Albany Pro Musica goes pop

Services at the 1848 Shaker Meeting House in Colonie used to be a huge draw in the Capital District. People curious about the Shakers' traditions, which were heavy with dance and music, would turn out, with authors Herman Melville and James Fenimore Cooper among the crowds.

Hoping to reignite people's interest in the meetinghouse, the Shaker Heritage Society is marketing the space as a venue for concerts. It will host a Saturday, June 12, show featuring Albany Pro Musica, a 60-member semi-professional choral group that is trying to expand its appeal as well. Taking a break from its standard classical numbers, Albany Pro Musica will perform a mix of show tunes, songs from the '50s and '60s and do-wop numbers in a Pops Night Cabaret slated for 7:30 p.m.

"It's fun, a little different," Albany Pro Musica's executive director, Jean Leonard, said. "It's fun to do songs you know people will automatically recognize."

The chorus does have some recent experience in that area " in October, it did a selection of patriotic and folk tunes called "America's Song." Looking for a local historic venue to fit the theme of the show, group officials checked out the meetinghouse but decided it would be too small since the Capital District Youth Orchestra was sharing the stage.

But Leonard and David Griggs-Janower, the group's conductor and artistic director, realized the meetinghouse could be a great fit for the cabaret night.

"It's a pretty amazing building," Griggs-Janower said.

"The acoustics are fantastic," Leonard said. "It's a big, open room, and it's an easy place to put out tables and chairs. It will be perfect."

That's a message Starlyn D'Angelo hopes other groups hear loud and clear. The executive director of the Shaker Heritage Society, D'Angelo called the meetinghouse one of the area's "hidden jewels."

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