Meet the Mendelssohn!

The Mendelssohn Choir is made up of 140 unique, talented, and brilliant individuals.  Check back here often for profiles of our fascinating singers!

+Andrew Bloomgarden, Tenor

Full Name: Andrew Bloomgarden

Neighborhood of Residence: Shadyside

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? In my day job, I’m a software engineer at New Relic. In my spare time, I like to cook, bake bread, and advocate for streets safe for biking and walking, and for comprehensive public transit.

Number of Years with MCP: 4

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing with Andrea Bocelli at PPG Paints Arena.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Recording Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the PSO.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Indie pop / rock

What is your current favorite band or artist? The Decemberists

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? I love singing “Heart of Glass” at karaoke!

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Apteka

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? Taking the inclines and walking between them on Mt Washington.

Do you have any pets? Two cats, Scallion and Chive.

+Marietta Fischesser-Metze, Soprano

Full Name: Marietta Fischesser-Metze

Neighborhood of Residence: Edgewood

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Being the mother of a very active 4-year-old son

Number of Years with MCP: I joined the choir 10 years ago, but took 2 years off, after my son was born.

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Will always be Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection,” just the most magical combination of words and music.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Well, always the next project is the exciting one 😉

What is your current favorite band or artist? The bass (and my brother) Christof Fischesser. Fabulous voice, and a great musician, AND my brother, WAIT, I said that before, right? Haha!

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Before Christmas, when I was about 3 years old, for several weeks in a row, I woke up in the middle of the night to sing a few Christmas songs, sitting in my bed, like, “O Tannenbaum”, etc.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Superior Motors

What’s always in your refrigerator? Cheese sticks (my son is crazy about those)

What always brings a smile to your face? My son

+Amelia Baisley, Soprano

Full Name: Amelia Baisley D’Arcy

Neighborhood of Residence: Mt. Lebanon

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Raising two smart teenage sons, doing Iyengar Yoga (27 year practitioner), volunteering for area non-profits, eating pastries, cooking.

Number of Years with MCP: 12

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: There are many. Impossible to pick one, but some favorites: first concert, Brahms’ Nänie with PSO and Rafael Frübeck de Burgos conducting; singing as a doomed nun at Carnegie Hall in Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites; performing Theofanides’ The Here and Now; preparing and singing Anne Frank in Whitbourne’s Annelies.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? The 9am Saturday Messiah rehearsal with the PSO, where we all come in pajamas.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Big Band – early jazz, swing, etc.

What’s your pre-show ritual? Try not to be late for call.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Legume – their beef shin/kimchee soup is amazing.

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? Mattress Factory

What’s always in your refrigerator? Fresh cilantro and a huge chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano

+Gail Roup, Soprano

Full Name: Gail Elizabeth Roup

Neighborhood of Residence: Wilkins Township

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I teach private voice and also music and movement classes. I also love to cook, golf, and sing in other choirs!

Number of Years with MCP: 28

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: There are so many memorable moments. If I have to choose, I guess it would be having a solo for the Holiday Pops concerts with the PSO.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Beethoven 9 – it never gets old.

What about post-show? What do you do to celebrate / unwind? I enjoy a beer (or two) with Mendelfriends!

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? The diverse backgrounds of the singers.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Singing along to my parent’s albums: Chicago, John Denver, Barry Manilow, Carpenters…

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? There are so many. I really enjoyed Umami recently.

Do you have any pets? What type of animal is/are they, and what is/are their name(s)? I have a cat named Lexi. She’s a rescue and she is THE best.

What is your most prized possession? What I value most are my close friends.

What’s on your bucket list? Travel to Italy.

+Emily Leal-Santiesteban, Alto, Communications Manager, JMCP Manager

Full Name: Emily Leal-Santiesteban

Neighborhood of Residence: Crafton Heights

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Working for the choir! If I’m not doing that, I’m reading, spending time with family and friends, or at PNC Park cheering on the Pirates.

Number of Years with MCP: 13 seasons

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Our May 2014 performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall in NYC with the PSO and Manfred Honeck.  

What are you most looking forward to in the 2019-2020 MCP season? The opportunity to learn more fantastic music, since I haven’t sung too many of these works before.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? I don’t really have one; maybe oldies or alternative…  Most of the time when I listen to the radio, I’m tuned to The Howard Stern Show.

What is your current favorite band or artist? There’s a few: The Beatles, Our Lady Peace, The Decemberists, and Lady Gaga.

Who is your biggest fan? My mom, for sure, but my husband is a close second. My family comes to every concert I sing!

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Probably singing in church by myself for the very first time at age 6 or 7. I don’t really remember starting to sing…it just seems like I’ve always been singing!

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? I try to eat at one new restaurant a month, so my tastes are always changing. I’ve had amazing meals at Morcilla and The Vandal in Lawrenceville, Legume in Oakland, and The Twisted Frenchman in East Liberty.

