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The other Scinta

St.louis Everyone knows the Scintas, Buffalo's world-renowned Las Vegas lounge act. But Buffalonians are more likely to be talking about the Scintas' cousin Frank Scinta, a distinguished choir director here.

Especially recently. Because Scinta's recent move from cozy, elegant little Blessed Sacrament Church to huge, historic St. Louis Church -- pictured at left -- was big news in Buffalo's church music community. Scinta, who also leads other choirs including the Canisius College Chorale, had directed the Blessed Sacrament Choir for years and had built it into a laudable ensemble. His surprise switch to St. Louis last month caused quite a bit of whispering in the pews.

Artsbeat caught up with Scinta to find out what was what. Did he take his choir with him? That was the first question we asked.

 "Things are in flux," Scinta said. "Some of the choir came to St. Louis and some stayed at Blessed Sacrament. We were welcomed by eight excellent St. Louis singers in the choir already. They welcomed us with tremendous warmth and generosity. We sang at the 12:30 service with not only 45 minutes of rehearsal, but only 45 minutes of knowing each other. Everything clicked so beautifully." Scinta laughed. "In the words of Bogart, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Was Blessed Sacrament mad? Scinta said no. He said that for him, it was simply time for a change.

"I'd been at Blessed Sacrament for 33 years," he said. "I had been at St. Louis playing weddings there. And Father Sal Manganello, who is now the pastor at St. Louis, was at Blessed Sacrament for many years. He moved to St. Louis, and he put the bug in my ear. I said no about 50 times. I said, 'No, I'll retire from Blessed Sacrament." But the more I thought about it, the more I thought a move might be good for me. And it might be good for Blessed Sacrament. Someone new and younger will come in with new ideas, go in a new direction, and maybe inspire people."

Scinta carries his musical philosophy with him to St. Louis, which is famous because it is the oldest parish in Buffalo's Catholic diocese. "All music is worth it if it's done well, with the simplicity and beauty that it demands," he said. "When I left Blessed Sacrament, I thought, we've always been dedicated to the beauty of holiness. But as a musician, I have to say there's a holiness in beauty, too."

His strategy has changed, though, in one practical respect. That involves St. Louis' sky-high choir loft, to which the choir now must ascend via a long, steep staircase. "These are all amateur and volunteer singers," Scinta said. "It used to be that the only requirement was that you needed a pitch and a pulse. Now you need a pitch, a pulse, and a good pair of legs."

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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