O Sole Trio highlights Italian influence on American music

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MANCHESTER — From the streets of Napoli to sold-out stadiums, the culture and history of Italy, as brought to America by Italian immigrants, has greatly influenced popular music.

O Sole Trio is about teaching and singing that history, and they're bringing their educational, fun show to Southern Vermont Arts Center's Arkell Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 15.

The O Sole Trio — soprano Erin Shields, baritone Giuseppe Spoletini and David Shenton on piano and violin — takes audiences on a journey from Italy to the U.S. Along the way, they'll learn about the opera prowess of Enrico Caruso and Andrea Bocelli, the game-changing stardom of Frank Sinatra, the chart-topping success of Dean Martin and Connie Francis, and popular music from the doo-wop era to the dance pop of Madonna and Lady Gaga.

"They can expect to see 120 years or so of great Italian music," Shenton told the Journal, going all the way back to Neapolitan songs that expressed deep emotion.

"They're an early form of musical theater," Shenton said. "Some of those tunes are so melodic and beautiful."

Those songs found their way here through immigration, and found new audiences via the likes of Elvis Presley. "It's Now Or Never," for example, is a Neapolitan song.

The show was commissioned for Lincoln Center and has played to sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall and the Redlands Bowl in Redlands, Calif.

Shelds, who is married to Shenton, said the show is a lot of fun for performers and audiences alike.

"The three of us are best friends and we have a blast together," she said. "It really resonates with the audience as well. They're a part of it -- we're having a great time and usually the audience is with us."

Shenton, whose abilities include playing piano and violin simultaneously — "it's intimidating, but a lot of fun," he said — added that the show is meant to be enjoyed.

"It's not like a normal concert where you sit and watch a show. People can be a part of it," he said. "We stick around afterwards and socialize with the crowd. It's just a very relaxed atmosphere."

Tickets are $45 for SVAC members and $49 for non-members and can be purchased at the SVAC box office. For more information see www.svac.org or call 802-362-1405.

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