The Mill City Singers + Out of the Box Opera = Opera Gospel Fusion
by Claudia Kittock on February 17, 2019
When you decide to become a part of the Mill City Singers, life changes in very important ways. The first way is that on Saturday afternoons, from 2:00-3:30p on the 8th floor of the Guthrie, you find a sense of hope, and a community of singers who make wonderful music while laughing, hugging, and singing together.
The second change that occurs is that you go places and do things that you never thought would be part of your life. Appearances at Orchestra Hall, the Ordway, the Loring Park Music Fest, Holidazzle, the MacPhail Music Matters Luncheon, and singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game at Twins games are just a few examples. On Saturday, February 9th, another first happened for the Singers. We were part of an opera, literally and figuratively, front and center!
Noah Eisenberg and Jim Berman, opera aficionados and great friends, have spent decades of their friendship going to operas and delighting in the wonder of the sights and sounds of opera. As time progressed, Noah and Jim discussed a mutual concern about how to introduce opera to younger people and by introducing it, make sure to show the humor, the showmanship, and the skill needed to be a performer in the world of opera. So along with artistic director David Lefkowich, Noah and Jim formed Out of the Box Opera, whose mission is to bring opera to new audiences in new ways.
After several very successful shows, the idea was hatched to have an opera fusion event. J.D. Steele was a judge in the first Out Of the Box Opera Cage Match, so he became part of this discussion and suggested an Opera Gospel Fusion, featuring the Mill City Singers, and opera stars. That is what happened on February 9th at the Wiseman Art Museum, because...what says opera and gospel more than a museum? Yes, creativity abounds at every turn.
Dominique Wooten and Alexandra Razskazoff were the featured singers, alternating arias with gospel songs sung by the Mill City Singers. Then came the fusions pieces, led by Tonia Hughes and J.D. Steele with the Singers singing back up in the choruses.
It was a sold-out performance with an enthusiastic audience, and the evening ended with a rendition of “Oh Happy Day” that will not soon be forgotten. Even the audience joined in, as it was impossible to resist the magic of the evening.
This event was also covered by the Minnesota Daily.