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? If I can swing it, it’s the most amazing thing to drive someone who’s never been to Pittsburgh through the tunnels, since nothing can beat that first view of the city! If I can do it at night, even better!

What’s always in your refrigerator? Spinach, strawberries, and peanut butter!

+John Murmello, Tenor

Full Name: John Murmello

Neighborhood of Residence: Greenfield

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Mostly just relaxing around the house, either playing video or board games, hanging out with the dog, or just watching some TV.

Number of Years with MCP: Two

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: It’s a toss-up between the Dylan concert – seeing and hearing the visceral reaction people had to the music was extremely powerful, and performing Verdi’s Requiem with the PSO for the first time last year and just feeling absolutely enveloped by the wall of sound on stage. Very much both moments that crystalized how powerful performing in this choir can be, and something I likely won’t forget.

What are you most looking forward to in the current MCP season? Definitely performing Beethoven’s 9th this year. I haven’t ever performed it so I’m very excited!

What is your current favorite band or artist?  It can change almost by the day, but I’ve been mostly splitting time between Mutemath and Arcadian Wild lately.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Probably either Emporio (part of Sienna Mercato) for the meatballs, or Bigham Tavern for some of the best wings in Pittsburgh.

What’s always in your refrigerator? I always have at least 10 different hot sauce varieties on hand at all times. There’s nothing better than some great spicy food.

Do you have any pets? We have one dog – a mutt of some sort named Max that we think is some combination of Doberman, Rottweiler, possibly German Shepherd, and something smaller.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? Feels like a cop-out answer but absolutely performing with the Mendelssohn choir. There’s been nothing in my life truly like it.

+MaryBeth Salama, Alto

Full Name: MaryBeth Salama 

Neighborhood of Residence: Fox Chapel

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Now part time (per diem status) at BNY Mellon Wellness Clinic. Potentially returning to hospice work again in the future.

Number of Years with MCP: Since 1981 with several short leaves for childbirth (Naomi in 1986 and Noah in 1992. 

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing the Verdi at Chautauqua in a thunderstorm.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Since I am doing this after Let My People Go, I am now anticipating Beethoven’s Ninth and the dramatic and rapid pace that Manfred Honeck always takes!

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Being a rebel at heart, folk music is always dear to me.

Who is your biggest fan? My biggest fan is my husband who not only supported my being a young mother in Med School and Residency but ALSO gave me time to sing with Mendelssohn Choir during the few precious free hours I had back then.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? My earliest musical memory is crawling (literally) between the pews of our small time church while my Mom and Dad had choir practice. 

What’s always in your refrigerator? Something homemade (probably with wild mushrooms in it). 

What always brings a smile to your face? Our new granddaughter Lilah!

+J. Patrick McGill, Bass

Full Name: J. Patrick McGill

Neighborhood of Residence: Washington, PA

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Teaching music and singing around town!

Number of Years with MCP: 1.5

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing “Let My People Go” to a sold-out crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church

What are you most looking forward to in the 2018-2019 MCP season? Beethoven 9 with the PSO

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Jazz, R&B, classic rock, musical theatre

What is your current favorite band or artist? Lawrence, check them out!

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? Africa by Toto

What’s your pre-show ritual? Some Yogi Throat Comfort tea, cough drops, and a good warm-up.

What about post-show? What do you do to celebrate / unwind? I’m a craft beer enthusiast, and I enjoy sharing a brew with friends after a performance.  

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? The diversity of backgrounds in the members. It’s wonderful getting to know everyone!

Who is your biggest fan?  If I don’t say my mom, she’ll be upset.  

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business” in my first community theater performance.  

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grill

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? The Strip District

What’s always in your refrigerator? Craft beer and hummus

What always brings a smile to your face? Dogs.

Do you have any pets? I have an Italian Greyhound named Mia. I also call her Princess Mia.

What is your hidden talent? I am very good at navigation and direction. I rarely use my GPS.

What is your most prized possession? I don’t know if it’s very valuable, but I have an old-school, finger pointing yellow Kennywood sign.  

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? Getting to sing a few small roles with the Pittsburgh Opera.

What’s on your bucket list? Perform a nightclub act with a big band at a Las Vegas casino.

+Charlotta Dragenflo, Alto

Full Name: Charlotta Dragenflo

Neighborhood of Residence: Brighton Heights

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Working and hanging out with my husband Henry and 2 year-old daughter Freya.

Number of Years with MCP: I joined four years ago, but this is my third season. I took a year off when Freya was born.

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Bob Dylan at Mr. Smalls.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Indi Rock

What’s your pre-show ritual? None!

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? How incredibly gratifying it is.

Who is your biggest fan? A tie between my husband and my mom.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? My parents are both musicians, so my mom sang to me a lot when I was a child.

What always brings a smile to your face? My daughter Freya, who is always bursting with energy and love.

Do you have any pets? One cat, Chairman Meow, and two chickens, Gloria and Dee.

