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Allegheny Chorale celebrates season, 35 years

TYRONE — Friends, family and fellowship are all tied together with the uplifting sounds of music as the Allegheny Chorale celebrates Christmas and its 35th season with a free concert at

7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the First Presbyterian Church in Tyrone. While the choir usually performs a second concert in Altoona each year, due to scheduling difficulties, this is the only concert this Christmas season.

“We Need A Little Christmas” is under the direction of Debbie Estright, assisted by Karen Mayhew, and showcases the talent of the 66-member choir as they bring the spirit of the season alive with a selection of songs to put concertgoers in the Christmas mood.

Also on hand for the performance will be cellist, Jamie Dean; accompanists Anna Myers and Susan Broadbent; percussionist, Paul Turner, and oboist, Benjamin Cossitor.

The program features two, four-hand accompaniment pieces — “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” a rousing arrangement of a traditional advent carol, and a new arrangement of the classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.”

The selection, “The Inn by The Edge of the Wood,” will feature the haunting sounds of the cello and oboe.

Sara Castagnolia and Anna Myers have been a part of the chorale since its inception 35 years ago, Castagnolia said.

It was during a midnight Mass those many years ago at St. Matthew’s that Castagnolia remembers a group of men coming to sing. That group wanted people to sing with them and from there, a small choir was formed.

“It was called the Tyrone Choral Society,” she recalls.

“It got bigger and bigger. … and I just stayed in,” she said, noting that the group ended up changing its name to the Allegheny Chorale. Today, members come from all walks of life and from many different communities, including Altoona, Tyrone and Huntingdon.

“I’ve enjoyed it the whole time,” Castagnolia said.

“She’s been singing the whole 35 years,” said daughter Rose, who is now also a member of the group.

Estright, the director, is an elementary music teacher in Pre-K to 4th grade in the Tyrone Area School District.

This year marks her 15th year as director, she said. It’s not an unusual feat as Estright is only the third director in the chorale’s history.

“The majority of our members have been with us for many years — friendships have grown within our members from surrounding communities,” said Janet Pearson, president of the chorale.

“I am absolutely amazed each season when we gather for our first practice and … the room is full,” she added. “Our members are very dedicated to this function. I think that we all know what a service we provide to our community; giving a free concert.

“I personally find it so rewarding to see a church full of people with a love and appreciation for music,” Pearson said.

The church, with its high ceilings, features great acoustics, Castagnolia said.

In fact, the chorale “sounds like a 100-voice choir,” Estright told the group during a recent rehearsal.

The concert will be about an hour long, Pearson said, but a highlight for choir members and concertgoers might just be the reception after the concert.

It’s a “time for our audience to visit with friends that they often only get to see while attending our concerts,” she said.

“We’re like one big happy family, Castagnolia said with a grin. “It’s a lot of fun. I look forward to it every year.”

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