Lyric Opera Launches “Chicago Voices” Report – Celebration of City’s Musical Talent


Perhaps summing up the spirit of the Chicago Voices initiative that had just been announced by the Lyric Opera, a female rapper soloist with one of the first Lyric-nurtured community-rooted musical projects, Blue Rhythm Collective, sang “…Impossible is only what has yet to be done…”


A video was shared at the announcent that recounted the impact of Lyric Unlimited's support on the Blue Rhythm Collective, which later performed


We were in The Hideout, a relatively itsy venue where rockers usually hold forth and one that Lyric General Director Anthony Freud is probably the polar opposite of the grand Civic Opera House where Lyric’s performances are held.


Lyric General Director Anthony Freud was buoyant making the announcement as Lyric Unlimited Director Cayenne Harris and Lyric Creative Consultant Renee Fleming look on


In addition to the Blue Rhythm Collective and Freud, Lyric’s Creative Consultant Renée Fleming and Cayenne Harris, director of Lyric Unlimited, were on the stage to unveil plans for this two-year initiative that aims to celebrate and cultivate Chicago’s diverse musical culture. 


Dancers with the Blue Rhythm Collective


Chicago Voices will span two years beginning in 2016 and concluding at the end of 2017 with four signature elements:

(1) Community Created Performances;

(2) A citywide celebration, encompassing participatory events, exhibits, talks and performances;

(3) An all-star, multi-genre Gala Concert at the Civic Opera House; and

(4) Expert panels and master classes. 


Singer/soloist with the Blue Rhythm Collective


Lyric invites groups of Chicago residents to share and submit stories from their communities. Applications and instructions can be found at


Renee Fleming with members of Blue Rhythm Collective


From the initial pool of applicants, semifinalists will be chosen. Their stories will be profiled in videos on the Chicago Voices website, where the public will be able to vote for the stories they find most compelling. The top three vote-getters will receive professional artistic and technical support to develop their stories into original music theater works, culminating in a fully-realized public performance in fall 2016.


The deadline for the first round of applications is March 1, 2016. 


Citywide Celebration: Throughout the two years of the initiative, there will be a variety of ways for all Chicago residents to take part. Current plans include an invitation for Chicagoans to record themselves singing and share their performances on the Chicago Voices website; an exhibition by leading photographers featuring images of iconic Chicago singers both historic and contemporary; a series of talks at the Chicago History Museum focusing on pre-eminent Chicago vocalists past and present; and a collaboration with clubs and music venues throughout the city to present and highlight outstanding local singers in a variety of genres. Lyric Unlimited is also developing a range of Chicago Voices educational resources for students.


"Chicago Voices " is in part inspired by Fleming's earlier "American Voices" program with the Kennedy Center


Gala Concert: On Saturday, February 4, 2017, at the Civic Opera House, the Chicago Voices Gala Concert will showcase an array of vocal talent with deep ties to Chicago. Curated by Renée Fleming, the Gala Concert will include blues, jazz, soul, rock, folk, hip-hop, gospel, and classical music. The Gala Concert advisory group includes famed musician Herbie Hancock, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling and folk singer/songwriter John Prine.


Expert Panels & Master Classes: On the weekend of February 3-5, 2017, in conjunction with the Chicago Voices Gala Concert, a multi-day series of expert panels and master classes will be presented in partnership with Columbia College Chicago. Many of the vocalists featured in the Gala Concert will lead or participate in events aimed at beginning professional vocalists, music teachers, students, and music enthusiasts. Topics explored will include vocal health and medical advances, the radically changing recording and performance industries, marketing, promotion, social media, and career planning.


A full lineup of participating artists, schedule and pricing info will be announced in fall 2016. 


For more information visit the Lyric Opera website pages on Lyric Unlimited.


Photos:  Kyle Flubacker


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