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Musical women in the spotlight at Registry Theatre show Friday

Joni NehRita and Mary-Catherine Pazzano pay tribute to their influences, the women who paved the way for them

Busy with many projects of their own, local musicians Joni NehRita and Mary-Catherine Pazzano had talked about collaborating, but never got around to it. Until now, that is.
Better still, they’ll be using their March 9 concert at the Registry Theatre to pay tribute to the many women – singers and songwriters – who influenced their own talents and careers.

“We want to honour those artists that paved the way for us,” says Pazzano of the impetus for the show, dubbed Women Music Revolutionaries. The concept stemmed from a shared gig that allowed the friends to catch up and actually put some details to the idea that ‘we should do something together.’

“Joni and I looked at artists who were influential to us,” says Pazzano. “I grew up loving film. I was exposed to jazz in all those old musicals – Cole Porter and Irving Berlin – and then from there the jazz music of Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé. Joni has some of the same influence and some of her own … like Nina Simone. “We wanted to pay tribute to people like that.”

The show will feature songs by the likes Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Astrud Gilberto, and singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Dory Previn.

“Every song that we’ve chosen has some kind of personal connection,” she says.
That includes Pazzano’s longstanding fascination with Judy Garland.

“My mother tells me I was transfixed in front of the television any time the Wizard of Oz was on. As an infant, the only thing that got me to quiet down was a music box playing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” she laughs.“I’m definitely paying homage to her with this.”

From those influences, both performers took a musical path that includes formal studies and, now, time as musical educators in their own right.

Pazzano is a classically trained contralto, with a vocal range that can cover the gamut of emotions. She released her debut studio album, You’re Gonna Hear From Me, last fall.
A Guelph-based singer-songwriter and keyboard player, Nehrita has become a fan favourite for her takes on soul, R&B, jazz and popular song. With three albums under her belt, she’s working on a fourth that’s expected this summer.

Joni NehRita

For Friday’s concert, the two will be backed by Don Buchanan on piano, Thomas Hammerton on piano, Pat Collins on bass and Dave O’Neill on drums. They’ll be serving up the likes of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and jazz standards with new arrangements written specifically for Pazzano, NehRita and their special guests, the Penderecki String Quartet.

That the show falls in close proximity to International Women’s Day (March 8) and the awareness of the #MeToo movement makes the timing just that more poignant, notes Pazzano.

The Women Music Revolutionaries show takes place at the Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St. in Kitchener, on March 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30, available by calling 519-578-1570, or online at www.registrytheatre.com.

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