For the past two years, Lyric Unlimited’s groundbreaking Chicago Voices initiative has cast a spotlight on the unique vocal past and present of our vibrant city. Through the Community Created Performances program, groups of Chicagoans were encouraged to share the untold stories of their communities through song. After a competitive application process, followed by more than 10,000 online public votes, three finalist groups won the opportunity to bring their stories to life through an original music theater work: Blu Rhythm Collective, Kuumba Lynx, and YOLO Boomers.
Now, after a 15-week creative process over the course of the summer, these groups have performed their final pieces in a fully staged, free public performance featuring all three original works entitled, "Stories and Songs of Chicago" at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
Chicago Voices would like to thank all who helped bring these stories to life on stage.
September 05, 2017
Tery Veras, YOLO Boomers Participant
Tery Veras (center), YOLO Boomers Participant, works with fellow group members to create material for their original show, Off Our Rockers.
Always open to performing, when asked if I’d be interested in creating a musical, I unhesitatingly replied, “Yes, I’ve been wanting to do something like that for a long time.” Because I’m a musician who plays the guitar, I serve as song leader and provide accompaniment for other shows our group has done, which we’ve created for Veteran’s Day, Mother’s Day and special [North Center Senior] Center events. I’m especially drawn to supporting these kinds of volunteer group adventures and to share any experience I have to assist others in their preparations for stage work. The more I learned about the Lyric Opera Chicago Voices program and the more I experienced the process we had begun, the happier I became.
Our YOLOs are on a mission bigger than any one of us individually. Everyone seems to feel engaged with the program and has a willingness to assist each other whenever and wherever needed. We are learning invaluable lessons of collaboration and teamwork, which I anticipate will carry over to future endeavors. The greatest gift, from my perspective, is the incredible staff we have working with us. I feel so fortunate to work with this collection of professionals and all they have to offer. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Chicago Voices staff has made excellent choices designating various roles and everyone seems to feel comfortable in their assigned parts. In many cases, a piece of our own personal story has been included in the script. I believe this has encouraged and enhanced unity between members.
We are looking forward to the exchange of energy and emotion with our audience, which often occurs in art. When that happens, it is truly a magical gift of grace. Maybe after seeing this show, someone might think twice when they pass an old person on the street and think, “What is that person’s story? What was their struggle?”
I hope our audience will identify with our humanity and our attempts to remain relevant, active, creative and expressive in our later years. Hopefully our audience will walk away inspired to search within their own lives and have the willingness to “keep on keeping on” despite the enormous roadblocks we all face eventually. As in life itself, our play strings together humor and pathos. Perhaps this slice of our lives will connect the viewer with feelings and circumstances of their own and give them hope.
Community Created Performances are original music theater works created and performed by community groups using the core elements of opera: storytelling through song.
Chicagoans, regardless of background or experience, were invited to submit unique, untold stories from and of their communities. Applications are reviewed by an independent, community-based panel and up to 10 applicant groups are selected to be featured in individual video profiles on the Chicago Voices website. The public then views the videos and votes for the stories found to be most compelling.
The top three groups with the most votes create and develop their original work, driven by the participants and supported by Lyric Opera professional artists and staff. Working closely with these professionals, the groups each create and develop original scripts, songs, and production elements for the performances, and take part in the culminating final performance of these works.
All performances will be free and open to the public. Sign up for our mailing list or visit our website frequently to hear about the different performances.
Voting for the 2017 winners is closed. Follow their journey as they develop their stories for the stage at chicagovoices.org/ccp.
Blu Rhythm Collective is a group of Chicago urban artists pushing the boundaries of original live theater using a mix of artforms to focus on some of the city’s hardest-hitting topics. Its members are a direct reflection of Chicago and its various neighborhoods.
Four young dancers face an opportunity of a lifetime when a legendary choreographer returns to Chicago. But to succeed they must choose to carry their passion beyond the studio and into the streets of a city riddled with crime, violence and poverty. The Blu Rhythm ensemble finds a way forward from tragedy through artistry in song, drama and movement.
Kuumba Lynx is a youth development art making organization that utilizes urban arts to cultivate strong communities built on a foundation of love. The group strives to use Hip Hop as a means to mentor, motivate, and inspire artists to produce, share, and publish meaningful works of art.
When a family emergency calls away one of their rising stars, the Kuumba Lynx ensemble must push their talents in song, rap, dance, art and poetry to get the show back on track. We’re going behind-the-scenes a glimpse of young urban artists working together to turn political activism and creative passion into an unforgettable live theatrical experience.
YOLO Boomers is a group of Northcenter Chicago seniors actively engaged in different forms of creative expression including writing and improvisational acting.
We follow the YOLO Boomers through a series of vignettes – searching for love, new creative experiences and opportunities to make a difference. Between marching in the streets and tweets, leather jackets, bike rides, selfies, and finding new community, these boomers share a secret: there’s no one way to embrace your golden years in the 21st century.