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Roderick Booker to direct 'Sounds of the Season' in Saint Vincent Basilica

Shirley McMarlin
| Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
Greensburg Garden Center's holiday church tour and musical celebration on Jan. 7 will feature Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity, shown decorated for Christmas in this 2016 photo.
Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Garden Center's holiday church tour and musical celebration on Jan. 7 will feature Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity, shown decorated for Christmas in this 2016 photo.
Guests will view Christmas decorations and a nativity scene during Greensburg Garden Center's Jan. 7 tour of Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity.
Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
Guests will view Christmas decorations and a nativity scene during Greensburg Garden Center's Jan. 7 tour of Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity.
Roderick Booker directs the Westmoreland County Community College Concert Choir at the Greensburg Garden Center's 2016 tour of Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity. The choir will perform again at this year's tour on Jan. 7.
Kim Stepinsky | For the Tribune-Review
Roderick Booker directs the Westmoreland County Community College Concert Choir at the Greensburg Garden Center's 2016 tour of Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity. The choir will perform again at this year's tour on Jan. 7.
Roderick Booker, director of music at Westmoreland County Community College, photographed in his classroom on April 20, 2016.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Roderick Booker, director of music at Westmoreland County Community College, photographed in his classroom on April 20, 2016.

The Greensburg Garden Center will host a final celebration of the holiday season with its annual church tour, featuring a musical program, set for 1:30 to 4 p.m. Jan. 7 in Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity.

This is the second year in a row that the center has chosen the basilica as its tour site.

Attendees will hear a recap of church history and have the opportunity to view the sanctuary, crypt and other parts of the basilica, which will still be adorned in Christmas decorations.

The 65-member Westmoreland County Community College Choir, along with a four-piece brass choir, will perform “Sounds of the Season” under the direction of Roderick Booker.

Booker will be retiring from his post as WCCC music director in May, so attending the tour is a way for the community to show appreciation to him, says event co-coordinator Donna Lee of Hunker.

“This will be our last year with Dr. Booker, so that will make it even more special,” she says. “I was in his choir for many years and have the deepest respect for him. He's had such a wonderful life in music in our community.”

Booker also will lay down his baton during the program to sing a selection, which Lee says will be an unusual treat.

“Not too many people have heard him sing,” she says.

The program will include a variety of secular and sacred pieces, Booker says, including songs for both Hanukkah and Christmas and “a piece that was written for us.”

Father Cyprian Constantine, the principal organist for Saint Vincent Archabbey, also will give a short talk and play selections on the $1.5 million pipe organ installed in the basilica in 2014.

“The acoustics in (the basilica), there's nothing that can surpass them in this area,” Lee says. “It has so much history and it's so beautiful in all of its holiday array.”

“We want people to leave there still having a nice holiday feeling,” Booker says.

Proceeds from the tour will go toward educational and horticultural programming at the garden center and toward its scholarship fund. The center annually awards a scholarship to a student who has completed at least one year at an accredited college pursuing a degree in botany, horticulture, forestry, landscape architecture or any related field.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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