Gospel group aims to uplift with its hymns and anthems at Casino Theatre

Pittsburgh Gospel Choir members perform in a 2011 concert. file photo
Pittsburgh Gospel Choir members perform in a 2011 concert. file photo
| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

Gospel is one of the most powerful and uplifting forms of artistic celebration, says Marilee Kessler of the Casino Theatre.

And, the historic Vandergrift venue offers the perfect setting for the upcoming performance of The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir.

The gospel choir will take to the stage at 4 p.m. Sunday, offering up a range of hymns, anthems and spirituals sure to inspire all who attend.

“The enthusiasm of all of the members who sing in praise of God is so remarkable, and it's gladly shared with everyone in attendance,” says Kessler, the Casino's treasurer. “This is a big show for all the right reasons, and it will excite, comfort and move the audience as no other music can.”

The multiage, multiethnic musical ensemble, led by noted educator and choir director Dr. Herbert V.R.P. Jones, returns to the Casino after a concert in 2010.

Brady Bottegal, member of the Casino's board of directors, describes that show two years ago as a “moving performance.”

Kessler hopes that the timing of this year's concert will allow for the attendance of not only those who enjoyed it the first time around, but those who might have missed that opportunity.

“The audience will be able to sit back and not only hear the concert, but feel the outpouring of joy and love which is given by these singers. The tradition of gospel is performed no better than this anywhere,” she says.

“No matter your religious beliefs, it is awe-inspiring to hear (voices) lifted in thanks for the gifts we are all given in this life.”

The concert, according to its director, will cover a range of gospel styles. The show, Jones says, will begin with a choral introit — a piece that is sung at the entrance of the performance — and also feature a tribute to the military and what he describes as a “mini-musical pilgrimage.”

The show isn't only uplifting for those in the audience, he says, but for those on the stage, as well.

“We always go into a performance or a concert setting with the concept of sharing with the community,” Jones says.

Founded in 2007, The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir is the first choral ensemble in the city dedicated to the gospel tradition.

Affiliated with the River City Brass, the group aims to preserve gospel music with performances of works — traditional and contemporary.

For Jones, it's not only the opportunity to inspire the audience, but the chance to support the 100-plus-year-old theater that makes him glad to return.

Proceeds of the show go to the theater, which is run by volunteers.

“I just hope that the venue will be filled for the sake of the Casino,” he says. “It's an honor to me to be able to come in and share with the people in the Vandergrift area and the people at the Casino.”

With every performance, Jones and The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir do have several other aims.

“We always want people to leave uplifted, and leave with a smile,” he says. “When they leave our concert, they will not only leave with a smile, but humming a few bars of the songs that have come through the concert.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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