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Soroka retiring as cathedral choir director

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 11:38 p.m.
Emma Jene Lelik | For The Valley Independent
The Very Rev. Igor Soroka, left, and Dr. Dimitri Petro, both professional choir directors, discuss music to be presented in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Donora.

It was fitting that a half century ago a young Donora priest would organize and become director of the Cathedral Choir of the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Father Igor Soroka was born into a musical family.

His father, the late Rt. Rev. Gregory Soroka, came to the United States from Russia to work as a choir director.

He met his future wife, Anastasia, when she was singing alto in the choir he was directing in Scranton.

Gregory enrolled in the Russian Orthodox Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn., and then came back to Scranton and proposed to Anastasia.

They had seven children and three of the four sons, Igor, Leonid and Vladimir, also became priests – with exceptional musical talents. Each has written music.

Father Gregory served as pastor of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Charleroi for over 35 years.

Igor met his late wife, Irene, while he was directing a choir in Detroit, Mich. She also sang alto.

Igor studied at St. Tikhon Seminary and Duquesne University. After his ordination, he and Irene came to Donora to make their home.

Very Rev. Igor Soroka is still serving at his first assignment, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Donora, now in his 54th year.

As for his directing the Cathedral Choir for 50 years, Father Soroka said: “It is time to retire.”

He made the announcement at the December choir meeting in Canonsburg. All his services had been donated.

His parishioners are happy he isn't retiring from the church.

Dr. Dimitri Petro, choir director at St. Nicholas for almost 50 years, has been closely associated with the priest and the music.

He related an incident when the two were attending an All-America Council meeting in New York City.

On a free evening a group of members, including Father Igor and his brother, Father Vladimir, went to a little Russian restaurant.

“There was balalaika music and we started singing with them,” Petro said.

“Father Igor and his brother had exceptional voices and Father Igor even had a solo part.”

Petro said the musicians' director stated: “You don't belong here. You belong down the street at the Metropolitan Opera!”

The Cathedral Choir is composed of a capella singers from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, nurses, office workers, as well as homemakers and retirees.

The Metropolitan Choir, in addition to numerous performances, has presented concerts at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh and appeared with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony.

A Millenium concert in celebration of 1000 years of Christianity In Russia was presented at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988.

They have made six recordings under the direction of Father Igor. The CDs include “In Concert”, “The Divine Liturgy,” and the latest, “The Psalms in Melody and Songs.”

For this latter production, the 50th anniversary one, the director said they called on some retirees and former members to fill the choir with 35 voices.

“Some pieces are sung in eight parts and extra voices were needed,” Father Igor said.

Emma Jene Lelik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.