'Chicago Voices' set to bring the windy city together with music

The voices of Chicago are gathering this weekend to shine a light on a group of the windy city's most diverse musicians through a multi-year initiative known as "Chicago Voices." Over three days, the public is invited to work with and hear from the folks that contribute to the fabric of the city's musical history at the city's Lyric Opera House. Whether it's Renée Fleming's soprano, John Prine's folk twang, Lupe Fiasco's rap rhythm or Jessie Mueller's Broadway pitch, the program is an inclusive learning and entertaining experience for all those in attendance. On Saturday, the event culminates with a concert at the Lyric Opera House hosted by "Empire" stars, Jussie Smollett and Terrence Howard.

"This weekend is more than a concert as it gives us a chance to showcase a generation of multi-genre voices who come from Chicago," Fleming said. "These performers have taken on a bigger importance in the city and understand the city's history, the sense of crisis and the legendary history of its artists."

During the weekend, participants choose to attend seminars that are aimed at helping rising vocalists pave a path toward success. From vocal health to implementing technology into a song, each session produces both useful and meaningful takeaways for artists at any point in their careers.

"I have learned things from the vocal health panels that I truly believe have given me more years on my career," Fleming revealed. "The voice doctors and practitioners who have spoken at the event in the past have given me tips on how to maintain my voice, especially now that it has become so scientific."

Broadway actress and Evanston, Illinois native, Jessie Mueller, is working on a theater themed master class where students will have the chance to present their pieces and workshop them alongside Mueller.

"My base comes from Chicago and its musical theatre cannon and I am honored to be brought into this inner circle," Mueller said. "Going to these types of seminars and classes allows everyone the chance to get a sense of who they are and tap into things that they might not ordinarily discover on their own."

In particular, Fleming is excited about a master class titled, "Modern Protest Songs," which will dedicate its time to educating attendees about writing songs for causes especially in a city where violence and aggression have seen an upsurge. Other highlight classes will have more entrepreneurial themes.

"I've known young people with big dreams, but they don't understand how to get started," Fleming voiced. "The idea that you just become famous overnight is a fallacy that people believe."

To culminate the weekend, the performers will take the stage and perform surprise duets meant to juxtapose the different genres the musicians are aligned to. While Fleming will sing with John Prine, Michelle Williams and Matthew Polenzani plan to take on Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion's famous rendition of "The Prayer." As for Mueller, she is keeping her duet under wraps.

"I don't want to give anything away, but I am performing some fun jazzy, bluesy numbers," Mueller dished. "Our Musical Director, Doug Peck, is so smart with the way he organizes the artists so you will see great transition between the entertainers and their genres."

If you are not able to visit the city for the weekend, the "Chicago Voices" concert will broadcast at a later date on PBS.

"Everyone should tune in and be a part of the celebration of the city and the art that comes from the city," Mueller said. "Chicago is Midwestern, it's gritty, but it's also very real and there is kind of no place like it."

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