Celebrating the Retirement of MaryColleen Seip, Long-Time Chorus Manager for MCP

For 15 years, MaryColleen Seip has given generously of her time, talent, and passion for choral music as Chorus Manager of MCP. In this role, she expertly coordinated the behind-the-scenes logistics of rehearsals and performances in addition to performing alongside her fellow choristers in the soprano section. She retired from the role at the conclusion of last season, but her hard work, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and profound love for this choir have left an indelible mark on MCP. 

MaryColleen’s journey as Chorus Manager began in 2008 when former Chorus Manager Barry Miller retired after many decades with MCP. The choir had been invited to sing at the Library of Congress to celebrate the birthday of German composer Felix Mendelssohn, the chorus’ namesake, and an interim manager was needed to coordinate the logistics for this noteworthy performance. Having joined MCP as a soprano years prior, MaryColleen was honored to be offered the opportunity. 

“[Former MCP board member] Mary Jane Jacques knew that I had a professional background in human resources, and she was the first one to ask whether I would be willing to take on the role,” MaryColleen said. “I was flattered and excited, and I had such a love for the choir that I didn’t even hesitate. I said, ‘Of course!’” MaryColleen made arrangements for the chorus to travel via bus from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., coordinated the travel schedule, and worked to ensure the singers and Music Director Betsy Burleigh had everything they needed for a successful performance. Shortly thereafter, she formally interviewed for and was appointed to the position of Chorus Manager. 

To ensure each rehearsal, performance, and chorus activity went smoothly, MaryColleen constantly communicated with singers and staff at Heinz Hall and other venues, coordinated many minute details, and came up with innovative solutions to any challenges that arose. Fortunately, she is the kind of person who thrives in a fast-paced environment. “I loved all of the multitasking,” she said. “I’m not someone who can sit still. I love to stay busy, and this role definitely kept me busy.” 

She said the biggest part of her job was anticipating and preparing for anything and everything. It was commonplace for her to arrive at venues hours before the official start time of a rehearsal or concert to ensure all the pieces were in place. “I’d ask myself, ‘Are the correct number of chairs onstage, and are they in the correct configuration? Do I have extra music available in case a choir member forgets theirs?’” she explained. “I always had extra earrings and necklaces for the women, bowties for the men, black binders for music, and I even carried a sewing kit, in case of emergencies.” 

MaryColleen said she looks back on her career as Chorus Manager with great pride in the work she did, and also with profound appreciation for her “angels.” This is how she affectionately refers to all those who stepped up to support MCP however possible. “Before we received a grant from the Regional Asset Development Group to purchase risers, the choral director of North Hills High School shared the school’s risers with MCP for years,” she said. “Then, when we finally acquired risers, we needed a place to store them. A member of our choir, David Wright, happened to be on the board of Friends of the Riverfront and was successful in getting their approval to use their storage unit space. I’ll never forget coordinating the volunteers who helped move three carts of risers and guardrails weighing about four hundred pounds each down to that unit.” 

One particularly memorable moment of her career was when she organized 22 volunteers to transport MCP’s extensive music library to a new home: the third floor of Third Presbyterian Church in Shadyside. “We could not perform in this city without local churches,” MaryColleen said. “They are our backbone. They serve as venues for concerts, and they support our chorus in other amazing ways.” MaryColleen recalled Reverend Trip Torbert at Third Presbyterian graciously agreeing to lend the space, ensuring MCP’s repository of sheet music (including pieces over 100 years old) could be safely stored. “There was no elevator,” she remembered with a laugh, “but our group went up and down those stairs carrying boxes and boxes of music, and they helped me make it happen. Even my son showed up to help that day.” 

MaryColleen has countless memories from her time as Chorus Manager that she said she will cherish forever. Some embody the hectic and unpredictable nature of the job — like when the streets around Heinz Hall were closed off for a parade no one seemed to know was coming, delaying many singers as they navigated traffic en route to their Sunday matinee with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. “I still remember waiting backstage with an extra score for our last chorister, who had only enough time to change into concert attire in the backstage green room before we both took our places on stage!” she recalled.








Other memories embody the unique joy and magic of live music — like when MCP performed Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall in New York City. “I have a file that’s five inches thick with planning documents for that performance,” she laughed. “I organized three buses to transport the choir, coordinated our hotel stay at the Sheraton, gathered everyone’s emergency contacts… and then, I was tasked with finding a venue large enough to host a celebration after the concert for the entire chorus, as well as the PSO! I called [MCP singer] Mike Conway, another one of my ‘angels,’ who is a tour guide and has been to New York many times. I said, ‘Who do you know in New York who can help with this?’ He connected me with The Remi, and the party we had at their venue was a beautiful success.” 

Photo: Steve J. Sherman

The performance itself, MaryColleen said, was the highlight of her career with MCP. The chorus was off-book, performing with no sheet music, on a stage that had been graced by musical legends. “Maestro Honeck kept his arms held up when the piece was finished, and there was not a whisper of sound in the audience,” she said. “When the lights came up, I don’t know how many curtain calls we got. I was so proud of what we had done together. I am so proud to be a part of the Mendelssohn Choir.” 

To honor her commitment and contributions, MaryColleen’s friends and family members have come together to create the MaryColleen Seip Chorus Operations Fund, which will support annual choral operations and activities that foster community among MCP’s membership. MCP extends its profound gratitude to MaryColleen for her years of service as Chorus Manager. You can share in our gratitude and celebrate MaryColleen’s career today by making a gift to this fund. 

Thank you, MaryColleen, for all you’ve done for our chorus!

Comments are closed.