On February 4, 2017, soprano, Renée Fleming, Chicago Voices Creative Director, along with Broadway star Jessie Mueller, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, pop and gospel singer Michelle Williams, world-renowned tenor Matthew Polenzani, blues Queen Shemekia Copeland, indie-rock duo The Handsome Family, folk legend John Prine, rap artist Lupe Fiasco and the Voices of Trinity Mass Choir, backed by a band and led by Music Director Doug Peck performed together for an unforgettable tribute to and celebration of legendary Chicago vocalists.
Presenters included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., TV's Empire stars, Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett, and Kate Flannery, of TV's The Office. The Chicago Voices Concert offered a taste of the vast cultural riches of this great city and paid homage to the powerful Chicago voices of the past, present and future - all while shaking the walls of Lyric's Civic Opera House. This amazing concert will receive an encore TV broadcast on March 30th at 9PM (CST) via WTTW - Chicago PBS.
Chicago Voices Concert Honorary Advisors
Thank You to our Chicago Voices Concert Advisors
Internationally celebrated soprano, four-time Grammy winner, and Lyric’s Creative Consultant since 2010. Known as the “people’s diva,” Renée Fleming brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Fleming, who is curating the concert, has spearheaded the Chicago Voices initiative since its launch in January, 2016.
GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named “Male Singer of the
Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, he has also been GRAMMY nominated a dozen times.
Elling’s rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry.
Lupe Fiasco exploded onto the hip-hop scene with his seminal 2006 debut album Food & Liquor. Food & Liquor earned Fiasco three Grammy nominations and a Grammy win for the Jill Scott assisted, “Daydreamin’”, which netted the trophy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2008.
Fiasco has often been pegged as a socially conscious emcee likened to peers including Common and Nas. The artist lives up to this reputation on songs like, “City of the Year,” where he explores the economic disparity of Chi-town (Chicago).
Lupe Fiasco evolved from the backpack rap of his debut in 2006 with a string of classics including 2007’s Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool and 2011’s Lasers. Food & LiquorII: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. Followed in 2012. The independent rapper parted ways with his former label, Atlantic Records, following the release of 2015’s, Tetsuo & Youth.
Fiasco hits his creative peak with his current trilogy of albums; Drogas Light, Drogas and Skulls —the final curtain call on one of the most gifted lyricists and visionaries to ever grace the mic.
Grammy-nominated blues singer Shemekia Copeland recently headlined the Chicago Blues Festival. A Chicago resident, Copeland was officially declared “The New Queen of the Blues” by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. Copeland has performed in thousands of venues throughout the world and has sung with musical legends including Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Mick Jagger.
The Handsome Family, comprised of husband-and-wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks, is an alternative/country/indie folk group formed in Chicago. The duo's music mixes country instrumentation with haunting, surrealist lyricism. Their song, “Far From Any Road”, gained worldwide fame when it was chosen as the theme song for the first season of HBO’s hit series, True Detective. Their most recent and tenth studio album, "Unseen", was released in September, 2016.
Jessie Mueller currently stars as Jenna in the hit Broadway musical Waitress (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award nomination), with music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles. She starred a Carole King in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, a role that won her Tony, Drama Desk and Grammy Awards. Other Broadway: Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Drama Desk nomination), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever opposite Harry Connick, Jr. (Tony and Drama Desk Nominations).
Evanston native, world-renowned tenor, alumnus of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center and frequent star at Lyric. With credits spanning the globe, Matthew Polenzani is a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera, and has also performed starring roles with Opéra National de Paris, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, among others. In Lyric’s upcoming season, Polenzani will sing the role of Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte).
Recently inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, legendary folk singer and songwriter John Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. Pohn began his career in Chicago, singing original songs in local clubs. He went on to write songs subsequently recorded by Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers, Carly Simon, Norah Jones, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, and many others, in addition to his own successful performing career. Prine's recent album, "For Better, or Worse", is a collection of duets with a variety of female recording artists including Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. The album was released on September 30, 2016.
Michelle Williams is an acclaimed R&B, pop, and gospel recording artist. Williams rose to fame in the 2000s as a member of the iconic group Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time. Williams's numerous successes as an actress include celebrated performances in television, Broadway, and West End productions, that eventually earned her a nomination for "Best Female Lead-Equity" in 2008 at the NAACP Theatre Awards. Making her acting debut on Broadway in Aida (2003), she has since starred in the sitcom Half & Half (2006), her own competition television show, Fix My Choir, on Oxygen and the musical productions; The Color Purple (2007), Chicago (2009–10), What My Husband Doesn't Know (2011) and Fela! (2013). In 2015, Williams performed at "The Gospel Tradition" for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House and again in 2016 for "Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration".
J. Thomas Hurvis
Lead Corporate Sponsor
Diamond Record Sponsors
The Crown Family
Brent and Katie Gledhill
Mr. and Mrs. Patrick G. Ryan
John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols
Gold Record Sponsors
Mr. and Mrs. Michael P. Cole
The Eisen Family Foundation
Carl and Marilynn Thoma