Top bluegrass talents to join chorus for SUNY Oswego concert

The sound of bluegrass instruments will join classically trained voices when the Artswego Performing Arts Series hosts “Classical Meets Bluegrass” with the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble at 3 p.m. Sunday, October 20, in SUNY Oswego’s Sheldon Hall Ballroom.

Known for their a capella prowess, the accomplished singers cross musical boundaries to perform a new work called “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass.”

“This work combines the solemnity of a classical-based mass with the down-home sparkle of bluegrass,” says Minneapolis-based composer Carol Barnett. She hopes that all listeners find “something wonderful” in the adventurous combination, whether their musical heroes are Robert Shaw or Bill Monroe.

Perry Cleaveland on mandolinFor the performance, the popular vocal group has gathered some of Central New York’s finest bluegrass musicians: Joe Davoli on fiddle, Nick Piccininni on banjo, Perry Cleaveland on mandolin (pictured), John Cadley on guitar and Zach Fleitz on bass. They also add ballad soloist Maureen Henesey.

Dancing included

Building the festive spirit, the concert also will include choral arrangements of Appalachian tunes, a traditional instrumental bluegrass set and a special appearance by the Syracuse Country Dancers led by caller Bob Nicholson. Audience members will have their turn on the dance floor after the concert, with an invitation to learn a country dance.

“Every year, we like to present outstanding regional performers, as well as national and international touring artists,” said Artswego coordinator John Shaffer. “We’re especially pleased to host the talented Syracuse Vocal Ensemble during its 40th anniversary celebration.”

Since 1973, the ensemble has brought remarkable choral performances to Central New York, Shaffer said. The group has sung in collaboration with the Syracuse Symphony, Skaneateles Festival, Dave Brubeck and others. Currently led by Robert Cowles, its former directors include Julie Pretzat-Merchant, now associate dean of SUNY Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts.

The “Classical Meets Bluegrass” program, which also will be performed in Syracuse, is made possible through the support of the IDEAS Implementation Fund and Onondaga County, with funds administered by CNY Arts.

Tickets cost $18 ($5 for students) and may be purchased at any SUNY Oswego box office location, online at or by calling (315) 312-2141. For more information and a link for purchasing tickets, visit

Parking is included in the price of the ticket, and is available in the employee parking lots adjacent to and across from Sheldon Hall. Patrons with disabilities needing assistance should call 312-2141 prior to the performance.

PHOTO CAPTION: Bluegrass sparkle—Mandolin virtuoso Perry Cleaveland leads a busy musical life, playing with eight popular bluegrass bands. At 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, he will join other instrumental talent for a genre-bending performance with the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble in Sheldon Hall Ballroom at SUNY Oswego.

(Posted: Oct 03, 2013)

Tags: syracuse vocal ensemble, music, classical music, classical meets bluegrass, bluegrass, artswego