Robert Page, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh‘s beloved Music Director Emeritus, passed away quietly on Sunday, August 7. We are grateful for the privilege of having this extraordinary man and musician lead the MCP for 26 amazing years, challenging the chorus to achieve excellence across a broad range of repertoire, expanding its scope by touring nationally and internationally, and cultivating the next generation of choral singers by forming the Junior Mendelssohn Choir.
Born in Abeline, Texas, Bob had originally planned to be a journalist before he decided to switch majors and graduate with a degree in music. He began his career by teaching high school music in Odessa, Texas, and ended up in Philadelphia, where his music career really took off. He became the head of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Music in 1975, and soon after that was hired as the Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.
During his tenure with the MCP, Bob cemented his reputation as a musical legend. He was a champion for symphonic choruses to have the respect that they deserve as performers, and he repaired the MCP’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to become the PSO’s “chorus of choice.” Along with Christine Jordanoff, he formed the Junior Mendelssohn Choir in 1986, so that talented high school students could have the opportunity to train and perform with accomplished professional singers and educators. Bob retired from the MCP in 2013, having shaped the choir and so many singers into the best musicians possible.
He has been at the podium in front of countless orchestras and opera companies, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, Louisiana, Milwaukee, Virginia and San Antonio, as well as the opera companies of Cleveland, Kansas City and Toledo. In Europe, he has conducted the Royal Philharmonic Opera Orchestra (London) and the Luxembourg RTL Orchestra at the Echternach Festival. He was a founding member of Chorus America, and served as that organization’s president for three years.
Bob left a musical legacy of immense proportions. A brilliant conductor, musician, and teacher, everyone who came into contact with Bob has some story to tell of how he inspired them, whether it was through his example as a musician, his unique way of putting musical terms into non-musical terms to get just the right sound (“You’re taking off like a herd of turtles!”), the countless hours of rehearsal as a member of the MCP, JMCP, or in any other choir where he was at the podium, or time spent in one-on-one coachings. Most of all, we will remember and honor Bob for inspiring so many lives through the Mendelssohn Choir, and sharing with us his immense passion for choral song and his larger-than-life personality. As individuals, and as an organization we are better for having known Bob.
We would love to hear your favorite stories and remembrances of Bob! Leave a comment below, a note on our Facebook page, or send your stories and photos to Communications Manager Emily Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org).