Beautiful choral music to usher in 2014


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Even on the telephone, Becki Toth's voice crackles with so much energy and enthusiasm that it's easy to imagine her directing a choir.

The Squirrel Hill accompanist and voice teacher is eager to sing at a concert today with an 18-member choir called Voces Solis, Latin for Voices of the Sun.

The group is made up of professional choral singers, music teachers and business professionals and is a subset of a larger chorus Ms. Toth co-founded called The Summer Singers, which includes performers with the Mendelssohn Choir and the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus. Voces Solis is giving a free concert at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie at 4 p.m. today.

"This group is about making beautiful music because we are emotionally invested in it. Everyone in the group has worked with one of the four conductors or been highly recommended to us by a member," Ms. Toth said.

The other directors are Maura Underwood of Oakdale, Andrew Peters of Thornburg and Bryan Sable of Coraopolis. Ms. Toth is especially glad that the group is singing in a hall built before the era of electronics.

"I love to hear large groups of people sing there. Acoustically, it is so precise," she said.

She knows the boards of the music hall stage well. Since 1997, she has participated, either by directing or performing, in more than 30 productions by Stage 62, the resident theater company. She relished playing the role of Mrs. Lovett in the 2012 production of "Sweeney Todd." (In 2005, the Post-Gazette named Ms. Toth best actress in its nonprofessional category.)

Members of The Summer Singers and Voces Solis are experienced performers.

"The four of us decided it was time for all of our very talented friends to put their talents to work. I'm sort of the secretary," said Ms. Toth, a mezzo-soprano who grew up in Cabot, Butler County.

"We do seek out people with professional choral and music experience," she said, adding that she teaches voice at Grove City College.

Some of the songs that will be sung at today's concert include Abbie Bettinis' arrangement of "In the Bleak Midwinter," based on an 1872 poem by Christina Rossetti, plus a premiere of Bryan Sables' arrangement of "Riu Riu Chiu," a traditional carol derived from a medieval Spanish chant.

Also on the program are "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" and "I Wonder as I Wander," both arranged by renowned English choral director John Rutter.

Matt Brown, who teaches music at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, will accompany the choir on some of the songs.

Singing in a choir, Ms. Toth said, is "a really fun way to enrich yourself and bring your own experience of learning music to your classroom."

A reception with members of the choir will follow the concert.


Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.

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