What’s on your bucket list? Biking the Great Allegheny Passage.

+Michael Conway, Tenor

Full Name:  Michael Conway

Neighborhood of Residence:  West Mifflin

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir?
Working in the travel industry, I’m probably leading a student or adult tour somewhere around the world.

Number of Years with MCP:  25

Most Memorable Moment with MCP:  Singing at the Vatican for Saint John Paul II

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming (2019-2020) MCP season?  Looking forward to doing Beethoven Missa Solemnis again. It’s been about 15 years since we performed it with Lorin Maazel on the same weekend alternating with the Beethoven Ninth Symphony.  

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music?  Broadway. As a licensed NYC Tour Guide, I spend a lot of time in New York, always seeing a Broadway show. 

What’s your pre-show ritual?  Driving round and round downtown looking for a parking space.

What about post-show? Pick up a couple slices at DiSalla’s Pizza in Munhall.

Who is your biggest fan?  My wonderful and supportive wife of 35 years, Debbie.  

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh?  Five Guys, in any destination!  

What’s always in your refrigerator? Diet Turkey Hill Green Tea

Do you have any pets? Baxter the Beagle is the hub of our family.  

What is your hidden talent?  Potato Chip Connoisseur

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?  Other than my two wonderful children, Brian and Katie?

What’s on your bucket list?  Having hit six continents, visiting Antarctica.  

+Amanda Rodriguez, Alto

Full Name: Amanda Rodriguez

Neighborhood of Residence: Crafton

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I currently work taking care of tiny humans as a Toddler Teacher at Mt. Nazareth Learning Center in Bellevue. I also teach voice at School of Rock in Wexford and am a section leader in the Parish Choir for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Margaret of Scotland, and Sts. Simon and Jude (merged parishes)

Number of Years with MCP: 2

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing Handel’s Messiah for the first time with the Mendelssohn. It was a moving and extraordinary experience giving a musical masterpiece to a diverse audience of those who have heard it many times to those who have never been to the symphony.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming (2019-2020) MCP season? Singing a ton of Beethoven!

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? I have a variety of tastes, but I mostly like hard rock and heavy metal, Latin American music, and disco

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden is currently on loop and I love singing it in the car!

Who is your biggest fan? My boyfriend. He has been with me every step of the way and supports everything that I do. He always encourages me and boosts my confidence, especially when I feel like giving up on my goals.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Las Palmas in Brookline. It’s a Mexican market that also has a taco stand in front, and they are the most authentic and tastiest tacos I’ve encountered so far in Pittsburgh! If you are a spiciness connoisseur, try their hottest salsa. Your mouth will likely burn for an hour like mine did…

What’s on your bucket list? Going to Italy and see the incorrupt body of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, and to Lourdes, France, to dip in the spring at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

+Kwan Lee, Tenor

Full Name: Kwan Il Lee

Neighborhood of Residence: Moon Township. Love to watch the airplanes descending in Full Moon

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Enjoy time with my grandson who brings youthful joy and delightful simplicity. Surfing You-Tube for music, science and religion. Practicing my cello for upcoming concert. Walk around leisurely in my neighborhood with my wife for “extreme exercise.”

Number of Years with MCP: About 34 years

Most Memorable Moment with MCP:

  1. Joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for “The Papal Concert of Reconciliation” in the Vatican in 2004 singing Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.
  2. Serving with honor for the MCP European Tours as the resident physician with many stories about medical episodes.
  3. Meeting Dr. Chull Hong in MCP. He is one year senior from my high school, college and medical school in Korea. Our paths had been separated until we reconnected through the MCP all the way across the Pacific. What a joy meeting him again and singing together in MCP.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in coming season.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Any Broadway musicals; Sound of Music, Les Miserable, Phantom etc.

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? Trying to hit the high Bb by imitating the tenor part in the duet from The Pearl Fishers.

What’s your pre-show ritual? Having a quiet time on the steps of stairway outside of the rehearsal room in Heinz Hall.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? All the artists have kind, caring hearts and vast musical knowledge despite the different fields of expertise, from whom I learn so much.

Who is your biggest fan? My wife, Dawn, of course.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Ever since 1st grade, I learned the newest Korean pop songs and sang loud in out-house where no one around to hear me.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Sushi Kim and Green Pepper; Central Diner in Robinson Township

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? The Nationality Room in The Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh and Mt. Washington.

What’s always in your refrigerator? Kimchi and apple cider in season.

What always brings a smile to your face? My grandson, who has such a big smile, innocence, unconditional love. People who show even the smallest kindness.

Do you have any pets? Generations of groundhogs who have been living under my deck, rent free.

What is your hidden talent? I have shown and exposed everything about myself with age. However, my wife said I am very good handyman.

What is your most prized possession? A collection of music books, around 90, that MCP has performed. A cello and too many antique bookends.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? Coming over to U.S. and becoming a citizen. And singing in MCP and playing in the Pittsburgh Philharmonic.       

