CEC’s own ‘Westminster Abby’ accepted into Westminster Choir College

It was when her mother handed her the sheet music to a song from “The Phantom of the Opera” that Abigail Merk from Morrisville discovered her love for “this strange music.”

The Conwell-Egan Catholic senior has had a fondness for music since she began taking singing lessons at Holy Trinity (Morrisville) in the second grade. Her mother (and piano teacher), holding a trio of degrees in Organ Performance, Music Therapy, and Music Education, is credited for fostering that love.

“When it comes down it, my mom is the reason I love music. She’s always exposed me to new things, whether I liked it or not, and that’s what opened my eyes in the first place,” Abby said. “We have such a connection; we’re kind of like a team. If I’m really frustrated or not getting something right, I can go to her and she’ll reassure me that I don’t have to be perfect and that I will continue learning. I do the same for her.”

Abby was recently accepted into the prestigious Westminster Choir College of Rider University, one of the world’s leading schools in music. Westminster is a four-year music college and graduate school that prepares men and women for careers as performers and as music leaders in schools, universities, churches and professional and community organizations.

Students from Westminster perform with some of the greatest orchestras and conductors of our time, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Westminster’s choirs have been featured on more than 180 commercial recordings.

Abby was a four-time All-Catholic Chorus selection at Conwell-Egan Catholic, as well as a choir member of the Capitol Singers of Trenton & Trenton Community Singers. She has also been a longtime member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, an organization that fosters the art of musical liturgy. The members of NPM serve the Catholic Church in the United States as musicians, clergy, liturgists, and other leaders of prayer.

Abby received her letter of acceptance the day of the annual CEC Christmas Concert. She will be attending Westminster in the fall, studying to receive her Bachelor of Arts in the Voice Performance program.

PHOTO CAP: Abby Merk


Newtown Chamber Orchestra will perform its third concert of the season, “A Night at the Opera & More”

The concert will be conducted by Russell W. Hoffmann, Music Director and Conductor on Sunday, March 30th, at 7:00pm at the Lutheran Church of God’s Love, 791 Newtown-Yardley Road, Newtown.

Music to be performed will include:

  • Overture to “L’Italiana in Algeri” by Rossini;
  • Selections from “Carmen” by Verdi. The singers for this performance are guest soloists from The Opera Project, of Stockton, NJ, Walter MacNichol, Director);
  • ”Ziguenerweisen” for violin and orchestra by Pablo de Sarasate (Performed by Ms. Sophia Yoo);
  • ”Symphony No. 1 in D Major” by Franz Shubert.

Participating soloists include:

  • Sophia Yoo, Winner of the NCO 2013-2014 Young Musicians Competition, will be playing “Ziguenerweisen” for violin and orchestra by Pablo de Sarasate. Ms. Yoo has been studying violin since age four and piano and harp for eight and five years respectively. In 2010, she won first prize in the junior harp division of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Harp Society and in 2011 was awarded a scholarship from a Korean youth orchestra in Washington, D.C. Sophia is an Advanced Study Scholarship recipient as a member of the Newman Quartet and in 2013 she received prizes in the Tri-County Youth Festival as well as the Bucks County Youth Competition.

[Read more...]


Silver Season features new production of Verdi’s legendary ‘La Traviata’

The culmination of Boheme Opera’s 25th season is a fully staged new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” on Friday, March 28th at 8:00pm and Sunday, March 30th at 3:00pm.

The Company returns to Kendall Main Stage Theater at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ. Boheme Artistic Director Joseph Pucciatti will conduct the Boheme Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with stage direction by Reegan McKenzie.

Three impressive artists are at the helm of this exciting production adorned by original virtual sets by J. Matthew Root. Acclaimed soprano Lorraine Ernest returns as Violetta, having sung the role with Boheme in its semi-staging in 2007. International artists tenor Jeffrey Hartman and baritone Michael Corvino debut with Boheme in the respective roles of Alfredo and Giorgio Germont.

Tickets range from $30 to $50, with group and student rates. Purchases can be made online daily at www.tcnj.edu/boxoffice, by phone at 609-771-2775 Monday-Friday, 10:00am to 2:00pm and 6:00pm to 8:00pm, or in person at Brower Student Center Box Office, Monday-Friday, same hours.

