Thirteen local musicians get ready to present the music of Chicago next week at Canandaigua's newest performance venue

"Do you know what time it is?"

"It's either twenty-five or six to four!"

With that exchange, 13 musicians assembled on the Sands Constellation Theatre stage in Fort Hill Performing Arts Center embarked on a run-through of the Chicago jazz-rock classic ode to late-night creativity, "25 or 6 to 4." It's a workout for everyone on stage, with tight harmony vocals, powerful offerings from the horn section and some tasty guitar work by Craig Snyder toward the end — at one point, singer Brian Thibodeau walked over and jokingly fanned Snyder as he shredded.

Chicago arrangements — especially from their heyday in the late 1960s through mid-'80s — call for such a workout, with a lot of moving parts.

"With Chicago, one song is like four songs," drummer Nestor Ortiz observed as he took a break from the stage and checked the sound from the seats.

The 13 musicians — three singers, two keyboardists, two drummers, a four-part horn section (trombone, trumpet, saxophone and flute), a guitarist and a bassist — were rehearsing on a recent Saturday afternoon for the upcoming "FHPAC Wednesdays" concert performing as "The Undercover Project as Chicago." They'll perform 15 of the band's biggest hits — "If You Leave Me Now," "Saturday in the Park," "You're the Inspiration" and many other radio staples — at 7 p.m. March 11 for the first in a monthly series of Wednesday shows at Canandaigua's newest performance venue.

"I've played with half of these musicians in the past — getting everybody together with a project like this is amazing," Ortiz said. "It's the challenge of getting everbody on stage to play one type of music — everybody's coming from a different genre, different ages."

Indeed, among them the assembled musicians have jazz, rock, R&B, classicial/orchestral and other genres in their backgrounds — they even include a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (Canandaigua Academy graduate Haley Miller, the RPO's second chair flute.

The air in the auditorium Saturday was filled with music and the give-and-take of musicians fine-tuning and working out their peformance interplay:

"Where does the key change happen?"

"Is this synth in any of your monitors?" "It's in everything!"

"Is there something that's supposed to happen before those two bars?" "Just rockin'."

Many of the musicians have Canandaigua roots, and for singer Stephanie LaBarge the concert is like a step into the past. Not just because it's Chicago, which she remembers fondly from growing up in the 1980s and seeing them at what's now CMAC, but because the Fort Hill venue used to be part of Canandaigua schools.

"I went to Canandaigua Academy and went to this school in eighth grade, and it's really cool to be back here," she said. "I sang one of my first solos here in this auditorium. ... To be able to provide the joy of music for the community, it's nice to be part of something."

Like Ortiz, LaBarge — who sings with the party band Allegro among many other projects — noted that the Chicago repertoire's not easy to pull off, at least not without plenty of rehearsal time and effort.

"It's challenging," she said. "I'm lucky to be a vocalist — I don't have to figure out all the parts!"

The Undercover Project as Chicago consists of:

• Stephanie LaBarge, Kristy Ingersoll and Brian Thibodeau, vocals

• Ryan McNealus and Nestor Ortiz, percussion

• Greg Kane, piano

• Jason Chaneske, keyboards

• Brian Coughlin, trombone

• Tom Davis, trumpet

• Joe Godfrey, saxophone

• Haley Miller, flute

• Craig Snyder, guitar

• Ron Broida, bass

The concert starts at 7 p.m. (doors 6 p.m.) at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center, 20 Fort Hill Ave., Canandaigua. Tickets are $15 orchestra, $35 mezzanine, and are available at the box office, 585-412-6043.

Comedy show boosts Canandaigua playground 

An evening of comedy at Bristol Valley Theater on Saturday, March 7 will benefit the campaign to build a special playground in Canandaigua. The playground will be accessible to people of all ages and abilities. The public health and wellness area to be built on town-owned property, will become part of Richard P. Outhouse Park West, near Richard P. Outhouse Memorial Park.

Comedians Paul Aldrich and Dan Kulp will entertain for the fundraiser at 6 p.m. at Bristol Valley Theatre, 151 S. Main St. in Naples. All proceeds ($30 per person, $50 per couple) will benefit the “Dream Big Campaign” to build the playground. Drinks and light snacks will be available. For tickets, call 585-734-1476 or visit They're also available in Canandaigua at Mobile Music, Gateway Grille and Sweet Expressions.

One day, 1,000 artworks

More than 35 collaborative community partner venues have signed on to host a 6x6 "Make Art Day" event on Friday, March 6 to assist Rochester Contemporary Art Center in meeting its audacious goal of 1,000 artworks made that day.

RoCo Executive Director Bleu Cease likens Make Art Day in a release to “a community reads initiative meets Super Bowl Sunday for creatives.”

Many venues are opening their doors to the public to make a 6x6 artwork, for inclusion in this summer's 6x6 exhibition in its 13th year at RoCo (137 East Ave., Rochester), featuring works that are 6 inches square. It features thousands of contributions from people of all ages, both local and around the globe. That exhibit opens June 8; the submission deadline is April 11. For more information, find the short entry form at at More information is available at

As for Friday's "Make Art Day," a complete list of venues opening their doors, plus times, is available at They include, among many others, Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, Writers & Books on University Avenue in Rochester, Nox Cocktail Lounge in Rochester's Village Gate, and several studios in Rochester's Hungerford Building and Anderson Arts Building. 

Note on RoCo Make Art Day Friday, March 6