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Paolo & Felice

From left, musical director Paolo Saltarello, accordionists Felix Mucedola and Tony Bozza, and the Coro Folcloristico perform traditional popular Italian folk songs at Willard Memorial Chapel in 2012.

Love will be in the air at Willard Memorial Chapel Sunday. 

When duo Paolo & Felice (Paul Saltarello and Felix Mucedola) plays a Valentine's Day-inspired program of romantic songs at the Auburn chapel, it won't just be the lovers feeling sentimental. It'll be anyone who appreciates Italian music, Mucedola said.

"Italian people have a passion and really relate to the songs they're familiar with from their heritage and their culture," he said. "They have a strong affinity to their culture."

Playing to that passion has made Paolo & Felice a hot ticket in upstate New York, Mucedola said.

The pair — him on accordion, Saltarello on vocals and mandolin — performed at the 2014 Galbani Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival, which touts itself as the second largest Italian street festival in America. The pair sang "Happy Birthday" to Bishop Salvatore Matano in Rochester that same summer. And they're still regulars at weddings, which Mucedola finds a relief.

"The DJs have taken over the last 10 to 15 years," he said.

Saltarello remains one of the Auburn Italian-American community's most prominent members, co-founding the Cultural Italian American Organization and hosting "Carosello Italiano," a Sunday morning Italian-American radio show on 89.1 FM. He's also been a regular weekend performer at Rosalie's Cucina in Skaneateles since its 1995 opening, recently meeting Vice President Joe Biden there.

Mucedola, whose father operated an accordion school in Auburn, played with the group Take Five until it disbanded in the '90s. When his father passed in 2007 he rededicated himself to the accordion, he said, and continues to practice an hour or two every day.

The pair began playing together in 2007 and haven't stopped having fun since, Mucedola said. Once, he recalled, Saltarello got so swept up in a performance at the Skaneateles Country Club that he strolled to the lake and came back playing an entirely different song than Mucedola.

The pair will set the mood Sunday at Willard Chapel by donning the duds of Italian troubadours. The program, which will include an intermission for refreshments, will feature Italian love songs like "Santa Lucia," Inn Amorata" and "Cara Mia."

"They're not songs the general public will be familiar with," Mucedola said. "They're for an Italian-American audience. That's what we do."

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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