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Pitt student choirs unite for Fall Showcase

Four+of+Pitt%27s+choirs+will+combine+their+talents+into+one+show+this+Sunday.++Photo+courtesy+of+Heinz+Chapel+Choir
Four of Pitt's choirs will combine their talents into one show this Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Heinz Chapel Choir

Four of Pitt's choirs will combine their talents into one show this Sunday. Photo courtesy of Heinz Chapel Choir

George Thomas Mendel

George Thomas Mendel

Four of Pitt's choirs will combine their talents into one show this Sunday. Photo courtesy of Heinz Chapel Choir

By Rio Maropis / Staff Writer

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Rarely together under the same roof, Pitt’s four student choirs will join forces and voices for this weekend’s Fall Showcase.

The Pitt Men’s Glee Club, Pantherhythms, Women’s Choral Ensemble and Heinz Chapel Choir — all of the faculty-directed choirs on campus — will perform a free show Sunday at 4 p.m. at First Baptist Church on North Bellefield Avenue. The  showcase will feature three performances from each group and a final combined piece.

The showcase has been an annual tradition for the past four years, growing in popularity so much that it now needs a new venue. Previously hosted in Bellefield Hall, this is the first year the concert will take place in First Baptist Church.

“[Last year] there was standing room only,” Dr. Susan Rice, director of the Heinz Chapel Choir, said.

First Baptist will seat 750 guests — 175 more than Bellefield.

This year’s show is happening a week earlier than usual to avoid fall break, causing the choirs to scramble more than usual.

“In past years, we’ve taken a little bit of a relaxed approached getting the music learned. This year it’s pretty much off to the races from the very beginning,” Richard Teaster, director of the Pitt Men’s Glee Club, said.

The choirs held auditions during the first week of classes. Since then, the groups have had four short weeks to get their new members up to speed and to prepare music for the concert on Oct. 4.

“We’re doing well, but it’s a lot of stuff to prepare in a very, very short amount of time,” Teaster said.

Unlike other school choirs, Pitt’s are all a capella.

“That’s one thing that Pitt is quite good at, and a lot of schools don’t have that tradition,” Teaster said of the faculty-directed choirs. “It’s something we do that’s unique to [us].”

First Baptist Church is the home rehearsal and performance space for the PMGC, which will open the showcase with its rendition of the University of Pittsburgh Alma Mater.

The 65-piece club will go on to perform a wide selection of songs, including “Beati Mortui,” a Mendelssohn piece from the 19th century written specifically for a men’s choir, an arrangement of the Vietnam-era Crosby, Stills & Nash song, “Find the Cost of Freedom” and the Italian song “O Che Incanto.” 

Pantherhythms, another all-male group that includes 12 PMGC members, will follow with “Come Again Sweet Love,” an English madrigal written by John Dowland, an arrangement of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and Eric Clapton’s “Change the World.”

The group originally formed in the late ’90s, when collegiate a capella groups began “hitting the scene” on campuses across the country, according to Teaster.

“They have a repertoire leaning toward jazz, pop [and] barbershop,” Teaster said. “[They’re] doing [the] most contemporary repertoire on the program, I would say.”

In contrast to the all-male openers, the WCE will take the stage next.

“What I particularly like about the Showcase is that you get to hear a mixed group, a male group and a female group,” Alexis Bovalino, a junior marketing and human resources management major and vice president of the choir, said. “You can see the differences in how we style our voices to fit our members and the tone of the piece.”

The WCE will sing five numbers — an Appalachian-themed song, an arrangement of a modern pop tune, an early 20th century Gershwin song called “Embraceable You,” a madrigal and a gospel piece.

Bovalino said the WCE is most excited about its last piece.

“We like spirituals because of their vivacity,” she said. “This piece has an upbeat style and energy that makes it fun for both the audience and the choir.”

Finally, 50 men and women will come together in the Heinz Chapel Choir — 24 of whom joined this semester — and perform together after only eight rehearsals. 

Heinz Chapel Choir’s international pallet is considerably different from the others. Its setlist includes “Vela Vela,” a South African piece, “Verbum caro factum est,” a Hassler piece from the late renaissance period and the Latin jazz song, “Bailando.”

Kelly Cahill, a senior applied mathematics major and the secretary of Heinz Chapel Choir, said the choir is most excited about the African piece.

“We learned [it] orally, meaning our director taught it to us without sheet music,” she said, in order to stay as true to the song’s sound as possible.

“The songs are usually very upbeat, with movement, and allow for the group to add its own interpretation and musicality, which is fun,” Cahill said.

The final song of the concert will be a collaboration of all three choirs. They’ll sing an arrangement of the folk hymn, “How Can I Keep From Singing?” directed by Teaster, who wrote it for mixed voices.

Teaster said he feels that students probably think Pitt is “just a sports school,” or “just a research school,” but the Fall Showcase tries to generate student interest in some of the lesser-known student activities, like choir.

“I think there are a lot of people on campus that don’t really know the energy that’s happening in choral music at Pitt,” Rice said. “We’re hoping all of this gets on people’s radars in a way that encourages them to come back and see us again.”

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Pitt student choirs unite for Fall Showcase