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Free Lower Valley concert ushers in holidays

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
The Herald
Craig Cannon, conductor. Submitted
The Herald
Accompanist Beth Minnigh. Submitted
The Herald
Belle Voci will make its debut Dec. 1. Submitted

From traditional holiday hymns to Gregorian Chants to Gospel renditions of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the Lower Valley-based intergenerational women's choir “Belle Voci” will make its debut while simultaneously ushering in the holiday season.

Under the direction of conductor and Fox Chapel resident Craig Cannon, the free concert, “Belle Voci a Natale” (beautiful voices at Christmas) will begin at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at St. Stanislaus Parish in the Strip District.

“It is truly exciting to be creating music with a group of such motivated and talented female singers,” said member Jamie Ruggeri of Gibsonia.

Member Tiffany Zwolakowski said “There's something really special about being part of a choir and raising your voice with others to create music.”

Newly formed this summer, Belle Voci has long been a vision for Cannon, choral director for 33 years at Fox Chapel Area High School.

“Over the last 20 years I have met former students, most often women, who confess a longing to once again sing in a good choir,” Cannon said.

“Some of them tell me they haven't sung since they were in high school or college.”

“Others say they've found some musical satisfaction by joining church choirs or large community groups, but they still possess a strong desire to be part of a more intimate and sensitive and perhaps smaller ensemble that engages in artistic singing.”

The community-based choir was born from those meetings, Cannon said, and the group had its first organized rehearsal in September with the mission to enrich and educate audiences.

The group currently is in residence at Faith United Methodist Church, which sits along West Chapel Ridge Road in Fox Chapel.

There, it meets once a week to rehearse a repertoire of wide-ranging musical styles and diverse languages.

In exchange, Belle Voci will provide concerts for parishioners four times over the next year.

The next scheduled performance is 10 a.m. Dec. 2.

Megan Mulert said Belle Voci is unique because it provides a dose of expertise to what is otherwise a hobby.

“It provides an opportunity not only for me to sing, but to make music. I get to work with other talented female musicians to make a piece of music come alive,” she said.

“Our director emphasizes an attention to detail in everything from tuning, to phrasing, to articulations that is hard to find in many choirs.”

Accompanist Beth Minnigh has served as assistant to the director at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church and worked on the spring musicals at Fox Chapel Area High School.

Citing her day job as assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, Minnigh said “the beauty of music is that it draws us together and enriches our lives, regardless of our chosen professions.”

Member Shirley Bellme said she sang years ago during school but family life ultimately left her little time to devote to her hobby.

“There became no opportunities for a person with a less than sterling voice to join a singing group,” she said.

“What a joy to be able to participate in this talented group and make beautiful music once again!”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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