The choirs of North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair high schools will soon be able to claim something only world-renowned performers such as Jose Carreras, and Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues can claim: The local students will have sung with international recording artist Giorgia Fumanti.
Ms. Fumanti, whose operatic/pop musical style has been compared to Sarah Brightman and Barbra Streisand, has performed in countries all over the world, been featured on three PBS specials and performed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2007 Special Olympics and the National Hockey League All-Star Game in Dallas.
This weekend, she'll perform with 170 singers in a combined choir from both high schools, along with an orchestra of nine, some of whom also play for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Pittsburgh Opera.
"Giorgia is considered a crossover pop/opera singer with a classical voice and a repertoire made up of beautiful, romantic music," said Vito DiSalvo of South Park, who is the singer's musical director. "At this weekend's concerts, her repertoire will include a mixed genre of pop, opera, film scores, classical and Christmas songs."
Mr. DiSalvo first met Ms. Fumanti in October 2008, while he was a music director at Pittsburgh's Benedum Center and she was the supporting act for Patrizio Buanne. Asked to conduct her part of the concert, Mr. DiSalvo and the songstress paired so well, she asked if he'd be willing to conduct her other concerts in the United States.
"I've conducted for her many times since," he said. "Ironically, the first call I got from her was for a concert in China with the Shanghai Symphony."
As former chair of the music department for the West Mifflin Area School District, Mr. DiSalvo invited Ms. Fumanti, who lives in Montreal, to Pittsburgh to give local high school students a chance to sing with a big star.
He proposed the idea to his friend and fellow musician, Ernie Pontiere, choral director at North Allegheny High School.
"My wife, Lisa, and I heard Ms. Fumanti sing at the Benedum and I jumped on a chance to have my students appear on stage with an artist of her stature," Mr. Pontiere said.
Wanting to extend the concert to a second venue, the two men began looking for another school choir to participate.
"I didn't have to look very long because I've been friends with Lorraine Milovac [choir director for Upper St. Clair High School] for a long time and knew she had a great choir," said Mr. Pontiere of Wexford.
The two choirs have been rehearsing separately for some time and will have a combined rehearsal before the concert and another with Ms. Fumanti and the orchestra Friday at Upper St. Clair High School.
"Lorraine and I met to make sure that we were in sync on diction, vowel sounds and breath marks for both choirs," Mr. Pontiere said. "At the concert, she will conduct 'Credo' with the combined choirs, while I'll conduct 'Tu Sei La Mia Vita [You are My Life],' a ballad Mr. DiSalvo wrote for his wife, Lana."
Mr. Pontiere's daughters, Lexie, 18, and Lizzie, 16, will sing in the combined choir.
The choir will perform two works without Ms. Fumanti on both halves of the concert and three or four songs with her. Ms. Fumanti also will sing five solo songs, conducted by Mr. DiSalvo at the piano.
"Both auditoriums are beautiful and state-of-the-art," Mr. DiSalvo noted.
"We've been rehearsing every day from the first week of October and it's going great," Mr. Pontiere said. "The kids have worked hard, risen to the occasion, and we're ready."
The combined choirs will first perform with Ms. Fumanti and orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday at the Upper St. Clair High School Theater, 1825 McLaughlin Run Road. At 7 p.m. Sunday, the performance will be held at the North Allegheny Senior High School Auditorium, 10375 Perry Highway, McCandless.
Tickets are $25 for orchestra seating; $20 general. Call 412-653-4838.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com.