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Elizabeth Forward, Cal U to collaborate for holiday concerts

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 3:11 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Members of the Elizabeth Forward High School choir rehearse for a series of upcoming programs including two concerts Thursday and Friday with members of the California University of Pennsylvania choir and professional musicians including members of the Washington Symphony.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Elizabeth Forward High School soloists Tyler Prah, Gavin Carnahan and Mattie Winowitch rehearse a number as they prepare for two joint concerts with members of the California University of Pennsylvania choir and professional musicians including members of the Washington Symphony.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Members of the Elizabeth Forward High School choir find a light moment during rehearsals for a series of upcoming programs including two performances of the Christmas aspects of Handel's Messiah on Thursday at the high school and on Friday at California University of Pennsylvania.

A collaboration of high school, college and professional musicians will fill concert halls this week at Elizabeth Forward High School and California University of Pennsylvania.

They will perform Handel's Messiah on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the high school and on Friday at 8 p.m. at Morgan Hall on the California campus.

“The collaboration has been a very positive one,” Elizabeth Forward choir director Angie Berna Milliren said of the arrangement, which came together at a Pennsylvania Music Educators Association gathering at EF last spring.

“We are doing the Christmas portion from Messiah and adding the holiday chorus, so we have about one hour of music,” said Yugo Sava Ikach, a McKeesport native and former assistant conductor of the city's symphony orchestra.

He directs the California University's choirs and chairs the music department.

“It's such a wonderful, real staple of the choral repertoire,” Ikach said. “I would be remiss if I left this place someday having never done it.”

A small select choir of 25 EF's “Bellator Voces” — Latin for Warrior Singers — will join with 115 California University singers and 28 professional musicians.

Many of the professionals are from the Washington Symphony, where Ikach is music director, though some play with the Pittsburgh Opera and other orchestras.

“It will be pretty high quality,” said Ikach, who directed the junior chorus at the PMEA event.

“She really does fantastic work,” Ikach said of Milliren. “I thought the world of her and the students' preparation. I have a few of her students who have come here through her program and been matriculated here at Cal U and they have all been great students.”

“Promoting future choral possibilities for my students will provide them with a group to which to belong, or an instant family, when they move into their collegiate endeavors,” Milliren said.

“My students have seen the next step in the sequence of choral performance. It is my hope that they continue to sing after they leave my program and to simply be better people because they have been touched by music.”

This week's concerts are part of a busy fall for the high school music department in particular and Elizabeth Forward School District in general.

The high school is getting ready for a holiday concert on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m., featuring all of its performance groups.

“Listen as we delight with holiday selections and conclude with our holiday sing-along,” Milliren said.

The district's complimentary holiday breakfast for senior citizens will be on Dec. 12 at 8 a.m. at the high school.

“It features our high school National Honors Society, members of our foreign language classes, our art department, and our music department,” Milliren said. “The eighth-grade choir and students from our elementary also will perform during the concert. It is free to senior citizens.”

Ikach said this week's concert series probably won't become an annual tradition, but he would like to do something “every couple years, maybe with Elizabeth Forward, maybe with another high school.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or

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