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Annual Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Concert set for Sunday, Oct. 20, at South Philly High School

This year’s concert will feature baritone John Tenaglia and honor GAMP graduate Kara Mulder.

Seasoned and emerging musicians from across the region will convene at South Philadelphia High School for the 27th annual Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Concert on Sunday, October 20 at 4 p.m. Above: Concert performers Kara Mulder and John Tenaglia. (Photos special to SPR)

From Giacomo Puccini to Rodgers and Hammerstein, a scope of classical sounds will soon resonate throughout the halls of South Philadelphia High School. 

Seasoned and emerging musicians from across the Philadelphia region will convene at the local public high school, 2101 S. Broad St., for the 27th annual Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Concert on Sunday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. 

The yearly afternoon serenade has been enchanting South Philadelphians with live classical music for nearly three decades in honor of the late esteemed conductor and violinist Alfonso Cavaliere, a graduate of South Philadelphia High School. 

This year’s concert will feature an assorted lineup of operatic, choral and orchestral flair, including headliner and 1981 South Philadelphia High School graduate John Tenaglia, a native of Grays Ferry and longtime resident of Lower Moyamensing. 

Tenaglia, a baritone whose vocals landed him among the country’s foremost opera companies for several years, is performing in South Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon for the first time in nearly two decades.

Though, throughout his career, he’s seized stages with the New York City Opera, Opera Delaware and Florentine Opera Company, to name a few, Tenaglia is humbly returning to his roots where he unearthed a zeal for opera four decades ago at South Philadelphia High School. 

“There’s a certain amount of warmth and you feel at home,” said Tenaglia, who received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in voice and opera studies from the former Philadelphia College of Performing Arts. “It’s more of a giving audience because they already know you. It’s like you’re singing in front of the family.”

Tenaglia, who’s tackled roles from Sharpless in “Madama Butterfly” to Marcello and Schaunard in “La Boheme,” made a name for himself in the 1980s as a member of the touring “Tenaglia Trio” in collaboration with his wife Joan and late brother Frank Tenaglia, a renowned tenor who passed away in February of this year. 

The trio spent a few years performing across the country in premier concert halls and Italian festivals, including alongside the legendary Pat Cooper and the late Arturo Coppola.

The vocal ensemble eventually dissolved, and although Tenaglia says he and his brother didn’t always see eye to eye, he fondly reminisces about their harmonies.  

“I listen back more now because he’s gone, but we had the exact same sound in two different voices, which was kind of neat, really, when you think back,” said Tenaglia, who served as the music director and conductor of the adult choir and orchestra at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in Merchantville, New Jersey for 26 years. “But, we were just two opposite people…We’d fight like cats and dogs, but if something was wrong – he was still my brother.”

Sunday’s concert will honor Frank Tenaglia amidst performances from soprano Lisa Daltrius, the Bel Canto Lyric Opera Company under the paton of Maestro Salvatore Scarpa and the Valley Forge Chorale led by soloist David Hobbs.

The performance will also celebrate soprano Kara Mulder, as the 2011 Girard Academic Music Program graduate and Academy of Vocal Arts resident artist was named this year’s Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Concert Awardee under the Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship was founded more than two decades ago to elevate the presence of emerging local classical musicians in memory of the acclaimed Cavaliere, whose extensive career included conducting musicals on Broadway and performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

Mulder, who studied voice performance at the Eastman School of Music and received her master’s in voice performance from the University of Michigan, says she’s honored by the recognition.

“The Cavaliere family – they have been such prominent figures in our classical music world, especially in Philadelphia, for so many years,” Mulder said. “And, so, I’m incredibly humbled to be honored at the concert and to have the chance to sing…Any time I can sing in South Philly is special because I went to GAMP and I grew up in this city. This place is really near and dear to my heart.”

For Tenaglia, who also attended GAMP, Sunday’s concert elevates the exposure of classical music in South Philadelphia.  

He stresses the importance of cultural accessibility, especially among local students. For children of all ages, he says, hosting a concert at South Philadelphia High School, as opposed to a major concert hall in Center City, places such rich musical composition right in their backyards. 

“I want audiences to enjoy and experience something that they haven’t heard before,” Tenaglia said. “The only thing that I have left as a singer – because, let’s face it, I’m on the tail end of my career – is I want to tell you this story and I want to show you how I feel about the story that I’m telling you. That’s what singing is – it’s telling a story and it’s set to music. What do you want something better than that?”

Info: Contact Giovanna Cavaliere at 215-626-7053 or 2304 S. 12th St. Philadelphia, PA 19148.  Do not send cash, send checks payable to ACMF.

Tickets cost $18 each for general admission, $15 each for seniors and $5 each for students. All tickets at the door cost $20.


Twitter: @gracemaiorano

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