For more details, visit www.bohemeopera.com.


Region VI State Orchestra Concert slated for March 1st

The Pennsylvania Music Educators Association will present the 2014 Region VI State Orchestra Concert, including 124 of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s finest high school musicians under the direction of guest conductor Soo Han, on Saturday, March 1st, at 2:30pm, at William Tennent High School (auditorium), 333 Centennial Road, Warminster.

Tickets are $7 and will be sold at the door. The program includes: “Dance of the Tumblers” – Rimsky Korsakov; “Vocalise” – Rachmaninoff, arr. Soo Han; “Marche Slav” – Tchaikovsky; and “Symphony No. 8” – Dvorak.

For more information regarding the festival, the concert, and guest conductor Soo Han, contact the Music Director of the Warminster Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Lovecchio at 215-674-5236 or jallov@aol.com.


Tri-County Band of Feasterville

What started with 10 musicians in a local firehouse has turned into 63 years of quality music and entertainment for the people of Bucks County. In 1950, local musicians Alfred B. Mann and James McLean gathered 10 colleagues together at the Feasterville Fire Station on Irving Avenue and formed what would in time be one of the county’s most well known musical ensembles, the Tri-County Band. The band incorporated in 1960.

Today, the non-profit organization boasts 45 members with loyal followers who attend their concerts each year. Current director John Roman joined the band as a clarinetist in 1979 and has been director for the past 25 years. John will retire as Band Director in May of 2014. The band is currently seeking a new director.

The musicians in the band range from high school students to retirees; band president Dale Habel has been with the band for 62 years. All enjoy the opportunity to both form relationships with others of similar interest and perform quality band music for its audiences.

The band does about 25 performances a year, including several parades such as the Memorial Day Parades in Hulmeville and Langhorne, and the Annual Levittown and Feasterville Fourth of July parades. Tri-County also plays at a number of retirement villages and for outdoor summer concert series in area municipalities, such as Northampton Township, Tamanend Park, the Wrightstown Grange Fair, the Tinicum Arts Festival and at the Lions Gazebo in Bristol.

The band features a broad spectrum of music styles that appeal to audiences of all ages. Rehearsals, held at the Tri-County Band Rehearsal Hall, a converted church building, are always open to interested musicians. 

Although there is not a formal audition process, visiting musicians are welcome to try out a few rehearsals. After that, the band and the prospective member make a mutual decision as to whether the match is a good one. At this time the band is in need of musicians in all sections.

The Tri-County Band rehearses Monday evenings from 8:00 to 10:00pm at its rehearsal hall located at 403 Elmwood Avenue in Feasterville. Those interested in joining a rehearsal, applying for the position of Director or engaging the band for a performance should contact Dale Habel at 215-357-5697.


Bucks County Women’s Chorus

Founded in September 2012, the 85-voice Bucks County Women’s Chorus (BCWC) has already left its mark on the choral music scene in the region.

Singing under the direction of Holland resident Patricia Guth, the ensemble performed more than a dozen concerts during their first full year and recently completed another eight performances during the 2013 holiday season. Now with the spring season approaching, the chorus is gearing up for a program of new repertoire including Broadway show tunes, jazz, pop, standards, light opera, and more.

The members of the BCWC range in age from 19- to about 80-years-old and come from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels. They represent more than 25 towns throughout Bucks County and beyond.

Each brings their own unique personality to the group, and the ensemble has quickly become a cohesive performing group, able to delight audiences wherever they perform with their beautiful sound, precise harmonies, and energetic demeanor.

An audition is not required to join the group, but potential members should be able to “carry a tune” and possess a basic knowledge of simple musical elements. Instruction on proper choral technique is taught at rehearsals while the women learn a variety of three- and four-part repertoire.

The group rehearses on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00pm in the auditorium at Twining Village Retirement Community, 280 Middle Holland Road, Holland.

A registration form and additional information about the choir is available on the BCWC website at www.buckscountywomenschorus.com. Prospective members can also call Patricia Guth at 215-968-9542 for more info.


