New Castle News

November 29, 2013

New Castle Music Club Chorus to once again present Handel’s ‘Messiah’

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Music Club Chorus will present Georg Fredric Handel’s inspiring sacred oratorio “Messiah” at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The performance will take place at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2434 Wilmington Road, hosted by pastors Andrew Jillson and Anthony Kladitis, as well as the Northminster congregation.

This Advent tradition was begun 73 years ago by the New Castle Music Club. The Greater New Castle Christian Ministerial Fellowship is a co-sponsor of the presentation. Jillson and local pastors Marsha Parrish and Hope Cummins will represent the fellowship and offer prayer.

Admission is free. However, a free-will offering will be taken to help defray production expenses.

Eight singers will be performing for the first time: Heidi Drake, Sissy Gallaher, Taylor Ettinger, Nancy Aubel, Lorene Gabriel, Stephen Moncrief, Jeannie Porter and Gwen Isaac.

In addition, audience members who know Messiah’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus” will be invited to stand and sing along with the Music Club performers.

Others playing key roles are:

Harry Cunningham, director


Harry Cunningham, who retired after 40 years as a music instructor and choral director in the Moniteau School District, is in his 23rd season as the New Castle Music Club Chorus director.

Earning his undergraduate degree at IUP and his master’s in music education from Duquesne University, he served as organist and/or choir director for three Butler area churches in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as serving as assistant director for the Blazing Star Choral Society. Since 1985, he has served as the senior choir director at the First English Lutheran Church in Butler.

Cunningham is a retired member of the American Choral Directors Association and the Organization of American Kodaly Educators. He has been newly listed as a Strathmore “Who’s Who in Worldwide Education” professional music member.

Kathryn Miller, accompanist

Kathryn Miller, who will be accompanying the chorus and soloists, has more than 30 years experience of providing accompaniment in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. She is the college organist and a teacher of organ, piano, accompanying and sacred must at Westminster College.

The North Lima, Ohio, resident also serves as director of music/organist, directing the adult choir and the children’s and adult bell choirs at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Boardman. In addition, she is organist/director at Congregation Rodef Shalom in Youngstown.

Miller received her bachelor of music degree in organ performance from Ohio State University, and her master of music degree in organ performance from the University of Cincinnati. She has served as an adjunct faculty member in the choral department at Youngstown State University.

Judy Maher, accompanist

Accompanying both rehearsals and the performance, Judy Maher holds a bachelor of science degree in music education from Tarkio College in Missouri. She taught high school vocal, then elementary vocal and instrumental music, for 25 years in Nebraska.

A former member of the national and Nebraska education associations, as well as the American Choral Directors Association, she has directed musicals and performed as a vocalist and keyboard instrumentalist in various community events and performances.

She is a member of Christ Lutheran Church, where she sings and sometimes accompanies the choir.

Sasha Piastro, soprano soloist

Sasha Piastro is a versatile, professional singer equally comfortable with classical and musical theater styles. Among her roles have been Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus” and Sister Amnesia in “Nunsense.”

She has participated in the Emerald City Young Artist Institute in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and spent a summer in Germany with the Music Theater Bavaria program.

Recent engagements include Rowan in “The Little Sweep” with Microscopic Opera, Djamileh with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and soprano solos for Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with the Messiah College Choral Arts Society.

She also has performed with the New York Conservatory for the Arts, Pittsburgh Opera and Penn State Opera Theater.

Rebecca Toth, alto soloist

Rebecca Toth has been featured on stages around western Pennsylvania in such roles as Lilli/Kate in “Kiss Me, Kate,” Woman No. 2 in “Songs for a New World,” Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeny Todd” and The Witch in “Into the Woods,” for which she was named Pittsburgh’s Best Actress 2005 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

She performed the role of Mother in “Amahl and the Night Visitors” with the Erie Opera Theater for several seasons and was the featured soloist in the Bach Choir’s collaborative performance of Joi Negri’s “Mass of Hope.”

She was voted Favorite Local Actress 2011 by the readers of Pittsburgh’s City Paper.

Toth taught in the music department of Pennsylvania’s Governor’s School for the Arts for nine years and served as the director of the musical theater program.

She teaches musical theater for Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera, is a faculty member in Grove City College’s music department and maintains a private voice and piano studio in Pittsburgh.

Seth Gruber, tenor soloist

Seth Gruber is singing the role of Pollione in Bellini’s most famous opera, “Norma,” and last year sang the title role in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito” with Undercroft Opera.

He recently appeared in the Pittsburgh premier of Puccini’s rarely performed opera “Le Villi” at the Irwin Center for Performing Arts in the role of Roberto.

Gruber’s concert work has included singing the tenor solos in “Messiah” for the last four years with the New Castle Music Club Chorus, and for the last two years with St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church. He also has performed with the Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra in Schubert’s “Mass in G.” As a featured soloist with the newly formed New Castle Lyric Opera and the vocal quartet Viva Voce!, he has participated in various concerts and recitals throughout the area.

He was the 2008 recipient of the Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Utah District.

Zacahry Luchetti, baritone soloist

Zachary Luchetti has been hailed by the Reading Eagle for his “impressive” and “arresting” performances. A versatile singer whose repertoire spans nearly 40 roles, his recent performances include the role of Tom in the world premiere in Todd Goodman’s opera “Night of the Living Dead” with Microscopic Opera; Silvio in “Pagliacci” with Berks Opera Workshop; and Figaro in “Il barbiere di Siviglia” and the title role in “Don Giovanni” with Undercroft Opera.

As a concert soloist, he has been featured in Mozart’s “Requiem,” Dubois’ “Seven Last Words of Christ,” Handel’s “Messiah” and Vaughn Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem.” He presented Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” in Pittsburgh’s Eclectic Laboratory Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 2008, and in 2006 he sang the world premiere of a concert of new music written for him at Cornell Univeristy.

Anthony Erb, trumpet

Andrew Erb is the director of bands and a professor of music at Thiel College. He also is an adjunct studio trumpet teacher at Westminster College and serves as a guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician throughout western Pennsylvania.

He directed bands and taught music in public schools in Allegheny and Mercer counties for 14 years.

As a performer, Orb has played trumpet with Marie Osmond, Wayne Newton and Ben Vereen. He’s also played in a variety of groups, from rock bands like Sugarfuzz  Orchestra and 2nd Avenue to the Greenville and Butler symphony orchestras, the Pittsburgh Savoyard Pit Orchestra and the Youngstown Fine Arts Brass Quintet.

Holder of a bachelor’s degree in music from Westminster and a master’s in trumpet performance from Youngstown State, Erb is pursuing a doctorate in music from Boston University.

Michael Boston, Interpreter-In-Sign

Making his debut with the New Castle Music Club Chorus’ performance of “Messiah” is Michael Boston, who will interpret the piece through signing. He has been a student of sign language, deaf culture and interpretation since age 13, graduating from IUP in 2009 with a bachelor of science in deaf education and certification in elementary education.

Boston has taught under the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV as a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, providing hearing support services to school districts in Butler and Lawrence counties. He is working in the Ellwood City School District.

A graduate student and assistant and Waynesburg University in the clinical mental health counseling program, Boston is working toward a specialty certification in addictions counseling. He plans to established a faith-based practice that serves the general populace who communicate in sign language.

Locally, he has taught American Sign Language classes at St Vitus and First Baptist churches, as well as at Slippery Rock University. He has interpreted for the Pittsburgh Association for the Deaf, the Disabilities Options Network Freedom Fair and the New Castle Playhouse.

As in several other years, this performance is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the arts, a federal agency.