Artistic & Executive Director
Leanne Magnuson Latuda has been performing professionally, directing and teaching for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Music Degree from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Augustana College, where she was a Presidential Scholar and graduated cum laude.
Leanne is a gifted mezzo-soprano who has sung professionally with opera companies, musical theaters, and choral ensembles. She has performed locally as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony, The Bach Society, and the Masterworks Chorale and has been directing WHCSL since 2012.
Ruth Stith is a faculty member of Saint Louis University and the Community Music School of Webster University, where she teaches class piano, applied piano lessons, and directs the SLU Piano Ensemble. Prior to moving to St. Louis, Ms. Stith was an instructor of piano and theory at Vanderbilt University, where she also served as a staff accompanist. She has a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (summa cum laude), and a Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Vanderbilt University. Mrs. Stith lives in St. Louis with her husband and three young children, and has enjoyed accompanying the Hope Chorale since 2014.
Principal Artist & Soprano 1 Section Leader
An artist with a love for opera and Baroque music, soprano Alexandra Billhartz is a native of New Baden, IL. She is thrilled to be serving as a Soprano 1 Principal Artist with the Women’s HOPE Chorale this year! Ms. Billhartz is also serving as a Young Artist with the Bach Society of St. Louis. Most recently, she has performed in the chorus with Winter Opera St. Louis in their 2020 production of La fille du régiment as well as the roles of Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel), Cercatrice Prima Sorella (Suor Angelica), Norina (Don Pasquale), Musetta (La Bohème), Despina (Così fan tutte), and Zerlina (Don Giovanni). She was also the soprano soloist in a 2018 performance of Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël at First Presbyterian Church in Muncie, IN. Ms. Billhartz has presented her research on Handel and the doctrine of the affections and the topic of opera adaptation throughout her graduate studies. She is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Phi Kappa Phi. Ms. Billhartz earned her BM in Vocal Performance from the University of Evansville in 2016, graduating summa cum laude, and her MM in Vocal Performance from Ball State University in 2019. Upcoming performances include singing Fiametta with Winter Opera St. Louis in their 2022 production of The Gondoliers. Ms. Billhartz has been a member of the Women’s HOPE Chorale since 2019 and enjoys connecting her love of music with the values of the chorale. “I love attending rehearsals and forming friendships with all the members of the chorale! The variety of repertoire and performances allow me to experience wonderful musical moments every season.”
Principal Artist and Soprano 1 Section Leader
Alayna Epps, soprano, is the Soprano I section leader with the Women’s Hope Chorale. She graduated from the University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL) with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a Degree of Distinction in Creativity in the Arts. During her academic career at UMSL, she was a member of UMSL Opera Theater and performed the roles of Mabel in the NOA award winning production of Pirates of Penzance and Monica in Menotti’s The Medium. Alayna has also shared the honor of performing in Carnegie Hall, and as a guest performer with legend, Stevie Wonder in the Songs in the Key of Life Tour (2015). She was awarded First-Place in the NATS Classical Division in the St. Louis Regionals in 2019 and 2020. Her most recent accomplishment was First-Place winner of the 2020 College Division of the UMSL Young Artist Competition. Alayna also serves as the Worship Leader at Agape Time Ministries, Inc – City of refuge.
Alayna believes her purpose is to help heal the city of St. Louis through music, so she is currently pursuing her Master’s in Music Therapy at Maryville University to become a certified Music Therapist and serve families in the St. Louis Community. As a new member of Women’s Hope Chorale, Alayna is excited to partner with and further the mission of the chorale, “to build a caring community of women whose excellent, innovative and inspiring choral performances foster hope in the lives of people throughout the St. Louis region.”
Principal Artist and Alto 2 Section Leader
Kaytlin Houghtaling is the Alto II section leader with the Women’s Hope Chorale. She loves to sing many styles of music from classical to jazz to rock and pop. In 2017, she graduated from Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She has sung with St. Louis opera companies Winter Opera and Union Avenue Opera as well as with various choirs in the St. Louis area. She has also been featured as a vocalist and lyricist for the video game Our Life and as a voice actress in various other games while working with the independent music and sound design team Fat Bard.
Principal Artist and Alto 1 Section Leader
Italian mezzo soprano Benedetta Orsi, now resident in the United States, has been praised by Teresa Berganza as “perfect voice for belcanto”. She is one of the 2018 nominee for Outstanding Achievement in Opera by St. Louis Theater Circle for her Carmen, reviewed by Broadway Opera World: “Benedetta Orsi has a quite breathtakingly beautiful voice, full and rich, with such easily accessed resources of power. She gives us a simply perfect “Habanera".
Mrs. Orsi is one of only a few contemporary mezzo sopranos to have performed all three of Donizetti's Tudor Operas: Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena, Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda and Sara in Roberto Devereux with Royal Opera Theater in Manchester, UK. Recent performances also include Adalgisa in Norma with Winter Opera St. Louis, the title role of Carmen with Winter Opera St. Louis and Boulder Symphony Orchestra in Colorado, Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera with the Miami Lyric Opera and Maddalena in Rigoletto with Amore Opera.
Her first album Christmas Around the World won the double Silver Medal at the Global Music Awards in Los Angeles as Best Album and Best Female Vocalist. Her latest one, La Voix de l’amour, released in December 2019 for the International label Limen Music, won the Gold Medal as Best album.
Along with concert appearances at Carnegie Hall in NYC and throughout Italy, England, United States and Spain, Mrs. Orsi’s performance credits include roles in Verdi Rigoletto, Trovatore, Belli- ni Norma and La Sonnambula, Rossini L’Italiana in Algeri and Il Turco in Italia and Massenet Werther.
Benedetta is a first prize winner of the Barry Alexander International Voice Competition (IVC) and First Prize and Star Performer Award in the American Protégé IVC; Third Prize Winner of the Roschel IVC and Audience & Orchestra Award in the Boulder Music Institute IVC. In her home- land, she received the Audience Award and Special Prize of the Italian Music Federation during the 28th International Piero Boni International Singing Competition.
Benedetta joined the Women’s HOPE Chorale in 2017, as soon as she arrived in St. Louis. Since then, she felt part of something bigger than a simple choir: “The passion, dedication and love that this chorale spread through the music we sing is something that deeply touches hearts and people. This amazing group of women is able to reach your spirit and touch your soul! Each member became part of my life and I consider all of them like my second family! It’s simply a blessing to have them in my life!”
Principal Artist and Soprano 2 Section Leader
Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Mossinghoff is ecstatic to be performing with the Women's Hope Chorale as the Soprano II section leader this year! She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music from Truman State University in 2018 and her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2021. Most recently, Mossinghoff performed as Inez in The Gondoliers during Winter Opera St. Louis 2021-22 season. In addition to this, she appeared in several opera outreach programs aimed towards children with Opera Edwardsville. These include performing as Pinocchio (Pinocchio), Wolfgang Bigbad (The Three Little Pigs), and the dual role of Jack's Mother and the Giant's Wife (Jack and the Beanstalk). Her vocal credits also include Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel) and Dido (Dido and Aeneas).
"The Dream Keepers: A Couple"
A Love Story told through Jazz
But not just any love story….the true love story of two of our founders. We performed the world premiere of a piece we commissioned by composer and performer, Adam Maness, for women’s chorus and jazz trio to celebrate our dream keepers: Richard and Mary Ann Shaw.