What’s on your bucket list? Continue participation with the International Medical Relief. Break under 90 my golf score. Dance with penguins in the Antarctic. Singing, singing, singing.

+MaryColleen Seip, Chorus Manager

Full Name:  MaryColleen Seip

Neighborhood of Residence: Peters Township

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Playing tennis and working on choir matters as I’m the Chorus Manager.

Number of Years with MCP: 14

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Sitting on stage at Heinz Hall for the first time with my Dad in attendance. It was the first and only time he heard the Mendelssohn.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Hard to choose – I love everything we’re doing.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? The only genre that I DON’T like is rap. I love variety – rock and roll, jazz, show tunes, easy listening, country

What’s your pre-show ritual? I arrive early to eliminate stressors, have a light snack, put on make-up and concert dress.

What about post-show? What do you do to celebrate / unwind? I accompany other singers to a restaurant/bar and have an adult beverage.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP?  How quickly 14 years has gone by.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? I was on stage singing a duet with my Uncle Philip. My Dad, Philip’s brother, was the accompanist. I was 7 years old.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? BRGR

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? Mt. Washington

What’s always in your refrigerator? Apples

What always brings a smile to your face? Our grand-daughter, Ruby.

Do you have any pets? We have two golden retrievers: 9 year old Chance, 3 year old Mitzi.  Both were rescues.

What is your most prized possession? My love for my family.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? Raising two extraordinary boys.

+Paul Long, Bass

Full Name: Paul B. Long

Neighborhood of Residence: Downtown

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Family stuff, practicing music and a little education consulting.

Number of Years with MCP: First year

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: The Tree of Life concert.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? After the Haydn, the Berlioz.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Hymns and carols

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? The huge amount of talent amassed in one choir.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Shortly after we were married in 1978, my wife, Janet, and I joined the choir at church, which was my first choral experience.

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? To see the Pirates

What always brings a smile to your face? My granddaughter, Sabine

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? 24 years in the Navy and 25 years in public education.

+Lucky Rattan, Bass

Full Name: Lucky Rattan

Neighborhood of Residence: Mt. Lebanon

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? During the day, I work from home for a direct marketing agency that specializes in strategic fundraising for national non-profit organizations. At night, I usually prepare dinner or go through some tough negotiations with my two boys to convince them that staying in their beds and falling asleep is the best course of action (the rest is up to them). Dad jokes.

Number of Years with MCP: This is my first year!  

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Hands down, it was at the very end of the Concert for Peace and Unity where all of MCP, the PSO, and the audience at Heinz Hall were united in a moment of silence while the bells were struck 11 times in memory of the Tree of Life victims.  It was the most moving experience I’ve had in a while and one that I will never forget.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Our Let My People Go performance at Ebenezer Baptist.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Jazz Standards

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? It’s a toss-up between Wonderwall by Oasis and I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? I’m very new to Pittsburgh (recent transplant from New England) so my sample size is limited but I thoroughly enjoyed Cure in Lawrenceville.

What’s always in your refrigerator? My refrigerator doubles as a time capsule of past good intentions. Sadly it is filled with some mystery leftover containers that are probably past their prime that I dare not open…oh and a trusty bag of expired Spring Mix for good measure.

What always brings a smile to your face? Without fail –  babies and puppies.

Do you have any pets? I have a Rat Terrier/Feist Mix named Sammie

+Eric Gordon, Tenor

Full name: Eric Gordon

Neighborhood of residence: Regent Square

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? When I’m not singing with the choir I’m making coffee and serving crêpes at work (and usually singing while doing dishes in the back)!

Number of Years with MCP: Three

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: The incredible silence after the second last movement of the Bob Dylan concert.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? I’m most looking forward to memorizing and singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It will be my first time performing it, and it’s one of the most meaningful pieces of music for me; it got me started on my musical journey when I was 16, and I’ve been strongly passionate about music ever since.

What is your current favorite band or artist? If it’s too cheesy to say the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, then I’ll say John Elliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir.

What always brings a smile to your face? Harmonizing with the people next to me, the change in embouchure usually lowers my pitch, and ruins the harmony, but yeah. 

Do you have any pets? I have a cat named Boris, and he’s cuter than your cat.

Who is your biggest fan? My grandma, hands down.

What’s on your bucket list? To sing all of J.S. Bach’s choral works.

+Anna Lahti, Soprano

Full Name: Anna Lahti

Neighborhood of Residence: Sewickley

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Working as an as administrative assistant for Dollar Bank’s Human Resources department, teaching private voice students and singing with groups such as Voces Solis, Pittsburgh Savoyards and Resonance Works.

Number of Years with MCP: Two (and a four year Junior Mendelssohn alumna)

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing “Messiah” last December. The whole performance felt so cohesive, and I was in awe of the soloists and orchestra.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Singing Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust. I love singing French music, and I’m excited that we will be joined by the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. I sang in the (then) Children’s Festival Chorus, so it’s special to me when we combine choirs.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Folk rock

What is your current favorite band or artist? Arleen Auger

Who is your biggest fan? My husband and my parents

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? Singing and dancing around the living room while my uncle played the piano, around age 3 or 4.

