Music Plus concert to showcase folk songs at Sewickley church
In its ninth year, the Music Plus series continues to provide the Sewickley and surrounding areas with free, family friendly concerts.
The series will build on that tradition when it offers its next show — “The Art of the Folk Song” — on March 11 at St. James Catholic Church. The show will feature retired dentist Dr. Larry O'Loughlin, bagpiper Alastair Murray and assisting artist Donna Amato.
O'Loughlin is affectionately known in the Sewickley area as “the singing dentist,” and while he doesn't consider himself a “professional” singer, had formal lessons for nearly a decade at Duquesne University.
His love of music was passed along to his children; daughter Jennifer is an award-winning soprano vocalist.
Sharron Schaefer, associate director of music at St. James Catholic Church and director of the Music Plus series, gave piano instruction to both of O'Loughlin's children, recalling fond memories of the dentist-and-tenor singing with his daughter.
Schaefer recalled time she spent as music director at Sewickley United Methodist Church when O'Loughlin's daughter would sing “special music” during the summer, and “on occasion, Larry would join her in singing a duet.”
“Where I really got to know his voice, though, was through his singing at St. James ... marveling at the high tenor voice he uses so beautifully,” Schaefer said. “We were thrilled that he said yes.”
Amato and Schaefer will share the accompanying duties for the concert.
“That Larry is singing in March, before St. Patrick's Day, is absolutely great, as his choices of especially the Irish music, really show off the Irish tenor that he is,” Schaefer said. “He has thoroughly researched the folk song as a genre, and has so many interesting tidbits of information about from where some of our most familiar folk song tunes originated, that he probably could teach a mini-course on the subject.”
His songs primarily will focus on Irish songs, works by Stephen Foster, and four selections from the “Songs of Travel.”
O'Loughlin began singing in the St. James choir in 1985, and stayed until 1996. He returned to the choir five years ago, has fully supported the Music Plus series since its inception.
“It brings to the local community a great depth of music to people,” O'Loughlin said.
The Music Plus program is a free-will offering, and Schaefer said the cost is usually underwritten by what the community gives.
Born in Northern Ireland, bagpiper Alastair Murray has played with numerous bands, including the well-known St. Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band. He has won awards in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia, performing as a solo bagpiper with a number of famous musicians. He studied under Francis Strain and the Gilnahirk Pipe Band from the age of 13, and recently moved to Moon.
The 2:30 p.m. preconcert will feature the piano students of Kerry Monahan.
“This program gives children a chance to perform in a safe environment,” Schaefer said. “They have the chance to perform for people who are just enjoying music.”
Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.