "Pay competition fees," or pay by credit card by filling out that portion on the application form. Application fees are nonrefundable. No incomplete applications will be accepted. When paying online, BE SURE to identify the applicant with the payment.


soprano—#18: Rejoice, with the four short recits before "Glory to God."
mezzo (alto)—#9: O Thou that tellest, with recit. preceding
tenor—#3: Every Valley, with recit. preceding.
baritone (bass)—#6: But who may abide, with recit. preceding


Provide online links to your performance of the above material (Youtube, Vimeo and etc), or provide attached files with your application. VIDEO is preferred, but audio is acceptable if video is absolutely not available.


There is no live competition. Following the October 21st deadline, Maestro Blackwelder will access your application and audition links and make his selection.


The four singers chosen to perform will be announced on The American Prize website and to the media as winners of the Chicago Oratorio Award. There is no age limit; there is no restriction against previous winners of the Chicago Oratorio Award or The American Prize applying.

CHRISTMAS PORTION—who sings what:

Download a PDF of the movements to be performed, listing which soloists sing what, here (PDF).



Stephen Blackwelder is beginning his third season as Director of the CBA Chorus.   He is currently Music Director of the Waukegan Symphony (since 2000) and Director of the DePaul Community Chorus (since 2005).  Previous positions include Music Director of the Hinsdale Chamber Orchestra (1983-94) and numerous civic and educational orchestral, opera and choral ensembles in the greater Chicago area.  As a professional singer, he performed frequently under conductors James Levine, Robert Shaw, Sir Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado and Margaret Hillis while a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Aspen Chamber Choir.  He served on the conducting staff of the Harford Opera Theater of Baltimore, Hinsdale Opera, Opera Illinois, Opera da Corneto and Chicago Opera Theater and also on the faculties of Lake Forest College, East Carolina University and DePaul University. Blackwelder holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Carolina (1978) and a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University (1979).  Professional study included four seasons with the Aspen Music Festival and conducting master classes with Sir Georg Solti, Max Rudolf and Erich Leinsdorf.




The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts are administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc. (HCMT), the 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Danbury, CT. The American Prize does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, spiritual or personal belief, disability, sexual preference or gender identification. All application fees must be remitted in U.S. funds.