Chicago a cappella to host virtual Cabaret Night 2020


Courtesy of Lauren Carrane

Chicago a cappella’s Cabaret Night 2020 will be hosted on Zoom, with live solo performances and two prerecorded group numbers.

Olivia Demetriades, Reporter

With the cancellation of almost all in-person concerts due to COVID-19, Chicago a cappella, an ensemble of professional singers, will host its annual Cabaret Night on Oct. 3 on Zoom for the first time ever.

The hour-long concert will mix live solo performances with prerecorded group numbers for the audience to watch from the comfort of their own homes. Among the performers are Northwestern alumni Emily Price (Bienen ‘02), Chelsea Lyons (Bienen ‘17) and Ace Gangoso (Bienen ‘12), who will be singing a mix of pop, showtunes and jazz.

While most of Chicago a cappella’s concerts feature large ensemble numbers, the cabaret style allows individual singers to have much more freedom with their song selection.

“The point of it is to give our audiences glimpses of our singers’ personalities and tastes,” Executive Director of Chicago a cappella Matt Greenberg said. “This is a chance for them to peek behind the curtain.”

The cabaret format also allows singers to perform in real-time, minimizing the chance of connectivity issues that could disrupt a larger group number.

“When everything was cancelled and we weren’t sure what was going to happen with the new season, this was something we could move online because we wouldn’t have to worry about coordinating singing live together,” Price said.

Virtual rehearsals and concerts present many challenges for both the performers and the audience. Zoom webinars are a “whole new language,” Greenberg said, and no matter how long the singers rehearse, there is always the possibility of technical difficulties.

Lyons said she found it challenging to motivate herself to rehearse her songs. While the singers have had a few Zoom rehearsals together, they mainly practice their songs at home on their own.

“I’ve learned that I really needed something that was scheduled, so that I had some time to get into the right headspace,” Lyons said. “I had never realized how much the driving time to rehearsal put me in the zone.”

Price, Lyons and Greenberg agreed that there is also a unique level of intimacy from seeing the singers performing in their own homes. Letting others look into your comfortable space while performing requires a certain vulnerability and is a treat for audiences, Price said.

“You might get a glimpse of what’s in the dresser behind them or in their closet, or the painting on the wall,” Greenberg said. “And because performers are in their homes, their guard is down and they’re a little more relaxed.”

Greenberg said it is a “dark irony” that the mere act of singing in a group is one of the worst ways to spread COVID-19. He anticipates that the choral world will be one of the last performance communities to return to in-person concerts.

But given the seeming hopelessness of the situation, he sees the need for music now more than ever.

“It’s hard to understand how valuable art and music are in one’s life until you don’t have it,” Greenberg said. “My hope is that even in a small way, an event like this will try to alleviate some of the pain.”

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