Mendelssohn Choir Of Pittsburgh Celebrates Queen Victoria With Music By Strauss, Wagner And More
The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. On May 18 and 19, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) will celebrate her in its lively, upcoming concert titled Victoria's Secret: A Life in Music. Audiences will experience some of the greatest musical pieces of the Victorian era as two actors lead them through episodes of the queen's life.
Critically acclaimed as one of the finest choruses in the country, the 110-year-old Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) is re-inventing choral music for Pittsburgh's 21st century. Composed of 100-plus singers, the choir is led by Robert Page Music Director Matthew Mehaffey, who created Victoria's Secret.
Says Mehaffey, "This show has been two years in the making and is truly a labor of love. In 2017, as we began to explore the history surrounding Queen Victoria, we learned she had consistent interactions with some of the greatest musicians of the 19th century and that her abiding love of music and generosity to the arts resulted in the creation of many significant compositions."
Mehaffey and self-described "music archeologist" Dave Fielding delved into Victoria's life and era to create the show's setlist and enlisted composer Josh Bauder to carefully rework the pieces' disparate orchestrations into versions that could be played by one, unified ensemble. Then, University of Minnesota musicology PhD candidate Andrew Stoebig combed through Victoria's personal diaries and the writings of her confidants to create a script.
The result is a joyful celebration that brings Victorian musical history to life, with well known pieces such as Richard Wagner's "Here Comes the Bride," which was Victoria's coronation music, as well as music by Johann Strauss, Cesar Frank and Arthur Sullivan, all of whom composed pieces for Victoria. Some of the music will be familiar to almost everyone; some will be recognized by classical music enthusiasts; and one work, "Carmen Saeculare," by Charles Villiers Stanford, may be an American premiere. The show will conclude with a rousing, organ-backed rendition of "God Save the Queen," and the audience is encouraged to sing along - this is a birthday party, after all.
Actress Lisa Ann Goldsmith, who has appeared in "Love & Other Drugs," "The Next Three Days" and "One for the Money," will provide the voice of Victoria, conveying the queen's personality through her own words, as penned in her diaries. Meanwhile, on stage, baritone and Ivey Award winner Bradley Greenwald will portray all five of Victoria's private secretaries.
Some facts about Victoria's Secret: A Life in Music:
- The performances will take place immediately after the conclusion of the third season of "Victoria," PBS's popular drama about the queen.
- As Victoria and her husband, Albert, were both German, the show will feature several German composers.
- Irish folk music will accompany the telling of a dark period in Victoria's reign: the Irish potato famine.
- Among the music included will be work by Mendelssohn Choir namesake Felix Mendelssohn, who was a confidant of Victoria and wrote music specifically for her and Albert to play together on the piano.
Victoria's Secret: A Life in Music will be performed on May 18, 2019 (7:30 p.m.), at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in East Liberty, and on May 19, 2019 (3 p.m.), at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper Saint Clair. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.themendelssohn.org/concerts-and-tickets/current-season/.
And what is a birthday celebration without cake? Inspired by popular programs like "The Great British Baking Show" on PBS, MCP invites local bakeries to compete in a friendly bake-off whose winner will present a royal birthday cake to Queen Victoria at each concert. Interested bakers should contact Maggie Richardson at email@example.com for details.
Thurs., April 25, the public is invited to a preview event of Victoria's Secret: A Life in Music, at Sharp Edge Bistro, 422 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222, downtown. The event is hosted by the MCP in collaboration with Britsburgh, a local social group that promotes and celebrates British-American culture in the Pittsburgh region. More information on this event can be found at themendelssohn.org or britsburgh.com.