Diocesan Organist Rocks with Foreigner

By Melissa Williams Brown
Contributing Writer

On any given Sunday, J. Christopher Pardini can be found at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish in Greensburg, where he is director of music and liturgy and Diocesan cathedral organist. He’s used to his musical focus being on the hymns we hear at Mass. This summer, he accepted a composing challenge that required him to switch his musical focus to classic rock songs like “Urgent” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”

Pardini recently collaborated with Lou Gramm, original lead singer and founding member of Foreigner, the iconic 1980s British-American rock band. He orchestrated 11 of Foreigner’s greatest hits with the Butler Symphony Orchestra for a charitable fundraiser in Gibsonia July 23.

Pardini, who also teaches piano, organ and music theory at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, found out about the opportunity with Gramm through his work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO). Pardini considers composing projects on nights and weekends and in his spare time “fun work.”

He recently completed three commissioned works for PSO members:  “Beethoveniana: A Medley of Ludwig’s Greatest Hits,” “Williamsiana: A Medley of John’s Greatest Hits” and “Pittsburghiana: A Medley of Tunes Associated With the Burgh.” 

Pardini was recommended to orchestrate Foreigner’s greatest hits featuring Gramm, The Jacksons, The Temptations and Queen V. Pardini will go to a rehearsal to run the acts, and a conductor will listen to and correct any logistical issues with the band, singers and orchestra.  

Pardini likens the project to Gramm and his bandmates providing ingredients of classic rock to baking a cake. Pardini is simply topping it with icing.

Gramm and Pardini have crossed familiar paths. Gramm is a Rochester, N.Y., native. Pardini received a master’s degree in organ performance and literature from the University of Rochester. He also has a bachelor’s degree in sacred music from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.

Pardini said he used violins, violas, cellos and double bass to create a small, strong orchestra.  

Prior to Pardini’s appointment in the Diocese of Greensburg, he was organist and director of music at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, where he headed one of the nation’s leading sacred music programs. Before moving to Pittsburgh, Pardini was the senior organist at the Crystal Cathedral (now Christ Cathedral) in Garden Grove, Calif.

Pardini’s catalogue of musical works includes an oratorio, a ballet, a Mass, liturgical music, orchestral works, and many works for organ and choir, including “Glory To God: the Presbyterian Hymnal.”

The New Jersey native lives in Hempfield Township with his wife Amy, daughter Mia and son Luca. He says he feels blessed to be doing things he ever dreamed of. But with all that he has accomplished, he’s first and foremost a church musician.

“This is what I plan to do for the rest of my life. I feel very fortunate.”


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