Mendelssohn Chorus celebrates Christmas on the Hill

by Michael Caruso
Posted 11/23/23

Dominick DiOrio, artistic director and conductor of the Mendelssohn Chorus, will help celebrate the Christmas season with “A Feast of Carols.”

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Mendelssohn Chorus celebrates Christmas on the Hill


Dominick DiOrio, artistic director and conductor of the Mendelssohn Chorus, will help celebrate the Christmas season with “A Feast of Carols.” The concert will be performed twice at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill: Saturday, Dec. 9, at 2 and 5 p.m.

 Mendelssohn Chorus will be celebrating not only the holiday season but its own 150th anniversary year. Joining the ensemble for the concert will be the Timberdale Brass, pianist Ting Tin Wong, and Andrew Kotylo, organist and choir director at St. Paul’s Church.

 “We will be performing the world premiere of a commissioned new work by Marques L.A Garrett: a “Magnificat” for chorus, brass quintet, and organ,” DiOrio explained.

 “I have also established a new Christmas tradition,” he continued, “of composing ‘Postcard Carols’ each year for donors who contribute to the Mendelssohn Chorus. Last year, we premiered the three inaugural carols, and this year, we will perform four more. I write the texts and tunes for these carols, all in the space of just a few days in December. They serve as gifts to the donors to share with their loved ones, and we are honored to premiere them the following year during the ‘Feast of Carols’ concert.”

 DiOrio added that he will be sharing the podium with associate conductor and director of operations Heather Mitchell, senior conducting apprentice Elizabeth Beavers, and new conducting apprentice Bailey Dean.

 For ticket information visit

 Concert Wrap-Up

 The local classical music scene was alive with chamber music this past weekend as well as a tasty dollop of a cappella choral singing. While both Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in Old City proffered music for small instrumental ensembles, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, hosted the second of its “Five Fridays” recitals Nov. 10.

 Vox Fidelis (Faithful Voices) bills itself as “a consort of voices.” Its appearance Friday evening attracted one of the largest crowds I’ve encountered during the series’ tenure, and the large and enthusiastic audience was treated to a virtuoso display of exemplary vocal artistry.

 Founded and directed by Timothy Smith, Vox Fidelis is comprised of an octet of choristers familiar to local audiences: sopranos Marissa Curcio and Diana Maye Whitener, altos Gloria Kierniesky and Jen Smith, tenors Sam Denler and Kev Schneider, and basses Les Anders and Erik Potteiger. They sang music by Josquin des Pres, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Thomas Tomkins, John Sheppard, Igor Stravinsky, Healey Willan, Orlandus Lassus, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Robert Ramsey and Edward Bairstow, plus arrangements by John Rutter and Gustav Holst.

 Throughout the performance, the singers under Smith’s guidance proffered interpretations that were immaculately tuned, smoothly textured, exquisitely balanced, lyrically phrased and glowingly presented. There was a palpable connection with the inner meaning of each text and an intensity of projection that was deeply felt by the singers and keenly experienced by their audience.

 “Five Fridays” continues Feb. 2, 2024, at 7:30 p.m., with pianist Sonya Ovrutsky. Visit St. Paul’s annual “Lessons and Carols for Christmas” is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m. Visit

 Chamber Music

 Woodmere Art Museum presented “Curtis@Woodmere” Friday, Nov. 11. Curtis Institute student Maya Anjali Buchanan, violin, was accompanied by Curtis faculty pianist Jungeun Kim in a program of works by Reena Esmail, Debussy, Beethoven and Ravel. The recital drew an audience that packed Woodmere’s rotunda.

 Buchanan performed on a 1730 Guarneri “del Gesu,” one of the rarest and most glorious violins ever made. And, despite her youth, she elicited from this instrument of tone and color playing of exceptional maturity, brilliance and artistry.

 She caught the tart, modal, neo-classicism of Debussy’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor and the ebullience of Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata No. 5 in F major. Even more impressively, she transformed Ravel’s over-the-top gypsy pastiche, “Tzigane,” into a dazzling display of virtuosity based on imaginative thematic manipulation.

 Juilliard alumna Kim offered excellent support and came close to equaling the beauty of the Guarneri’s tone on Woodmere’s Kawai grand piano. Of course, only a Steinway would have enabled her to accomplish that.

 The Philadelphia Chamber Music SocPeter Stumpfiety presented flutist Marina Piccinini, violinist Hye-Jin Kim, cellist  and pianist Cynthia Raim in a program of works by Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Villa-Lobos and Weber. The audience packed the American Philosophical Society’s Benjamin Franklin Hall Sunday, Nov.12.

 The ensemble was an uneven one – never really coming together to produce a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Standouts were Piccinini and Raim. The former produced a gorgeous, velvety timbre molded lyrically into eloquent phrases. The latter elicited a clear yet warm tonal panoply from PCMS’s magnificent Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano.

 For information on the rest of PCMS’s season visit or call 215-569-8080.

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