The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh to Perform Bob Dylan Classics

The times they are a-changin’. At 109 years in operation, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is the city’s oldest performing arts organization, best known for its fine renditions of classical music. On January 25-28, 2018, however, the venerable institution will shake things up with a world-premiere performance based on the music of Bob Dylan, produced by Mr. Smalls Presents and performed at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale.

With a chorus of 100-plus singers and a small instrumental ensemble, the Mendelssohn will perform “The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan,” an oratorio based on the music of the iconic folksinger. Conducting will be the composer of the piece, Steve Hackman, originator of FUSE at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a rising star in the new landscape of hybrid classical/popular music. This is Steve’s only Pittsburgh performance planned for 2017/18.

“The genius of Bob Dylan's storytelling is that we ourselves become characters—it is us hopping that train car, walking down the dark side of that road, or sitting at the end of the bar. His music is explosive in its originality, spirit and unbridled passion—passion for life, love, freedom, and people,” says Hackman.  

“Dylan's songs have been re-interpreted countless times. I am excited to have the opportunity to do that in this new choral setting, with the wonderful Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and all of the choirs that will bring the piece to life.”

The oratorio was commission by a national consortium including the Mendelssohn, Minnesota’s VocalEssence, New York City’s Baldwin Festival Chorus, Boston’s Chorus Pro Musica, Susquehanna Valley Chorus, and the Nashville Symphony, which will premiere an orchestral version of the piece later in 2018. The Mendelssohn will reprise its choral performance in June 2018, on the main stage at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

At the performance, the Dylan oratorio will be part of a concert featuring a Beatles/Mozart mash-up along with other hybrid numbers conducted by Matthew Mehaffey, the Robert Page Music Director of the Mendelssohn Choir.

“The opportunity to premiere the new Bob Dylan work by Steve Hackman is very exciting for the Mendelssohn Choir, and is the culmination of a multi-year partnership,” says Mehaffey. “While the Choir may be best known for its work in classical music with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, we have a long tradition of performing popular music as well. I think the iconic music and words of Bob Dylan will be very powerful when sung by the 100 voices of the choir. In addition to the Dylan music, the choir will sing music by Radiohead, the Beatles and Leonard Cohen.”

Mr. Smalls is known for bringing world-class rock and hip-hop acts to Pittsburgh, as well as presenting work by local musicians. The Mendelssohn concert will take place in Mr. Smalls Theater, a beautifully repurposed 18th-century Catholic church, which serves as the anchor of the Millvale entertainment hub. 

Mr. Smalls Co-founder Liz Berlin, a member of the band Rusted Root, says, “I’m extremely excited to host the Mendelssohn Choir event at Mr. Smalls Theatre! I feel like it’s a full circle moment for me, because my parents sang in the Mendelssohn under Robert Page for many years. And with my roots in classical music as a founding member of The Children’s Festival Chorus, and crossing over into the mainstream rock world with Rusted Root, Steve Hackman is just the kind of ground-breaking artist I love to have at our venue, pushing the boundaries of genre to bring all types of music lovers together to celebrate the iconic Bob Dylan!” 

Mr. Smalls Presents “The Music of Bob Dylan,” with Steven Hackman and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, January 25-28, 2018, at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale: 400 Lincoln Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15209. For tickets, visit the links below or call 1-877/4-FLY-TIX.

Sunday (Matinee):


About the Mendelssohn: One of nation’s oldest choruses, and hailed as one of its finest, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is committed to presenting compelling performances at the highest artistic level, advancing the choral art and inspiring an enduring appreciation of choral music in the Pittsburgh community. Composed of 100-plus singers, the Choir performs both with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and in its own concerts, and it fosters the next generation of choral singers through the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.  

About Mr. Smalls Theatre: A music venue housed within a beautifully repurposed former 18th century Catholic church in Pittsburgh’s Millvale neighborhood, Mr. Smalls Theatre has not only carved a deep niche as the best music venue of its size in Pittsburgh, but as one of the finest in the country. The ambiance and spacious interior make it the ideal place for year-round musical entertainment. 

Get News