Voices from Russia

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Fr Igor Soroka Retiring as Cathedral Choir Director… Staying as Donora PA Priest

00 Fr Igor Soroka. Donora PA USA. 28.12.13

Fr Igor Soroka and Dr Dimitri Petro, both choir directors, discuss musical arrangements at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Donora PA



Editor’s Note:

Nothing on oca.org on this… does it surprise you? They’re a penny short and a day late… AGAIN. Journalism doesn’t have holidays…



It was fitting that a half century ago that a young Donora priest organised and became director of the Cathedral Choir of the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Fr Igor Soroka was born into a musical family; his father, the late Fr Gregory Soroka, came to the USA 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 PA. Gregory enrolled in the Russian Orthodox Seminary in Minneapolis MN, then, came back to Scranton, and proposed to Anastasia. They had seven children; three of the four sons, Igor, Leonid, and Vladimir became priests… with exceptional musical talents. Each wrote music. Fr Gregory served as pastor of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Charleroi PA for over 35 years.

Igor met his late wife, Irene, whilst he was choir director in Detroit MI. She also sang alto. Igor studied at St Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary and Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. After ordination, he and Irene came to Donora in 1959 to make their home. Fr Igor is still at his first parish, St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Donora, with 54 years of service. As for his directing the Cathedral Choir for 50 years, Fr Igor said, “It’s time to retire”, at the December choir meeting in Canonsburg PA. He’d worked as director without compensation.

His parishioners are pleased that he isn’t retiring from the parish. Dr Dimitri Petro, choir director at St Nicholas for almost 50 years, had a close association with Fr Igor and with his music-making. He related an incident when the two were attending an all-American Sobor in New York City. One evening, a group, including Fr Igor and his brother Fr Vladimir, went to a little Russian restaurant. Petro said, “There was balalaika music and we started singing with them. Fr Igor and his brother had exceptional voices and Fr Igor even had a solo part”. According to Petro, the musicians’ director stated, “You don’t belong here. You belong down the street at the Metropolitan Opera!”

The Cathedral Choir is an a capella ensemble; its singers have many backgrounds… doctors, lawyers, clergy, teachers, nurses, office workers, as well as homemakers and retirees. The Metropolitan Choir presented concerts at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh PA and appeared with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as giving many performances at other venues. It presented a Millennium concert celebrating 1,000 years of Christianity in Russia at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988. They made six recordings under Fr Igor’s direction, including, In Concert, The Divine Liturgy, and the latest, The Psalms in Melody and Songs. For the last recording, in honour of the group’s 50th anniversary, Fr Igor said that they called on some retirees and former members to fill the choir with 35 voices. Fr Igor said, “Some pieces are sung in eight parts and extra voices were needed”.

27 December 2013

Emma Jene Lelik

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review



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