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Cantare Chorale of the Sierra Foothills

Jun 28, 2016 04:53PM ● By David Norby

For over 20 years, Cantare Chorale of the Sierra Foothills has been awing audiences throughout the region with their superb singing and melodic harmonies. The nonprofit—composed of talented volunteers throughout the community—all contribute a wide range of musical backgrounds to the group. “We bring quality, choral music to the community—we’re the only choir of this kind in El Dorado County,” says Mariia Pechenova, conductor and artistic director. “We like to explore new music and [are looking to] bring even more diversity, as well as collaborate with other musicians and play at even more venues.”  

In 2014, the accomplished Pechenova joined as artistic director and began leading the group onto a delightfully different path. Hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia, Pechenova has been singing since she was only six years old. Earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in choral conducting, she is also a seasoned performer, having sung with a number of St. Petersburg’s renowned professional choirs for over 15 years. She also serves on Sacramento Valley Choral Coalition’s Board of Directors, is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, and works as a music professor at Sierra College and Folsom Lake College, where she studied English when first arriving to the U.S. “If I’m not offering and teaching my musical knowledge and expertise, I need to share it—that’s how music stays alive,” shares Pechenova.  

Cantare Chorale is known for being a “small group with a big sound.” With only 25 auditioned members, Pechenova has been able to apply her conducting expertise while also guiding the group to experiment with different styles of music and play at even bigger venues, such as the Harris Center. 

Each summer, the choir begins their season with a weekend at Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove, where Pechenova bonds the group for a fun break from weekly rehearsals. “Everyone is very connected—it feels like a big family—and each one of us contributes in our own way,” offers choir member Mary Leonard. “We feel very fortunate to have Pechenova conducting—she’s genuine and truly does it for the love of music.”


Under Pechenova’s direction, Cantare Chorale received the esteemed honor of being invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City on November 27. As part of Distinguished Concerts International New York, the group will present George Frideric Handel’s Messiah alongside a full orchestra. Pechenova is busily preparing the group for their upcoming adventure, in addition to their standard season of concerts, which will begin this winter and continue into spring.  

 Feeling blessed to have found her home with Cantare Chorale, Pechenova is committed to bringing quality, sophisticated musical education and experiences to her supportive community, especially to the younger generation. 

“I’m excited to see this area continue to expand in the arts, so it’s available to our children,” Pechenova comments. “I can’t imagine our lives without music. It heals. If we’re happy or sad it makes a great impact, and I want to see more of that in our county.”

By Heather L. Becker  //  photos by Dante Fontana