Whiffenpoofs Come to Wheeling

Area music lovers have a chance to hear one of the nation’s most celebrated singing groups, the Whiffenpoofs from Yale University, in Wheeling next weekend. Of special interest to local folks, Sharif Youssef, a baritone from Wheeling, is a member of this group.

The Whiffenpoofs will perform in concert at Wilson Lodge, Oglebay Park, at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 19. Admission is free.

In addition to singing and touring with the Whiffenpoofs, Youssef, a senior in Yale’s Pierson College, is pursuing a degree in cognitive science. He is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School. His father, Dr. Mohamed Youssef, is an associate professor of physics and physical sciences at West Liberty University.

Promotional material for the fabled singing group stated, “Every year, 14 senior Yale men are selected to be in the Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group. Founded in 1909, the ‘Whiffs’ began as a senior quartet that met for weekly concerts at Mory’s Temple Bar, the famous Yale tavern.

Today, the group has become one of Yale’s most celebrated traditions.”

On another musical note, Wheeling native Casey Gray sang a featured role in the Western New York Chamber Orchestra’s concert presentation of Johann Strauss’ opera, “Die Fledermaus,” on Sunday, March 30.

The tenor received rave reviews for his performance in the role of Alfred. The concert presentation took place at State University of New York-Fredonia’s King Concert Hall.

Gray is an adjunct faculty member at SUNY Fredonia. In addition, he is a freelance vocal coach and accompanist.

He has coached and accompanied various programs in western New York, including SUNY Fredonia pops concerts and Department of Theatre and Dance productions of “Chicago” and “Rent.” He has served as chorus master of Hillman Opera productions of “Merry Wives of Windsor” and “La Cenerentola.”

Gray earned a Master of Music degree in voice performance from SUNY Fredonia and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music (voice), cum laude, from Bethany College. In addition to his music studies at Bethany, Gray was the organ scholar, assistant organist and a parish choir member at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling for four years. He also is a graduate of Wheeling Park High School.

As a performer, Gray appeared in the Hillman Opera production of “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” playing the role of Pitichinaccio. In September 2011, he premiered in a chamber oratorio, “Samaritan,” as the Evangelist/Victim. That work was composed by Sean Doyle, also a SUNY Fredonia alumnus and adjunct faculty member.

Meanwhile, area residents have a rare opportunity to hear internationally-known opera star Marianne Cornetti of Pittsburgh perform again in Wheeling this week.

Cornetti will appear as guest vocalist for a Good Friday sacred concert at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 1410 Chapline St., Wheeling, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 18. The concert is open to the public.

The parish choir and Cornetti will sing selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” Part II. Cornetti also will sing Brahms’ “Alto Rhapsody,” accompanied by the men of the choir.

It has been many years since Cornetti last performed in Wheeling. During one of those appearances, in 1997, she sang the “Alto Rhapsody” with St. Matthew’s choir.

Cornetti is returning to Wheeling after numerous singing engagements in the United States and in Europe. Most recently, she sang in Deutsche Opera Berlin’s production of Ponchielli’s opera, “La Gioconda,” in January and February.

This autumn, Cornetti will sing the role of the Gingerbread Witch in Minnesota Opera’s production of “Hansel und Gretel” from Nov. 1-8.

Heading overseas again, she will sing the role of Ulrica in the Royal Opera’s production of “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Performances will take place at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London from Dec.18 to Jan. 17.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net