Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh’s Music Director to Step Down

After seven seasons, Robert Page Music Director Matthew Mehaffey will end his tenure with the 2022-’23 season.

The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh (MCP) today (1-12-2023) announced that Matthew Mehaffey, the choir’s Robert Page Music Director, will leave at the end of the 2022-’23 season. During his seven seasons with the choir, Mehaffey expanded its reach through compelling storytelling, unconventional collaborations, and impactful community partnerships.

At 115 years in operation, MCP is the city’s most celebrated chorus. The choir’s approximately 130 members are everyday community members from diverse backgrounds and professions who generously give their time and vocal talent to create deeply moving moments of musical discovery for Pittsburgh audiences. 

Matthew MehaffeyMendelssohn Choir Photo

Mehaffey, a native Pittsburgher, became MCP’s music director in 2016. During his time with the choir, he has engaged singers and audiences in dramatic choral storytelling, such as the re-telling of the story of Anne Frank in Annelies and the Underground Railroad in Let My People Go. He has also challenged the organization to explore new forms of relevancy by working with composers such as Steven Hackman and Stewart Copeland to bring their visions to life on the stages of rock venues. 

These performances gave MCP greater visibility beyond its traditional classical music base and built a reputation of innovative risk-taking for the centenarian organization. By embracing partnerships with a wide range of arts and civic organizations, from the City of Asylum to VocalEssence of Minnesota, to Mr. Smalls to Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mehaffey sought to introduce choral music to new audiences. 

At the same time, he continued cultivating the standard of excellence for which MCP is known, particularly in its performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra – including a Grammy-nominated recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

“My work with the Mendelssohn Choir has been one of the great joys of my personal and professional life,” said Mehaffey. “As a Pittsburgh native, I’m delighted to have had the chance to come back to my hometown and create music here. It’s been a dream come true. The singers, the members of our board, our partners at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra—they are the best of the best. It’s been an honor to collaborate with them.” 

Mehaffey is stepping down from the position of Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir to assume the role of Director of Choral Activities at the University of Minnesota, where he will lead a comprehensive program of six choirs and a studio of graduate students pursuing Masters’ and Doctoral degrees in conducting. 

Mehaffey’s last performance with MCP will be The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci on May 20, 2023, by his friend, composer Jocelyn Hagen, which will take place at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center.

“It has been a delight working with Matt, and he will be missed greatly by all of us—from singers to audience members,” says Mary Ann Lapinski, executive director of MCP. “Matt’s desire to push MCP into new ‘spaces’ literally and metaphorically and have choral music viewed as a compelling entertainment choice by a wider range of prospective audience members will be part of his enduring legacy. As for what’s next for MCP, the board, Search Committee, and I are embracing the search for his successor with a sense of openness and excitement.”

A national search has been launched to find Mehaffey’s successor, to announce the new music director in May 2023, and continue the great momentum Mehaffey has set in motion. 

“Matt has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” said Guy Leonard, chair of MCP’s Board of Directors. “He’s talented, creative, and has a real gift for thinking outside the box and expanding the choir’s musical boundaries. By giving our singers an innovative range of music to perform, he fully tapped into their talent and empowered them to exceed even their own expectations. He brought out their very best, and he did so in a way that was encouraging and supportive.” 

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