Mendelssohn Choir Of Pittsburgh's 2019-'20 Season Includes World Premiere By Stewart Copeland, Founder Of The Police

By: Sep. 04, 2019

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) has announced its 2019-'20 season. At 112 years in operation, MCP is the city's most celebrated chorus. Composed of approximately 150 singers, it is led by Robert Page Music Director Matthew Mehaffey.

The season will open Oct. 23 with An Evening with Stewart Copeland. The event will include a live, on-stage conversation with MCP's 2019-'20 Composer in Residence Stewart Copeland, a former rock drummer, founder of the legendary post-punk band The Police and composer of Satan's Fall, an oratorio co-commissioned this year by MCP. Excerpts of the newly commissioned work will be performed by the MCP and followed by commentary from the composer himself, who will be interviewed by local DJ (and super fan) Russ "Whip" Rose of WDVE 102.5, and audience members during a Q&A. Mr. Small's Theater, 400 Lincoln Avenue, Millvale. Cash bars and a robust bar menu will be on offer.

Satan's Fall, which will be performed in its entirety on Feb. 7 and 8 at the newly restored Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks, is a commissioned work for large chorus by Copeland. After his last concert with The Police in 1984, Copeland began exploring genres beyond rock, going on to become an award-winning composer responsible for some of the film world's most innovative scores. He has described this journey as a 20-year intensive education in how to tell stories with music.

That journey eventually led him into the world of contemporary classical composition, creating pieces for orchestra, chamber opera, and ballet. As he ventured deeper, he came to be fascinated by the story of Satan as told by John Milton in Paradise Lost.

"In the vast 17th-century epic of John Milton's Paradise Lost, there lives a story within the story," says Copeland. "It concerns the essential prequel to the sacred tale: Why did Satan do it? How and why does Almighty God have an adversary? We get an answer in Books V and VI when we learn of Satan's journey to the dark side and of the mighty battle that cast him out of heaven. Such a story must be told with a heavenly choir!"

From Milton's nearly 100,000-word epic, Copeland selected roughly 3,000, from Books V and VI, in order to tell the story of the clash between God, the Messiah, and Satan in a 40-minute oratorio. Archangels Raphael (tenor) and Raphaella (soprano) share narration duties, with other solo roles to include God (bass), the Messiah (soprano), Satan (baritone), Zophiel (tenor), and Abdiel (tenor). The 100-plus voices of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) will unleash the drama and emotion of the truly epic conflict. In writing Satan's Fall, the culturally omnivorous Copeland found additional inspiration in paintings by William Blake and Gustave Dore, and in classical works by Debussy and Carl Orff.

MCP's Music Director, Matthew Mehaffey says, "It's incredibly unique. The structure actually feels like an oratorio, and therefore it is truly timeless in how it tells the story. It's part Carmina Burana, part musical theater, part hard rock, and very intense rhythmically. It's almost like an extended 1970s rock opera."

MCP will perform the world premiere of Satan's Fall on February 7 and 8, 2020, at the Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks (425 Chartiers Avenue).

Before these sweeping performances reach the stage, Stewart Copeland will be the guest of honor at an MCP fundraiser five course dinner at Casbah in Shadyside (229 S Highland Avenue) on October 24, 2019, part of the Casbah Benefit Dinner Series. Forty-eight guests will enjoy a full dinner with wine pairings alongside Copeland in Casbah's private dining room. More information and tickets:

Later, in the spring, MCP presents The Greatest Generation: An American Oratorio, a ground-breaking multimedia production of actors, chorus, orchestra, and film that combines the great, popular tunes of the Second World War era with new, original compositions and arrangements to bring us together across the generations to consider the ties that bind us as a community and country.

With a libretto by Dan Kehde and original music and arrangements by Roger Ames with Elizabeth Bassine, the work includes classic songs by Cole Porter, Glenn Miller, Sammy Fain, Irving Berlin, Herman Hupfield, Richard Rogers, Moss Hart and the Gershwins, among others. From enlistment and deployment to the hardships of the family left behind, to the years overseas and final, bittersweet victory, the trials of love and war are brought to life in this musical odyssey. The Greatest Generation: An American Oratorio will be performed May 31, 2020, at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland (4141 Fifth Avenue).