New Hope-Solebury & Lambertville Community Choir recruiting singers

Following a little time off after a busy first half of their musical season, the New Hope-Solebury & Lambertville Community Choir has resumed rehearsals, pointed toward performances in the spring and a concert in Solebury on June 1st. The choir is looking to expand the membership, and invites singers and would-be singers of all shapes, sizes, and varieties to join the group.

NHS&LCC is made up of members of the immediate New Hope-Solebury and Lambertville community as well as several singing residents of the surrounding area. There is no audition to join – all are welcome. In only its second, NHS&LCC performances have included appearances at the New Hope Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, the First Federal Bank, the New Hope-Solebury Free Library, the Logan Inn, several area retirement communities and senior centers, as well as regular concerts.

NHS&LCC is under the direction of Episcopal minister of music, instructor, and New Hope resident Rick Rosen. Rehearsals are held on Tuesday evenings in New Hope. “We truly are a community choir, made up of a wide variety of people and personalities, with a wide variety of musical skill sets,” notes Rick. “So, the idea is to sing an equally wide variety of music, to match the music to our abilities while still challenging ourselves, and to then end up with quality music and a truly fun, enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone.”

For additional information about New Hope-Solebury & Lambertville Community Choir, or for information about joining the group, contact NHS&LCC at 650.219.2748, or on their Facebook page.


The Bucks County Opera Association

The Bucks County Opera Association exists to support the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), which is dedicated to the development of exceptionally talented and committed young singers who have the potential for international stature on the operatic stage. The AVA resident artists are presented in fully staged productions (full orchestra, set, costumes, and supertitles) each year in our Bucks County community.

The AVA, 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, was founded in 1933 by Helen Corning Warden to provide the highest quality professional training for talented singers on a tuition free basis. Adele Warden Paxson, long-time resident of Bucks County and daughter of founder Helen Corning Warden, was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the AVA prior to her death in 2000 and her daughter, Sally Paxson Davis, followed in her footsteps as the Chairman of the Board of AVA until her death in 2008.

Admission into AVA’s four-year program is highly competitive, with approximately 26 singers enrolled in any given year. Today, AVA is the only tuition-free institution dedicated exclusively to the study of voice, diction, languages, and acting for full performances of opera. Many of the graduates now perform on the stages of the Metropolitan Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden, Vienna Opera House, and other worldwide halls.

The Bucks County Opera Association Committee with Franca Warden as Chairman Emeritus is co-chaired by Barbara Donnelly and Susan Kane and consists of several volunteers who raise funds for AVA and who support the productions being performed in Bucks County.

The next AVA production in Bucks County will be Jules Massenet’s “Manon,” which will be performed in French with full orchestra, staging, costumes, and supertitles at Central Bucks South High School on Saturday, May 10th, at 7:30pm.

For more information call 215-862-2526 or check the website, www.avaopera.org.


Riverside Symphonia

Experience the beauty of a world-class professional symphony along the banks of the beautiful Delaware River! The Riverside Symphonia brings the excitement of a metropolitan orchestral experience to an intimate venue in the charming town of Lambertville. Under the direction of the Polish-born conductor Mariusz Smolij, the Symphonia offers both classical and pops performances of critical acclaim and features both established and emerging guest artists from around the world. 

Artists and audiences, alike, feel a special connection to each other in this setting and to the music. This is making music the way it was meant to be. Join them for one of their season performances and at their annual Concert Under the Stars in Tinicum Park on July 5th.   

For program and ticket information, contact the Riverside Symphonia at 609-397-7300 or visit www.riversidesymphonia.org.


Southampton Chamber Music Society

The Southampton Chamber Music Society, headquartered at 757 Cybus Way, Southampton, was founded in 1992 with the dual mission of creating performance opportunities for local professional musicians and of enabling area audiences to hear infrequently performed masterworks of the chamber music repertoire.

A significant portion of the works heard in the Society’s concerts have been regional or United States premieres (including compositions commissioned for the Society’s musicians), or modern world premieres of rediscovered 18th and 19th century works.

The excellent acoustics and intimate dimensions of the Society’s main performance space, the historic Southampton Old School Baptist Meetinghouse, make possible a close, informal interaction among listeners and performers to create a unique musical experience.

To receive information on their 2014 season, call 215-357-4723 or send an e-mail to scms25@msn.com.