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!

+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!

+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

+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?!)