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Behind the Scenes

Duxbury concerts honor a student and raise money for future

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/2011 file

Members of North Shore Acappella (above) will headline the annual a cappella concert organized by Ken and Kathy Fortini in memory of their son Paul.

In its third year, “Amazing Acappella’’ presents concerts by top singing groups in honor of the memory of a Duxbury High School graduate who was a founding member of the school’s a cappella singing group, the PacMen.

In addition to the PacMen, Paul Fortini, who died in an accident while at college in New York City four years ago, was an award-winning trumpet player, a student actor and director, played the piano and guitar, and sang with his friends in a local band. He played trumpet in the school’s jazz band and wind ensemble, performed in regional and state orchestras, and took part in his school’s plays and state competitions.

for South - 09sobehind - The Amazing Acappella concert In Duxbury this weekend raises money for the Paul Fortini Society. Paul Fortini�s parents Ken and Kathy Fortini in front of a nearly full house at the Performing Arts Center in Duxbury at last year's concert. (Karen Wong for the Boston Globe)

Karen Wong for the Boston Globe

Ken and Kathy Fortini.

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Not only were music and drama important to him, Fortini also encouraged other students to participate in them even if they hadn’t done anything like that before, his parents said.

“It’s been tremendously successful,’’ said his mother, Kathy Fortini, of the concert fund-raisers for The Paul S. Fortini Foundation for the Performing Arts. “The most heart-warming part is seeing the performances enjoyed by all ages.’’

“The origin is honoring our son’s memory,’’ said Ken Fortini, Paul’s father. “The foundation is not a student scholarship. The purpose is to fund those things that cannot be put into the annual school budget.’’ They’re the “extras’’ that improve the local music and drama programs for students, he said.

This weekend’s concert is headlined by North Shore Acappella, a group that performed last fall on the popular show “The Sing-Off,’’ a network TV competition to find the nation’s best a cappella singing groups. The term a cappella (derived from the Italian phrase for “as in church’’) means singing without instrumental accompaniment. After earning a place on the show’s third show, the five-member North Shore Acappella made several TV appearances, including the season finale and its Christmas special.

A group that specializes in doo-wop and songs with an R&B edge, North Shore Acappella was founded by two men who began singing together 40 years ago. In the early ’70s, Guy Chiapponi hitchhiked from his home in Connecticut to audition for a Boston band led by Vinnie Straccia. The group became a 10-piece “show group’’ that played in clubs. When DJs took over the club jobs and work got scarce, Chiapponi and Straccia formed an a cappella singing group with three other singers. Today the group includes Tommy Duarte, Paul Lopes, and Jimmy Martin.

“I’m feeling very blessed,’’ said Chiapponi, who calls himself the “instigator’’ of the group’s effort to get on “The Sing-Off.’’ “When I heard about this show, I said, we should be on this show.’’

Securing a spot on the TV show depended on learning a new song its California producers wanted to see. “The Lazy Song’’ by Bruno Mars was a hit a year ago, but unknown to a group whose members don’t listen to pop radio. They performed it at a private party and were videotaped by the hostess, who put the video up on their YouTube page. The producers liked it and they got on the show.

The TV appearances drew new attention to their abilities and has led to dates such as performing with Jay Leno in Florida. A gig led to a job for Chiapponi starting up a singing group at Goodwin College in Connecticut.

College students increasingly want to sing in a cappella groups, a revival promoted in part by “The Sing-Off.’’ A cappella ensembles from Boston University, New York University, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Hartford will take part in Saturday night’s “Amazing Acappella,’’ along with Duxbury’s own PacMen.

After the first concert, money raised by the foundation was used to buy a piano for the choral rehearsal room at Duxbury High. Last year the foundation purchased a laptop for the drama troupe and paid for theater professionals to teach a master class.

So far, the concerts have raised $30,000. About $10,000 has been spent on the music and drama programs, and the rest banked toward an endowment fund to support the foundation’s goals.

“Amazing Acappella”

Duxbury Performing Arts Center, 73 Alden St.

Saturday, 7 p.m. $20 advance, $25 door

www.ticketalternative.com

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.
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