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Singers unite for choir benefit

A musical revue, with performers donating their time, will raise money for a church choir to travel to Rome.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


For a group of Hernando County choir members, a 5,000-mile pilgrimage to Rome will begin with a little help from some friends.

A choral group made of members from six Hernando County Catholic churches has been invited to perform at a papal Mass in January. To help pay for the trip, another group, called the Cabrini Singers and Friends, will perform a musical revue, "You and the Night and the Music," at Central High School this weekend.

"I thought it was very kind of people to give of their time and their talent," said Dolores Riego de Dios, who helped organize the event.

Performers will include Joann Collins, Mark Pennington, Barbara Buehring, Beth Phillips and Dalton Benson.

Though the event started as a small show with just a couple of singers, Riego de Dios said it has grown.

"The next thing I knew, we had a full-scale production on our hands," she said.

The show will feature nine singers, one accompanist and 24 dancers from Erin's Danceworks studio. Dancers will perform to Fascinating Rhythm, Anything Goes and Broadway medleys from Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.

"I cut my eyeteeth on some of this music," said Riego de Dios, who chose tunes from the likes of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin for the show. "I learned all those pieces early on, and they will always be special to me."

"I didn't realize it was going to be such a big event," said Lois Hunter, the director of this weekend's show, who met Riego de Dios when both were members of the Virginia Opera. "But it has become a pretty big deal."

An organist at Mariner United Methodist Church, Hunter said she will not be among the 60 people who take the trip to Rome, but is thrilled at how many have come together in support of those who will go.

"It was surprising, especially since many of us don't intend to go to Rome," she said. "Many of the entertainers are here because they love music, and when the opportunity comes along to sing, they jump on it."

Riego de Dios also plans to sit out the January trip. In 1987, she had an opportunity to meet the pope as a member of a Virginia choir.

"What strikes me is the fact that there are such talented people who have so much heart," said Riego de Dios, a member of the St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church choir for two years. "The art is what drew these people together for a common good no matter what their personal beliefs."

The Cabrini Singers and Friends will perform "You and the Night and the Music" at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Central High School, 14075 Ken Austin Parkway, west of Brooksville. Tickets are $10 at the door. For information, call 683-9666.

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