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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Electric City Chorus Spreads Joy and Music Every Valentine’s Day

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For nearly seven decades, the Electric ‍City Chorus⁢ has ‍been a beacon of music, harmony, and joy in the Capital Region. This Valentine’s Day,⁤ the⁢ chorus, divided into four​ quartets, took on the role of Cupid, delivering ‌songs, sweets, a ​flower, and ⁤a card,‍ continuing a beloved tradition.

“This is a⁣ tradition that has stood the test⁤ of time,” chorus manager⁣ Bill Serritella‌ of Saratoga Springs shared during a rehearsal at the Schenectady Light Opera Company, the organization’s home base. “The reactions are always​ priceless; ​many are caught off guard at work or at a restaurant, and some are at home⁢ under special circumstances. We even serenade outside a client’s home ⁢or⁢ inside ⁢if the situation calls for it, particularly if there’s a family ‌member who’s ⁢unwell.”

On Valentine’s Day,‍ three acapella barbershop quartets from the⁢ Electric City Chorus were hired by loved ones, friends, and family members to spread love and joy throughout the Capital Region. Each performance included two ⁢songs from⁣ a quartet, a small box of candy, and a rose,⁣ courtesy of⁤ Felthousen’s Florists‍ of ‍Niskayuna.

Chuck⁤ Farone, 88, of Rotterdam, has⁤ been a member of‌ the Electric City Chorus for 53 years and has witnessed several transformations within the organization.

“We had as ⁣many as 60 ⁢singers at⁣ one point,” Farone reminisced.‍ “Our members included GE workers, ​state workers, doctors, lawyers.”

Farone is currently part of the “Forgotten‍ Four” quartet‌ within the group, singing​ baritone alongside former GE employee​ Dan Cotugno,⁢ 89,⁢ of Rotterdam.

“I used‍ to sing in high ⁢school. Then ⁣there was‍ a long gap,” Cotugno shared. “I ​got back‌ into it when I bumped into [Farone] at the mall. He was singing, and he​ still had hair back then. He reignited my interest ‌in singing.”

Cotugno has been with the group for 44 years, encouraged by his⁤ peers and his wife.

“It⁢ gives me a reason⁣ to get out of​ the house at ⁤night,​ as my wife likes to say,” Cotugno‌ joked. “I enjoy our quartet that we‌ formed⁤ a decade ago.”

The newest member‌ of the Electric City Chorus is Dave ⁤Iovinella, 74, of Rotterdam. He joined the group 11 years ago after being inspired by the Racing⁤ City Chorus from Saratoga Springs.

“My brother⁣ was⁣ in ‍a‍ barbershop for years ​before I ‌developed an‌ interest in it,” Iovinella said. “He was a⁢ director, ‍and ⁣I⁢ had attended several of his ⁤shows. I didn’t get interested until after​ I ⁤retired.”

For Iovinella, joining​ the chorus felt like a⁤ natural progression.

“I sang in the chorus in high⁣ school and have been singing throughout my life,⁢ so it just seemed like the right ⁢thing to do,” Iovinella said. “When I first started,‍ I was singing the lead, which is like the melody, but ⁢we needed⁢ a tenor in our quartet. So, I switched to tenor.”

This opened up a spot for a non-singer and one of ⁣several ​chorus members who doesn’t read​ sheet music — Scott Rigney,​ 61, of Round Lake.

“I was singing Christmas carols with my brother-in-law, and he suggested I try singing with these guys. I had never sung before,” ⁢Rigney said.

Rigney, who worked for ⁤UPS for 31 years, had previously only ⁣sung in⁣ the car and the shower. With his full head of⁢ hair and rock star looks, Rigney was a natural choice for a‍ lead.

“I ⁣was nervous the first time,” ‌Rigney admitted. “In a⁣ quartet, you​ can’t make mistakes. You have to ​learn your part. That was intimidating when we first started, but it’s an amazing feeling when you hear it⁤ all come ⁤together.”

Hank Pedicone, 73, of Niskayuna, the president of ⁣Electric ‌City Chorus, discovered the ​group a decade ago.

“I’ve been singing most of my life, in high⁢ school musicals, choirs, and‍ even tried​ some community theatre,” Pedicone said. “But with⁤ four​ kids, there wasn’t much time. Eleven years ago, ​I heard the Racing ‍City Chorus and thought they sounded great. I found some YouTube videos of the Electric City Chorus and kept coming back.

“I⁤ was in a high-pressure job and the last two years before retirement, ⁤this was just a godsend,” Pedicone said. “Singing⁤ along with 25-30 guys; it just ​calmed me right down and ‌made the rest of ⁣the week a breeze. Why would I give that up when I retire?”

Electric City Chorus music team ‍director Chris Jensen, 65, of ⁣Clifton ‍Park, has witnessed‍ the ​evolution of the musical ⁣landscape during‍ his 36 years with the group.

“The range ‌of source material that we draw ‌from has changed ​dramatically over the years,” Jensen said.⁢ “We used to draw from big‌ band, ‍popular movies, and‍ Broadway shows. Now, a fair amount ​of modern pop⁤ music has been arranged for ‌barbershops.”

Each performance by‌ the Electric City Chorus ⁤is unique — some even creating memories that last a⁣ lifetime.

The Forgotten ​Four once visited a⁢ 93-year-old man at his home for his birthday. His family arranged the visit and recorded a video‍ of ⁣the moment to share.

After completing their performance, the quartet moved ⁣on ‍to their next gig.

A ‍week later, the 93-year-old man passed away. His family wrote to the⁤ chorus to share the memory that will stay with them for years, reflecting on the joy from that ⁢visit.

“We’ve‍ done ​something to make‌ somebody happy,” Farone said about the visit. “You make them smile, you make them ‌laugh. It’s just a great feeling to me. That’s why we do it.”

Contact ‌Electric City Chorus at manager@electriccitychorus.net and follow them on Facebook ‍at​ @ElectricCityChorus

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Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton, a skillful journalist previously based in Boston, is adept at covering a diverse array of stories. Her thorough and engaging reporting style, honed with a Master's in Journalism from Boston University, focuses on community-relevant stories.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Electric City Chorus spreads joy and music every Valentine’s Day by serenading people in their community. It’s heartwarming to see how they bring smiles and happiness to others through their beautiful voices. #SpreadLoveWithMusic

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