History & Mission
Critically acclaimed as one of the finest choruses in the country, the 113-year-old Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) is re-inventing choral music for the 21st century. MCP singers are every-day community members from diverse backgrounds and professions who give generously of their time and talent to create powerful, unexpected, and deeply moving moments of musical discovery.
Now in its sixth season under Music Director Matthew Mehaffey, the MCP has also been celebrated for its exciting and innovating programming, such as the 2018 world premiere of The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan by composer/conductor Steve Hackman, and most recently, the February 2020 world premiere of Satan’s Fall by Grammy Award winning composer Stewart Copeland. Other MCP commissions and premieres include works by Ned Rorem, Nancy Galbraith, and Derek Bermel. Audiences and critics have loved every second, saying “EXCEPTIONAL and MEMORABLE event. I’m still talking about it” and “One of the finest music events I have ever attended!”
In 2018-19, the MCP continued to present exciting music in unique places with the Pittsburgh premiere of Let My People Go: A Spiritual Journey Along the Underground Railroad by acclaimed American composer Donald McCullough. Four soloists and two actors joined the Choir to guide the audience on an epic journey. This February 2019 concert took place at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Wylie Avenue, near the site of known Underground Railroad stops. In May 2019, the MCP traveled to the other side of the world to celebrate the 200th birthday of “the grandmother of Europe”, Queen Victoria. Featured music included works by Mendelssohn, Wagner, Johann Strauss, Arthur Sullivan, and many more. The show concluded with an organ-backed rendition of “God Save the Queen” with the audience singing along.
MCP has been the proud choral partner of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) for more than 90 years bringing the joys of symphonic choral music to tens of thousands of people in the region each year. As the PSO’s “chorus of choice,” the MCP has performed under the baton of a veritable who’s who in classical music. These include Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas, Claudio Abbado, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, Charles Dutoit, André Previn, Sir Neville Marriner, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Helmuth Rilling, Ingo Metzmacher, Richard Hickox, Zdenek Mácal, and Manfred Honeck.
MCP fosters the next generation of choral singing and audience members through its educational program, the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (JMCP). Founded in 1988, JMCP is the region’s premier high school choral training and performance program. Annually, the JMCP attracts singers from more than a dozen school districts, providing youth with a challenging musical environment in which to develop their skills and giving them the tools and experiences to be life-long participants in the arts.
MCP’s most recent recording was released in 2021: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Ode to Joy” with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Manfred Honeck conducting. MCP performances are heard locally over WQED-FM (89.3) and PSO-MCP performances are distributed nationally by Public Radio International (PRI).
The MCP is a Steinway Artist, the only chorus holding that designation.