What’s always in your refrigerator? LaCroix

What always brings a smile to your face? My 11-month-old nephew, Noah

Do you have any pets? One Siberian cat named Pyotr. (Follow him on Instagram @pyotrtchaicatsky)

+Rex Tien, Bass

Full Name: Rex Tien

Neighborhood of Residence: Garfield

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Neural prosthetics research as a Bioengineering PhD Student at Pitt.

Number of Years with MCP: Six

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall in NYC, and not knowing until right after the show that my mother had made the trip all the way from Florida to see it, despite her cancer treatments! (She’s better now!)

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Let My People Go! I love when the Mendelssohn Choir gets outside of its comfort zone

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Future bass

What’s your pre-show ritual? Finding my cummerbund

What about post-show? Losing my cummerbund

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? I’m constantly blown away by the sheer amount of musical mastery in the room!

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Josza Corner

What always brings a smile to your face? When the tenors screw up

Do you have any pets? A praying mantis named Phil

+Antonia Flamini, Alto

Full Name: Antonia Flamini

Neighborhood of Residence: Brentwood

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Sing in my church choir, dance, knit.

Number of Years with MCP: >1

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: When [Assistant Conductor] Ryan [Keeling] led the entire choir to sing “Adeste Fideles” except instead of words he had us all sing meows.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Let My People Go

What is your current favorite band or artist? Panic! at the Disco

What’s your pre-show ritual? I always need to get to the theater extra early. I like having time to put everything together and ready early.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? I remember when I was very little like 5 or 6 my big sister taught me Castle on a Cloud from Les Mis. I think that was the first song I ever learned. I remember standing beside a piano and she would sing the line first and then I would repeat it. I was very annoyed that the line “I know a room that’s full of toys, there are a hundred boys and girls” did not rhyme

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? I got to take the final bow in a musical. That was on my bucket list for a long time and then in high school I played Eve/Mama Noah and I got to take the last bow.

What’s on your bucket list? I want to perform on a Broadway stage. I don’t care if I’m in the chorus or if I just have one little bit where I walk across the stage. At this point I would settle to just stand on the stage and hum for a bit.

+Colin Farley, Tenor

Full Name: Colin Farley

Neighborhood of Residence: Brookline

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir?: I am a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway.

Number of Years with MCP: This is my sixth year, and my fifth as a member of the Professional Core.

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Performing at Carnegie Hall (NYC) in May 2014.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season?: Let My People Go should be a fantastic and emotional experience, and we get to take it on the road!

What’s your pre-show ritual? I honestly purchase an exorbitant amount of mints – no joke, at least one roll of Mentos per show, along with some Tic Tacs – and eat them as pre-concert snacks.

Who is your biggest fan? My fiancée and my mother. I will let them fight over who is the bigger fan.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song?: Back in 5th grade we had a permanent substitute for music class. She pulled me aside after class one day to offer me a full solo song in the concert, but I would have to come in during recess to practice. I turned it down because I didn’t want to skip recess!

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors?: I know it is super basic, but I always take people up the Incline and to the Mt. Washington overlook. It is truly one of the only things you find in Pittsburgh that can’t be found anywhere else, and the city’s true beauty is on display when you view it from Mt. Washington.

Do you have any pets?: I have a cat named Fancy, and she is without a doubt the most beautiful animal in the world. Our director HATES cats, but I am convinced that my cat would melt his heart.

+Megan Wall, Soprano

Full Name: Megan Wall

Neighborhood of Residence: Millvale

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I just graduated from nursing school in August, so recently it’s been studying for boards, working, and sleeping! I’m excited to get back to trying new restaurants and reading books.

Number of Years with MCP: Three.

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Singing Steve Hackman’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ at Mr. Smalls. The venue was actually the church my parents were married in and I grew up in, so it was especially great to world premiere a piece there.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? I’m definitely looking forward to The Damnation of Faust. Berlioz is one of my favorite composers, his music is always so lush and gorgeous, and it will certainly be a massive undertaking for all involved.

What is your current favorite band or artist? Tough question! It’s a tie – Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac.

What’s your post-show ritual? I love meeting family, friends, and new fans by the stage door at the end of a concert to hear how they liked it. It makes the performances extra sweet.

Who is your biggest fan? Definitely my mom.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? We had a VHS version of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS growing up and I remember reenacting many a song in my grandparents’ kitchen.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? NOODLEHEAD. I practically live there. Get the pork buns!

What is your hidden talent? I swing dance, lindy hop, and blues dance!

+Matthew Lamberti, Bass

Full Name: Matthew Joseph Lamberti

Neighborhood of Residence: Lawrenceville

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I love my job working on human rights and immigration cases for vulnerable Pittsburghers, alongside some amazing colleagues. I try to do a little cooking and running every week. I wander aimlessly around my record collection, and I love PNC Park in the summer.

