March 8, 2023

Westminster Choir Performs With Pittsburgh Symphony

ON TOUR: The Westminster Choir will take part in a spring tour with stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania March 12-18. (Photo by Peter G. Borg)

The Westminster Choir, composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, will embark on a spring tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania from March 12-18. The tour includes an appearance by the choir’s tenors and basses with the Pittsburgh Symphony, as well as a concert at the choir’s founding church in Dayton, Ohio.

Now in its 103rd year, the Westminster Choir was supposed to visit Dayton on its 100th anniversary, but those plans were canceled because of the pandemic. “It is only right that we sing there and perform for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the choir,” said James Jordan, the choir’s conductor. “It is wonderful to return to touring.”

This year’s spring tour program includes works by Thomas Tallis, Arvo Pärt, Felix Mendelssohn-Barthodly, Francis Poulenc, and more. It will begin with a concert on March 12 at 4 p.m. at Westminster Choir’s founding church, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio. It was there that John Finley Williamson originally founded the choir in 1920. Only two years later, the choir began touring the United States, going on to sing at performance venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and Symphony Hall in Boston.

The tour will continue with a stop in Columbus, Ohio, at Otterbein University on March 14 at 7:30 p.m. for a collaborative concert with the Otterbein Concert Choir at Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church. Otterbein University was the alma mater of Williamson and his wife, Rhea Parlette Willamson, who graduated as a part of the Otterbein’s Class of 1911. Williamson brought the Westminster Choir there many times during his lifetime.

Members of the choir will then participate in three performances of Mozart’s Requiem at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, which is led by Westminster alumnus Matthew Mehaffey ’99, on March 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and March 19 at 2:30 p.m.

These performances will be conducted by Manfred Honeck and include the soloists soprano Jeanine De Bique, mezzo soprano Catriona Morison, tenor Ben Bliss, and bass Tareq Nazmi. Actor F. Murray Abraham, known for his Academy Award-winning role in Amadeus and more recently his performance in the HBO series The White Lotus, will narrate the program.

The tour will also include a concert at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh on March 18 at 2 p.m.