Student musicians and vocalists celebrate homecoming week with Sounds of Pitt concert


Levko Karmazyn | Staff Photographer

The University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the PalPITTations and the Women’s Choral Ensemble performed at the Pitt Alumni Association at Heinz Memorial Chapel Tuesday evening.

By Victoria Pfefferle-Gillot, Staff Writer

The intricate Gothic stone walls of Heinz Chapel reverberated with music for Tuesday night’s Sounds of Pitt Homecoming Concert, which welcomed the Pitt community with three on-campus groups — The University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the PalPITTations and the Women’s Choral Ensemble.

The audience gathered inside the chapel was comprised of students, parents and alumni of all ages. While rain poured outside, the audience was entertained within by the sounds of violins and singing

The concert opened with the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra — but the first piece wasn’t overseen by the strings. Pitt graduate Christian Clark commanded Bach’s Prelude in E flat minor “St. Anne” on the organ.

Following this was the symphony’s performance of the composition “Quiet City,” inspired in part by the 1939 play of the same name. The mixture of strings, trumpet and English horn was a soft counterpart to the opening organ, featuring a warmer, brighter tone.

Roger Zahab — director of the orchestra for 25 years — expressed his enthusiasm for the group and his role in it following the performance.  

“They’re very good and they like to play for their friends, so this is a good opportunity for them to do that,” he said. “I believe everyone performed well tonight.”

The orchestra only practices Wednesday nights and is comprised of both music majors and non-majors from Pitt and neighboring universities. Faculty, staff and members of the community are also involved.

“We mostly perform in Bellefield Hall, sometimes we perform [in Heinz Chapel], churches that have concert series usually. If they have a good organ that they want to feature we can do an organ concerto,” Zahab said.

Zahab also discussed how he asked Clark — who graduated summa cum laude in 2017 in both music and computer science —  to perform since he wanted to feature an alum for Homecoming.

“We play chamber music a lot and he helps out with the orchestra sometimes. Since he’s still in Pittsburgh it was easy to get in touch with him,” Zahab said. “Christian’s a talented musician and we are glad to have him.”

Following the orchestra was PalPITTations — a co-ed a cappella group made up of students in mostly health-related fields — which performs at various philanthropic events around Pittsburgh. Evan Keller, a student at Pitt School of Medicine and the group’s music director, introduced the group.

“We are the oldest-running, newly-running co-ed graduate health and science a capella group in western Pennsylvania,” Keller said, laughing. “We’re excited to share our music.”

The group performed three songs, each with different leading soloists. The tunes included Zedd’s “The Middle,” Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” and Panic! at the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor.”

While all three songs showed off the group’s ability to provide impressive harmony and bass behind a strong leading soloist, “Death of a Bachelor” featured soloist Tim Petty continuously hitting the sharp high notes leading into each chorus.

“He’s the dentist of the group,” Keller said, smiling.

The final group to perform was the Women’s Choral Ensemble, which is comprised of undergraduate, graduate, faculty and staff women of the University community. Only one member of the group is a music major.

The lineup of five songs began with “The Little Road” and “Only in Sleep” which had the women in an unusual formation. Rather than standing in rows at the front of the chapel, they formed a perimeter around the inside chapel walls, their voices echoing off the chapel’s stately walls.

Following this, the ensemble reformed at the front in usual rows and director Lorraine Milovac apologized good-humoredly for the next piece, “Dodolske Pesme” — a Serbian rain-bringing song — and admitted they likely practiced it too much. They closed in high energy with the songs “Hosanna” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”     

The concert ended with loud applause and one final song — Pitt’s Alma Mater — sung both by the choral ensemble and members of the audience.

“I felt really good about our performance tonight,” ensemble member and undeclared first-year Megan Pfeifer said.

Once getting to Pitt, Pfeifer, who sang in a women’s choir in high school, decided to audition for the WCE. While she is new to the homecoming scene, Pfeifer was excited for the rest of the festivities and has enjoyed her experience thus far.

“I’m definitely planning on going to the game on Saturday,” she said. “Since I’m a freshman I haven’t gone through this before, but it seems really cool and this was a great event to perform at.”