Number of years with MCP: Two, if you count one season in 1995-’96.

Most memorable moment with MCP: Verdi Requiem, spring 2018. I’ve never been part of a piece like that before, nor heard such an audience response.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Berlioz, Damnation of Faust

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Currently jazz, especially soul-jazz and organ combos.

What’s your pre-show ritual? Looking at sheet music, and running trouble spots through my headphones over and over.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Chengdu Gourmet.

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill.

What is your hidden talent? Ice cream making, although to be honest I try not to hide that.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? My choice of friends.

+Amanda Nelson, Soprano

Full Name: Amanda Nelson

Neighborhood of Residence: Cranberry Township

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir?  When I’m not singing in the chorus I’m practicing, studying, and watching opera for the most part and take frequent lessons and coachings. This time of year I spend a lot of time traveling for auditions. Outside of music, I spend time with family and friends hiking, reading science fiction and fantasy novels, trying out different coffee shops, and going to church and church functions.  

Number of Years with MCP: This is my first year.

Most Memorable Moment with MCP:  Since this is my first year, I haven’t made a lot of memories yet but I suppose it would have to be when I participated in the video game world tour performance for Kingdom Hearts since it was the first time I saw Heinz Hall.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? I’m most excited to sing Handel’s Messiah in English because oddly enough I’ve only sung it in Korean or a mixture of Korean and English.  I’m also excited to get to know other members and hopefully make new friends.

What’s your pre-show ritual?  Whether it’s a performance or an audition, I have only one cup of coffee in the morning so I don’t get jittery and make sure I have plenty to eat throughout the day. When I get to the place where the performance/audition is I usually find somewhere I can collect myself, which can be anywhere from a dressing room to a bathroom. I will stand in ‘superhero pose’ and pray for a few minutes, then lightly warm up my voice. I will pretty much hold the ‘superhero pose’ until I have to walk onto the stage.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? I remember when I was around maybe eight or nine years old and sang “Grown-Up Christmas List” by Amy Grant at my church. My parents still have a recording of it.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? Studying in Korea for 5 years and learning Korean.

What is your most prized possession? This stuffed animal I got from a zoo my uncle took my brother and I to when we were kids. I remember my brother being upset that I wanted my uncle to get it for me and my brother said it was a waste of money and that I wouldn’t play with it for more than a week. I was determined to prove him wrong and to this day I keep him on my bed.

What’s on your bucket list? Get married, skydive, live in another country and perform around the world.

+Emma Lamberton, Alto

Full Name: Emma Lamberton

Neighborhood of Residence: Highland Park

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? Studying International Development (GSPIA, Pitt)

Number of Years with MCP: One

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: When we introduced all the new members and everyone booed the man who introduced himself as a Patriots fan. (I’m from Vermont but I’m keeping quiet about it.)

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? The Messiah!

What is your current favorite band or artist? I’ve been listening in memoriam to Aretha Franklin. What an incredible lady.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? It’s a really welcoming family. I’ve already made many good friends in the choir (my Mendelbuddies), and met so many interesting people. I’m always surprised how people are able to shift from social to all-business as soon as the director steps on his podium.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? When I was three my parents took me to a children’s show in the park. They asked for volunteer singers. I went on stage and pulled the mic away from the other kids and let ’er rip. I stayed up there for a while, apparently. My parents say they were laughing too hard to stop me.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? The Smiling Banana Leaf! (Highland Park represent!)

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? I just got back from a year teaching English in Mongolia. I survived -50 temperatures, the worst pollution in the world (!), learned how to race camels, and ate every single part of a sheep that you can imagine.

What’s on your bucket list? A friend and I have decided on a Patagonian horse-trek adventure to celebrate our coming graduate program graduation. She speaks Spanish, I ride, so it should all work out.

+Paul Gospodinsky, Bass

Full Name: Paul Gospodinsky

Neighborhood of Residence: Greenfield

What do you spend your time doing when you are not singing with the choir? Outside my jobs in the real estate industry, I enjoy cooking, playing video games and learning foreign languages.

Number of Years with MCP: Less than one year

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: The first song in the Elfman dress rehearsal with the PSO – finally hearing what the full ensemble sounds like.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? The Damnation of Faust! I studied the piece in graduate school, but this is my first time performing it. And I do not mind all the French text!

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? I am a big fan of jazz music. I was in a trumpet studio in college that taught both jazz and classical music, and it reinforced my appreciation for both genres.

What is your pre-show ritual? I get to the venue early and either sit in my car for a few minutes or find a place in the building and sit in silence before warmups. I like to clean out my mind of all the things in my head from the day, so I can focus only on the music ahead of me.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? The variety of people in this ensemble. MCP proves that you do not need an ensemble of professional musicians to sound like an ensemble of professional musicians.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? I saw an off-Broadway production of “Annie Get Your Gun” with my godparents when I was a kid. I cannot remember how old I was, but I can remember being interested in music after that performance.

