Our Trees Bear Fruit: Pitt-Greensburg Chorale and Chamber Singers to perform

Photo of Chorale and CHamber Singers(Photo taken prior to 2020.)

The Pitt-Greensburg Chorale and Chamber Singers will present their spring concert on Thursday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. Building off of their successful fall performance, the group will live-stream this event at https://bit.ly/2021-PG-Chorale-Concert. The event is free and open to the public via the live-stream link. The program for the evening, Our Trees Bear Fruit, will feature the premiere of four new works--three of which were composed by Chorale students.

“Our spring concert is truly about who we are as an ensemble and what we have learned,” said Chris Bartley, director of the music at Pitt-Greensburg. “It’s a chance for our students to step forward and experiment with where they are musically.”

Three senior visual and performing arts (VAPA) majors (all with a music concentration) and one alumnus of the group will have their work showcased in the program.

Ben Hill, a senior from Washington, PA, will debut two of his original compositions, Lily and Flowerbed. The pieces were written as part of Hill’s senior capstone studies. Hill, who composed the pieces as part of his capstone studies, will accompany the performances on the cello. His plans after graduation are to go to graduate school for composition and work as a composer for media.

Chorale alumnus Max Rayshich, ’21 from Pittsburgh, PA. will premiere his choral piece, Walk With Me. Rayshich sang with the group for two years before transferring to the University of Pittsburgh to complete his degree. Walk with Me was to have premiered at the spring 2020 concert, but the cancellation of all activities delayed its debut until now. In addition to his studies and music, Rayshich runs an independent production company called Clown Car Entertainment.

Senior Joe Fitz, from Jacksonville, IL, will conduct the Chorale in their performances of Flowerbed and If Music is the Food of Love. Choral conducting is the focus of Fitz’s senior capstone studies. Now residing in Pennsylvania, he plans to attend graduate school for choral conducting or pursue a career as an audio engineer.

Deanna Lesso, a senior from Canonsburg, PA, will perform vocal solos from the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She explored the thematic development of the musical as her senior capstone studies. After graduation, she plans to continue performing and assisting at her community theatre while working in Canonsburg. Her plans also include becoming a music educator who will teach private vocal and piano lessons.

“Joe, Ben, and Deanna are doing their capstones together, just as they pursued their VAPA studies together,” said Bartley. “To see them bring their work to culmination at our concert is the inspiration for our program, Our Trees Bear Fruit. The performances in the concert illustrate the skills that they have developed in their music study.”

The Chorale will premiere the fourth song, Out of the Shadow, written by Tristan Frampton who teaches in St. Louis, MI. Frampton, whose work has been performed by the Chorale in the past, wrote the composition to be performed live online. Bartley describes Out of the Shadows as a melody that is presented all on each singer’s own time to create a cloud mass of tones and harmonies. The middle of the song is, in part, performed aleatorically (with some randomness), acknowledging and embracing the issue of sound latency (sound delay) when trying to sing at the same time together online; rather than treat this as an obstacle, Frampton embraces the idea of singing and being together in a whole new way as their asynchronous singing still creates a musical whole.

Joining Lesso in solo performances are other students who have been participating in the Pitt-Greensburg music lesson program. Zoe McLaughlin will perform a vocal solo; Alex Mikita and Fitz will perform piano solos.

Bartley explained that the students were the impetus that kept Chorale active during this year of COVID-19. The students practiced in small groups, socially distanced and wearing special face coverings that allow the singers to perform well but still remain safe. The group incorporated COVID-19 guidelines from the University, the state, and national choral organizations in order to continue to meet and sing.

“The theme of this year has definitely been ‘Our Students,’” said Bartley. “It has been about their skills, their ambitions, and their will to keep the music experience happening during the pandemic. They made the time and put forth the effort to make Chorale what it is.”

“I have been singing since I was in sixth grade so music has always been an important part of my life,” said Sasha Vogel, president of the Chorale. “The thing that means the most to me is how Mr. Bartley strives to ensure that all Chorale members can still be a part of the music process, whether we are in person or if we are remote. It means a lot that Chorale strives to be an inclusive place where, regardless of the pandemic, people who like to sing can come together and do something they love.”

Vogel, a biological sciences major from Export, PA,  continued, “Chorale has put a lot of time and energy into perfecting these pieces in order to give an amazing performance, so I am excited to be able to perform in person. I look forward to being a part of this concert simply because I like to sing, and I am proud of all the work we have all done to prepare for this concert.”

A small group of 10 to 12 Chorale alumni will be sitting in the audience of the Mary Lou Campana Chapel and Lecture Hall during the performance. They will be socially distanced and wearing face coverings. Bartley and the Chorale look forward to what is becoming their traditional performance of If Music be the Food of Love and having the alumni join in singing from their seats.

“The song has a special meaning to our group,” explained Bartley. “I introduced it to Chorale in spring 2009. Over the years, it has made its appearance again and again. We’re now at a point where our alumni are returning for our spring concert and are welcomed to join us in the performance.” The song, written by David Dickau, is a take on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The Chorale will close their concert with a special performance of Requiem (Eliza Gilkyson, arranged by Craig Hella Johnson) in memory of Mark Stauffer, PhD, professor of Chemistry, who passed away in January 2021.

Publication Date

Sunday, April 11, 2021 - 16:00