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BWW Review: Chicago Voices Concert Brings Out the All-Stars

The stars aligned on Saturday, February 4th for the Chicago Voices Concert at the Lyric Opera's Civic Opera House in Chicago. The concert is a one-night-only, mixed genre event that celebrates the city's diverse vocal music heritage in a spirit of unity and collaboration.

The concert showcased unique and eclectic performances, including artist collaborations that blend musical styles such as blues, jazz, folk, gospel, hip-hop, musical theatre and classical. The evening also paid tribute to a wide variety of Chicago vocalists of the past, such as Mary Garden, Mahalia Jackson and Howlin' Wolf, through narrated documentary-style video segments throughout the night. The performers of the night also sang some of their most well-known songs.

The talent of the evening consisted of Renee Fleming (who also acted as artistic director of the event), world-renowned jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Grammy Award-winning rapper/record producer Lupe Fiasco, legendary folk singer/songwriter John Prine, "New Queen of Blues" singer Shemekia Copeland, gospel and R&B artist Michelle Williams, Broadway star Jessie Mueller, critically acclaimed tenor Matthew Polenzani, and alternative/indie husband-and-wife duo The Handsome Family. The Voices of Trinity Mass Choir also performed. Civil rights activist and founder of Operation PUSH Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. also served as a special guest presenter during the concert, along with Kate Flannery (NBC's The Office), and from FOX's Empire; Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett. The evening's musical director was the fantastic Doug Peck, who can musically direct anything he does to perfection.

The concert was also filmed for PBS, which will be airing March 30, 2017, so check your local listings.

Because they were filming for TV, there were many pauses throughout the night to set up for the next performers. The orchestra was also top notch throughout the night.

The first half of the concert consisted of all the performers coming out and singing songs we know that they've done, then the second half consisted of on the cuff, cool collaborations.

Of the first half, some of the highlights included Kurt Elling's "Steppin' Out/Goin' to Chicago," Matthew Polenzani singing "Marechiare/Be My Love," Renee Fleming's "Beau Soir/Summertime," Lupe Fiasco's "Kick, Push," John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery/Hello in There," Jessie Mueller's stunning performance of "She used to Be Mine" from the musical Waitress, and Michelle Williams powerful performance of "How I Got Over" with the choir.

Of the second half, some of the highlights included Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett singing "A Change is Gonna Come," Kurt Elling & Renee Fleming singing "Snowbound," Kurt Elling & Jessie Mueller performing a mashup of "On Broadway/So Far Away," Jessie Mueller & Matthew Polenzani performing "The Prayer," which brought down the house. Also exceptional were John Prine & Renee Fleming's "(We're Not) The Jet Set," "My Turn Baby featuring Copeland, Mueller and Rennie Sparks from The Handsome Family and to close out the evening, everyone joined together with choir to sing composer Jason Robert Brown's powerful song "Coming Together," which rings true with everything going on today.

The evening was truly a star-studded event that reached beyond expectations, including many standing ovations and impromptu improving onstage. The other great thing about this event is benefits a fantastic organization.

Overall, it was a fantastic evening of all-stars and with the way things are going on in the world right now, this is exactly what we needed to raise our spirits up.

Photos courtesy of Cory Weaver

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From This Author Kevin Pollack