What is your hidden talent? Cooking! I almost went to culinary school instead of studying music.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? I have performed for four of the last five United State Presidents.

What is on your bucket list? Visiting all seven continents. I still have Africa and Antarctica to go!

+Martina Caruso, Soprano

Full Name: Martina B. Caruso

Neighborhood of Residence: Mt. Washington

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I work in fundraising and events for Pittsburgh Opera, teach indoor cycling at Carnegie Mellon University and sing at weddings and other special events as a freelance musician. In my free time, I love spending time with friends and family, trying new restaurants around the city, volunteering at my old company, Beverly’s Birthdays and staying active!

Number of Years with MCP: 3 years (and 4 years as a Junior Mendelssohn singer)

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: I really loved singing the Bob Dylan Concert [The Music of Bob Dylan] at Mr. Smalls because it was different rep from what we are used to and we performed in a new and exciting venue!

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? I always look forward to Holiday Pops, but am also really excited to sing the Tim Burton piece this season.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? I love to sing jazz, light musical theater and anything in the singer-songwriter genre (Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor and Sara Bareilles are a few of my favorites)

Who is your biggest fan? My parents: I am incredibly grateful for them too, for always supporting my music and other passions.

What is your first memory of singing or connecting with a song? My first solo (and the first time I realized I had a voice) was in my 4th grade musical: “Everybody has Music Inside.” My teachers made everyone try out and I found that I could/loved to sing in that moment. The rest is history; I started taking group lessons at the Center for Theater Arts, then private lessons in middle/high school, then studied and earned my BFA in classical vocal performance from CMU.

Do you have any pets? I have a Bengal cat (she looks like a tiny leopard), named Nadia. I named her after the French female composer/conductor/teacher, Nadia Boulanger

What’s on your bucket list? I want to travel to as many places as I can see! I just took my first trip to Europe at the end of this summer and was so excited!

+Vance W. Torbert, 3rd, President of the Board

Full Name: Vance W. Torbert, 3rd

Neighborhood of Residence: Fox Chapel

What is your role with MCP, and why is it important to you to be involved? President, Board of Directors. It’s the most I can contribute as someone who only sings in the shower.

Number of Years with MCP: Member of the board since 2009

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: The 2011 MCP / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance of a staged Messiah transformed the way I thought about that iconic music. Pretty much the same effect when I heard the choir perform Dylan at Mr. Smalls in 2017.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? The Let My People Go concert on the Hill, which might be subtitled Music that Matters.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Classic rock and a lot of movie music: Max Richter, say in Arrival, or Philip Glass generally.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? So many people who bring their considerable talents mainly because of their love of the art; those people who love singing just for the joy of it.

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? Our standbys are often found in the Big Burrito group.

What’s always in your refrigerator? Champagne. You never know. Either because drinking it celebrates something special, OR because drinking it makes something special.

What always brings a smile to your face? People who pick up things, hold doors, say the kind word, yield a place in traffic – micro-blessings that can overcome micro-aggressions.

What is your hidden talent? If I answered, it wouldn’t be hidden any more, now would it?

What is your most prized possession? A piece of saffron cloth from the Christo February, 2005 installation in New York City’s Central Park called The Gates.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? I learned how to land a jet airplane on an aircraft carrier – and to get catapulted off of it again.

What’s on your bucket list? Whatever tomorrow brings.

+Fred Cullen, Bass

Full Name: Frederick J Cullen

Neighborhood of Residence: Elizabeth Township

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? A few too many things. Boating on the Mon River, gardening/landscaping, singing with other groups as most of us do, vacationing in Aruba with close friends and enjoying craft beers. This list wasn’t in any particular order, but perhaps the last one should have been number one.

Number of Years with MCP: Seven

Most Memorable Moment with MCP:  It’s a toss up.  Certainly performing at Carnegie Hall was near the top, but the very first CPR [Conductor’s Piano Rehearsal] with Manfred [Honeck] was rather special. To think we have the opportunity to have our own special time with Manfred is just incredible.   

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season?  I’m really looking forward to Matt [Mehaffey]’s self-produced concerts. We are making a mark beyond the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with our varied programs. The music has been exciting and well received by our evolving audiences.   

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? Classic rock

What is your post-show ritual? Stop with choir members and other friends who may have been to the show to enjoy a beer.    

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP?  The camaraderie between the entire group, regardless of whether you are a volunteer or core member.   

Who is your biggest fan? Certainly my MCP groupie wife, Joy.  

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? I wouldn’t put this in the context of best restaurant, but my favorite place to go for good bar food and beer is Fat Heads or Emporio.

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? I’ve been known to take folks on my own ‘This is Pittsburgh Road Tour.’ We catch Mt. Washington, “dahntahn,” The North Side, Strip District and Oakland. Between work and out of town friends, a quick ride around town gives people a rather quick view of the surroundings. There is still a bastion of people who have the wrong image of Pittsburgh.  

