Trinity student choir teams with orchestra for holiday concert

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As choir director for Trinity High School for the past seven years, Marsha Owens knew that high school students in neighboring Westmoreland County sometimes perform with that county's symphony orchestra.

And she knew that college students elsewhere in the region often sing in concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony. So she asked herself, "Why not us? Why not have Washington County high school students perform with the Washington Symphony Orchestra?"

Excited about her idea, she went to Yugo Ikach, WSO artistic director, in the spring of last year, only to discover that Matthew Boice, choir director at Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale and a cellist with WSO, had proposed it, too.

"But Marsha proved the catalyst that really got things moving," Mr. Ikach said.

The three sent letters to the choir directors in 14 Washington County school districts, asking for recommendations of students who might be interested in forming an All-Star Choir. By the time the first rehearsal was held in September 2011, they had about 35 singers from eight school districts.

"The idea for the choir is to perform with the WSO each year at a Christmas concert," Miss Owens said.

This year, 36 students will perform at the holiday concert, scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at Trinity High School in North Franklin.

"I thought it would be a good way to give Washington County high school students a chance to perform with an orchestra because only two of our 14 school districts have an orchestra program," Mr. Boice said.

The choir will rehearse three times with piano accompaniment and have one dress rehearsal with the WSO.

"Dress rehearsal with the orchestra is quite a jump for students used to rehearsing with only a piano," Mr. Boice said.

"Many will hear sounds they've never heard before, but once they get over the initial shock, there's a certain thrill to it."

The All-Star Choir, supported by about 20 members of the California University of Pennsylvania Choir, will sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah"; three carols -- "What Sweeter Music," "The Angels' Carol" and "Jesus, Child" -- by British composer John Rutter; and an audience singalong of Christmas tunes arranged by WSO violist Andrew Adams.

In addition to the All-Star Choir, the concert also will include "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "A Mad Russian's Christmas," a work from the repertoire of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, whose annual Christmas concert sells out in Pittsburgh.

Organizers hope the collaboration between the All-Star Choir and the symphony will become an annual event, Miss Owens said.

"Our goal is to get every school district in Washington County to participate."

Tickets for the concert: $20; $15 for senior citizens and those 18 and younger.

Details: 724-223-9796 or www.washsym.org.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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