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Dancing, clapping and singing along at Bel Canto Sip and Sing-along party

A room full of friends and neighbors sang to their hearts’ content on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Sip and Sing-along event hosted by the Bel Canto Community Choir.

Words and music accompaniment were provided for the inaugural event put together by Carrie Bonanotte, a former music teacher who eight years ago founded the Bel Canto Children’s Choir. This year she branched out to form the Bel Canto Community Choir to give adults a chance to sing together.

Carrie Bonanotte leads a round of singing at the Bel Canto
Community Choir’s Sip and Sing-along at the Homewood
Science Center on Saturday, Jan. 21.
(Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The Michael Wexler Theater area at the Homewood Science Center was darkened so the more than 50 participants could read words projected onto the screen for karaoke, the first half of the program.

Bonanotte said she sent a survey to those who registered for the sold-out program and selected the most popular songs for karaoke. Among the most requested songs were “Africa” by Toto, “Build Me Up Buttercup” by the Foundations, “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, and “Love Shack” by the B 52s.

The music got the crowd pumped up. They swayed to the rhythms and clapped to the beat. The volume increased for the chorus sections of the songs.

Bonanotte scheduled a break after about 30 minutes of karaoke to let the crowd refresh their drinks from a LaVoute Restaurant bar cart.  

Halfway through the program, Homewood resident Jessie Hurt and Kris McManus said they’d come again. 

“This is a blast! It’s a great time,” Hurt said. 

Ted and Krista Venegas had the night off from their singing duties with Not My Dad’s Band and both agreed it was a fun event. 

“She did a great job selecting the karaoke songs,” Krista said. 

It was back to singing for the second half of the program as Bonanotte divided the crowd in half to teach them different melodies for the chorus line to a Beatles song “Oh blah di, oh blah da,” the story of Desmond and Molly Jones.

Tracy and Brian Green found a spot to dance in the midst
of the karaoke party hosted by the Bel Canto
Community Choir. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The words were familiar, the trick was keeping up with Bonanotte on the changing vocal range and tempo. There were lots of laughs as the audience mimicked Bonanotte. With the parts memorized, she blended the two groups together to sing the hit song with backup music from a guitarist, keyboardist and three horn players. 

By the end of the evening, Bonanotte said people asked for more. She had planned to do the Sip and Sing-along again, and with the enthusiastic response she decided to present another program at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Flossmoor Community House. The fee is $15 and registrations can be made at www.spotlightperformanceacademy.org

In the meantime, adults interested in joining the Bel Canto Community Choir can meet the group at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Homewood Science Center, 18022 Dixie Highway. Sessions are an hour.

“It’s really been eye opening. After the pandemic I think people are just really looking for connections and when you’re singing in a group like this, it really forms those connections — you’re all breathing together and listening to each other and adding your voice for one purpose.  It has really been a special moment for us, and we want to share it with our community. We want to invite everyone along to come and participate,” Bonanotte said.

The Bel Canto Children’s Choir has grown from the initial eight children in her living room into five groups by age range.

For information on these singing groups, visit spotlightperformanceacademy.org or find the group on Facebook.

Words are projected on a screen in the Wexler Theater area of the Homewood Science Center as musicians help carry the tune at the Sip and Sing-along Saturday, Jan. 21. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

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