What’s always in your refrigerator? A nice cold micro-brew of some sort. Don’t be surprised if it is an IPA.  

Do you have any pets? A cockatiel named Babe, various unnamed tropical fish and 20+ koi and goldfish.   

What is your hidden talent? A green thumb

+Sarah College, Soprano

Full Name: Sarah College

Neighborhood of Residence: Baldwin – Whitehall

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I spend my time as a Special Projects Manager in the Provost’s Office at Carnegie Mellon University. I oversee committees, events and major initiatives within the Provost’s office – but none of those relate to music!  I also take on passion projects musically, particularly if it relates to art song or new/ upcoming composers.

Number of Years with MCP: 5?  (I took some time off in between, coming back for Pops Concerts when I wasn’t “officially” a member).

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: This is a really hard, but if I had to pick one it would probably be rehearsals with Thomas Hampson, singing the Brahms Requiem (2012). I’ve admired Mr. Hampson for as long as I can remember, but hearing him in person is just…AMAZING!

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Again another hard one, but I would say having the opportunity to learn works outside of the typical, symphonic chorus oeuvre.

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? My guilty pleasure is rap and hip hop!

What is your current favorite band or artist? I’ve been listening to a lot of this progressive metal band from Norway called Leprous. Or the soundtrack to Dear Evan Hansen.  

What is your current favorite song to sing along to? “Waving Through the Window” from Dear Evan Hansen, but that literally could change at any moment.

What’s your pre-show ritual? I don’t really have a pre-show ritual, but I like to get a cup of coffee before a show, and stay quiet backstage (saving the voice).

What’s always in your refrigerator? Strawberries – I probably eat two or three cartons a week.

What’s on your bucket list? I have a lot of places I would like to travel and lots of adventures I would like to pursue.

+Briana Brickner-York, Alto

Full Name: Briana Brickner-York

Neighborhood of Residence: South Side

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? I’m a high school teacher, and I’m also working on obtaining a Masters Degree in Choral Conducting.

Number of Years with MCP: 5

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: The ending of my first Beethoven 9. It was breathtaking to witness the audience stand up and cheer after such a triumphant finale! I totally teared up at every performance.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Another incredible collection of music to sing!

What is your current favorite band or artist? Meat Loaf! I’ve always been obsessed. My husband and I actually recently had a Meat Loaf themed wedding after getting engaged at one of his concerts! (For the record, he liked him too before we met!)

What do you do to celebrate / unwind post-show? Friday post-show nights are typically for ordering pizza and watching Golden Girls, and on Sundays I usually go straight to get groceries for the week!

What’s the best restaurant in Pittsburgh? There is no one answer to this question! Downtown I’d have to say Emporio or Salonikas, and in South Side we love Carmi, The Pretzel Shop, Emiliano’s…oh, and Twelve and Waffles InCaffienated has amazing brunch!

What’s always in your refrigerator? Grapes. I eat them at least twice every day!

Do you have any pets? We have a dog named Titan, and he’s the friendliest! We also have two gerbils named Biscuits and Gravy. Gravy is super sneaky, but Biscuits is pretty chill.

What is your most prized possession? A signed copy of one of Stephen King’s novels. I sat on the sidewalk for 5 hours to get a ticket to see him speak a couple of years ago, and getting an autographed book was just the icing on the cake! I’ve always been a huge fan.

+Brian Filtz, Tenor

Full Name: Brian Filtz

Neighborhood of Residence: Swissvale

What do you spend your time doing when you’re not singing with the choir? When am I not singing?! Seriously though…spending time with friends and family, going to movies, chasing after my cats, traveling, binging Netflix, and so forth.

Number of Years with MCP: 10

Most Memorable Moment with MCP: Performing with the PSO at Carnegie Hall in May 2014.

What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming MCP season? Learning, mastering, and performing new music (and revisiting some “old friends”).

Other than classical, what is your favorite genre of music? 80’s rock n’ roll (don’t hate!), but I have many others. Just want to bring a little controversy to the answers. HA!

What is your post-show ritual? Food and/or drinks with fellow choristers, friends/family that attended the concert.

What has surprised you most about participating in MCP? The friendly atmosphere of the organization and its continued dedication to excellent music performances.

Who is your biggest fan? My parents

What’s your favorite place to take out-of-town visitors? Mount Washington overlooks.

What’s always in your refrigerator? Bottled water, pierogis, and what’s a Pittsburgh refrigerator without some good ole Heinz ketchup?

Do you have any pets? Two cats: Storm and Nightcrawler.

What is your most prized possession? Off the cuff, one of them is: A souvenir program for ‘Wicked’ from the original Broadway cast signed by Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth and Stephen Schwartz.

What’s on your bucket list? Skydiving in Switzerland (who wants to go with me?!)