Sons of CSO Musicians to Perform in May Festival Presentation of Bernstein’s “MASS”

Posted · Add Comment

The Cincinnati Boychoir is delighted to announce that Nicholas Astafiev-Holmes and Mischa Sella, members of its elite touring ensemble the Ambassadors, will perform as soloists, accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), during the May Festival’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s “MASS.”


Both young men are seasoned performers. Eleven-year-old Mischa has been a member of the Cincinnati Boychoir since 2015 and has performed solos with the Cincinnati Opera and the Ohio Northern Symphony. He also volunteers to perform recitals at Evergreen and The Kenwood Retirement Communities with his mother and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Principal Flutist Randolph Bowman as part of the orchestra’s community outreach.


Nicholas, now 12 years old, has been singing with the Cincinnati Boychoir since he was seven, and previously performed in University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music’s production of “Owen Wingrave.” He is thrilled to have the opportunity to perform with the CSO May Festival.

Mischa and Nicholas will also be traveling to South Africa and Swaziland this summer with the Ambassadors.

Both boys have a family history in the performing arts. Nicholas’s father, Boris Astafiev, plays bass, and Mischa’s mother, Gillian Benet Sella, plays harp, both with the CSO. In another fascinating link, Mrs. Sella has played under Leonard Bernstein himself!

Mischa initially thought he wouldn’t be able to audition for a solo in MASS because he had been singing alto in the Boychoir, and the solos called for sopranos. However, when Dr. Eanes checked his range, they discovered that Mischa is actually a soprano! He will be performing with harp accompaniment from his mother.

“It is very exciting that my son gets to sing with my orchestra, and that we actually perform a solo together,” says Mrs. Sella.

Nicholas said that the audition process took quite a long time. He had to learn a piece for the initial audition back in January, and then they waited for a month before finding out who was called back for a second audition. That second round required them to learn another piece from the MASS. Once the boys learned they had solos, they began a demanding rehearsal schedule, starting with individual coaching. They just learned, less than 10 days before the performance, which solo each will sing! In total, they will have participated in six days of staging rehearsals, only rehearsing with the full CSO once before the dress rehearsal on May 18th.

The young men’s parents say that it is very rewarding to see their sons work so hard for something they really want.

“It’s a very exciting experience when one of our Boychoir boys performs as a soloist,” says Dr. Christopher Eanes, Artistic Director and CEO of the Cincinnati Boychoir. “The boys are expected to act and perform as professionals, and they return to us with a different perspective on what it means to be a great performer. Because of their training here, they are entrusted with an important role in someone else’s performance. It’s a big responsibility.”

MASS is an immense show that includes a full orchestra, three choirs, dancers, a marching band, a rock band, and more. Because of this, live presentations of the work are rare, making this a can’t-miss event.

You can catch the Boychoir singers along with featured artists Robert Porco (May Festival director of choruses) and Kevin Vortmann (celebrant) on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at 8 pm at Music Hall. Tickets are still available on the May Festival’s website.