Conspirare Christmas reinvents the traditional holiday concert with songs of hope, courage, and love. Conspirare is excited to collaborate with Isaac Cates & Ordained, the dynamic Kansas City based-Gospel choir known for their blend of sacred and secular choral sounds with modern Gospel and other musical genres. Cates and Conspirare’s Craig Hella Johnson will perform and lead 42 singers in a genre-bending night of rhythm, reflection and rejoicing.

View the Conspirare Christmas 2019 livestream and check out our complete Conspirare Christmas albums in the store.

Get to know Isaac Cates & Ordained

Isaac Cates



Isaac Cates discusses his musical influences and Ordained in the feature on Kansas City’s Classical KC interview

Carol of the Bells

Lacrimosa (Gospel version)


Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare are excited to collaborate with composer Rod Vester and librettist Emily Anderson to create new music for this year’s Conspirare Christmas. Rod Vester created an energetic new arrangement of “Down by the Riverside” especially for Conspirare and Ordained. Emily Anderson collaborated with Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson to create timely text for traditional tune “The Water is Wide” and for a brand new song composed by Johnson, “We Sing the Songs of the World”.

Emily Anderson

American librettist Emily Anderson has written thirteen chamber operas ranging in length from 75 to 10 minutes. Subjects range from Love and Death, rape as a weapon of war and comic remakes of Don Giovanni and Giovanna d’Arco to the Second Coming and a rollicking country house farce starring a talking rat. Her most recent is Clown Song, the story of a wily German circus master who saves two Jews from the Nazis by disguising them as clowns. This Christmas program is her first commission from Conspirare.

Works have been performed in Paris, New York, and Beijing, many towns in France, Knoxville, and now Austin. Other commissioning companies include the Paris-based Opéra de Poche, Marble City Opera, and Gathering Light, a US-Paris museum coalition. Scores were set by composers Evan Fein, Larry Delinger, and Griffin Candey.

Emily spent a number of years in academia, then wrote for cable television. She lives in Knoxville where she serves on the Board of Directors of the Knoxville Opera Company, spends as much time as possible in Paris, and is married to the artist Barry Spann.

Rod Vester

When Rod Vester discovered the piano, at the age of five, his fascination with the instrument, and later the organ, created a lifelong passion for music education and theory. Dr. Vester is an educator, researcher, entrepreneur, pianist, organist, composer, conductor, and producer who excels in gospel, jazz, classical and contemporary music. He has performed with numerous artists, across genres, including Grammy Award winners CeCe Winans, Kirk Franklin and the late Aretha Franklin. Additionally, he has worked as a producer and arranger on over thirty albums. As an arts consultant, Dr. Vester has helped expand the educational and artistic programming for many organizations and remains an active performer, clinician and speaker who has presented at Chamber Music America, Sphinx and at state and national music education conferences. As an educator, Rod is committed to creating spaces where all students feel valued, voiced and visible. He currently serves as Director of Contemporary Music and Assistant Professor of Music at Shenandoah Conservatory. Rod holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s degree in Counseling, a master’s degree in Musicology, and a Ph.D. in Music Education. His scholarly research examines the musical enculturation, transmission, and preservation of the African American gospel piano in the 21st century.

Meet the Artists

Isaac Cates & Ordained

Isaac Cates, Co-Founder and Conductor

Ordained Artists

  • Chris Allen
  • Michael Andrews
  • Da’kneisha Beard
  • Cardon Bolen
  • LaToya Bolen
  • Angela Crawford
  • Sherita Freeman
  • Angel Gibson
  • Jeremiah McCluney
  • Justin McCoy
  • Megan Smith
  • Tina Walker
  • Kami Woodard


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Legacy of Sound

Lynne Dobson & Greg Wooldridge

Fran & Larry Collman

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Eva & Marvin Womack Foundation

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