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Community musicians will gather for Christmas concert in Connellsville

| Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, 6:35 p.m.
Vince and Cait Cuneo will return to their hometown to perform at the Christmas Concert being held at Wesley United Methodist Church at 6 p.m. Saturday. The two have fond memories of growing up in Connellsville and are looking forward to performing locally during this magical time of year. The concert is part of “It’s A Connellsville Christmas,” being held during the first weekend in December. It is sponsored by Fayette County Cultural Trust. Submitted --- sat is dec 1

Talented musicians from throughout the area will join together on Saturday at Wesley United Methodist Church when a community Christmas concert will be presented as part of “It's A Connellsville Christmas.”

Downtown Connellsville is sponsoring the weekend event.

“Music is a traditional part of this time of year for most people. It can bring back warm memories of times past or add a festive atmosphere to a get-together with family and friends. The Fayette County Cultural Trust members believe strongly in bringing the arts to our community and our residents appreciate programs like these that showcase our talented vocalists. The event has been well attended in the past. Those who have been here leave with a feeling of anticipation for the days of celebration that are just ahead,” said Pat Stefano, Downtown Connellsville promotions chairman.

The program will open with various selections from Fay-West Brass. This group of musicians got together several decades ago to perform at the first Mozart Music Club Thanksgiving Festival of Choirs. The brass quintet original members are Chris Hornick, Maureen Shirer, Paul Hammaker and Don Stoner. Other trumpets that participate include Don Witt, Stefano and Andy Giles. They play at special events throughout the area.

The evening will also feature St. Rita Roman Catholic Choir singing “Stainless the Maiden,” a traditional carol and “Tu Scendi dalle Stelle” in traditional Italian. St. John's Roman Catholic Church Choir will sing “Out to the Hills, to the Forest, Run!,” a traditional Slovak carol and “Tichá Noc” by Franz Gruber, sung in Slovak (it is the Slovak edition of “Silent Night.”)

The former Holy Trinity Church Choir will present “Lulajże Jezuniu” in traditional Polish followed by the Combined Choirs of the Catholic Churches of Connellsville singing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” a traditional carol.

Christopher Mickey is organist.

”I'm very happy to have gotten such a positive response about participating in this event from the choir members of the Roman Catholic Churches in Connellsville, St. Rita's, Immaculate Conception and St. John's. I'm especially happy to have been able to get the choir members from one of the city's former Catholic churches, Holy Trinity, together to participate,” said Mickey, acknowledging the support of the churches' pastor, the Rev. Robert Lubic.

“The Catholics in this area are mainly descended from ethnic European groups, such as the Italians, Slovaks, Poles, Irish and Hungarians, all of which uphold strong traditions centered around family, friends, food and music, and of course, religion,” said Mickey. “It wasn't that long ago that these ethnic groups came to America in search of better economic conditions, and even today, a few generations later, the descendants of these families continue the traditions of our ancestors, especially around the holidays. The choirs are excited to share some of their ethnic Christmas music with the rest of the community, which may be otherwise unfamiliar with many of these customs,” said Mickey.

Solos will be performed by Callie Garlick singing “Midnight Noel,” Sarah Hamman singing “O Holy Night,” Alysia Cramer singing “Like a Rose in Winter” and Josh Wiltrout singing “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire,” each accompanied by Michelle Harbaugh.

Taney Basinger, 8, will present “How Great Thou Art” and “Light of the Stable.” She is the daughter of Cary and Rachel Basinger of Bullskin and a student at Mt. Carmel Christian School. She has been singing since she was 4 and in the last few years has participated in several musical productions at the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale including “Annie,” “Sound of Music” and “Suessical.” She also held the role of Tiny Tim in the production of “Bah Humbug.” Last December during Piratefest, she won the privilege of singing the National Anthem at the July 2 Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park. Since then she has sung at a number of venues, including the Fourth of July celebration in Mt. Pleasant, the Picnic in the Park event in Scottdale and the Saturday Night Live event at the Church of the Brethren in Connellsville.

Marina Stefano and Trent Bauer, CAHS students, will take the program in a different direction with their fun rendition of “Baby It's Cold Outside.” Both are veterans of musical productions at school and in area theater.

Audra McFadden and Courtney Keslar will continue to entertain with a holiday favorite, ”Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” accompanied by Marilee McFadden. The girls are both sophomores at CAHS. Keslar, a private voice student of Gayle Cuneo, will sing “Love Is Christmas,” accompanied by Cuneo.

The grand finale of the Christmas concert presented by Downtown Connellsville will be Vince and Cait Cuneo.

The two local artists are just back from New York City where Cait Cuneo was recording. Their selections include, “Christmas Time is Here,” “River,” by Joni Mitchell and “Happy Christmas Baby.”

They will be joined by a special guest.

“Extensive traveling has led me to cherish my free holidays and time at home. You can travel to all the cities in the country, but I always get that ‘I'm home' feeling driving through downtown. Seeing the string of multi-colored lights across Pittsburgh Street in South Connellsville takes me back to many great childhood moments. Cait and I are ecstatic about performing for the hometown crowd,” said Vince Cuneo.

“Since becoming a musician, most holidays have turned into a very busy time. When others have free time, we have to work. I just finished recording in the studio up in New York, but there is little down time. Thanksgiving was spent preparing for my record release party, and I had three other performances in two days that weekend. But, I will receive two amazing gifts this Christmas, I will be at home in Connellsville with my entire family, and I will have my first record completed,” said Cait Cuneo.

There is no charge to attend the Christmas concert but donations will benefit Downtown Connellsville future projects. The Christmas concert begins at 6 p.m. A reception with light refreshments will follow in the dining area.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 417 S. Pittsburgh St.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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