“People might have a preconceived notion of what an a cappella concert is. No matter what that notion is, I can guarantee you that Chicago a cappella does not fit into that kind of a box,” said Kathryn Kamp, talking about the group’s upcoming virtual cabaret performance on Oct. 3.
“Our repertoire is vast, and during a normal concert you might hear everything from Renaissance music all the way up to Lady Gaga. And everything in between.”
Add in cabaret performances, and the show is something pretty unique.
Kamp, who has lived in Forest Park since 2008, started singing with Chicago a cappella in 2003. She still sings with them today, but also serves as a creative consultant, working closely with Artistic Director John William Trotter and Executive Director Matt Greenberg to plan performances.
“I look at what cluster theme or experience our audiences would love and bring that to life by choosing the repertoire that fits into that theme and figuring out the presentation,” Kamp said.
The pandemic has, obviously, changed the way performances are held. It’s Chicago a cappella‘s fourth year doing a cabaret event, but their first year doing it remotely.
And although it might seem strange for an a cappella group to do a cabaret performance, it’s an opportunity, said Kamp, for the performers to showcase the breadth of their talents.
“Four years ago, we realized that these singers have a diverse skill set in terms of the singing that they do,” said Kamp. Some had musical theater background. Some excelled as pop or jazz singers. “We thought it might be really nice to let our audiences see another side of the performers.” And the annual cabaret event was created.
For the performers, too, it’s a unique experience. “As a singer, you can see the audience delight in what they’re experiencing, which feels very different from the way they enjoy an a cappella performance,” Kamp said.
Kamp has both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in vocal performance, the latter from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Upon graduation, she realized she’d need to locate to a big city to do the kind of singing she wanted to do.
“A Midwesterner at heart” and with family nearby, she chose Chicago, where she’s performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus and has been a part of musical theater in the city. She’s also done stage directing for opera.
“Chicago has always been a great place for singers to be able to make a living doing what they love,” Kamp said.
It was that exactly for Kamp, who worked as a musician for ten years after moving to Chicago. She was a singer, stage director and voice teacher.
“And then I got a little burnt out,” said Kamp. “I felt like one side of my brain was doing all the heaving lifting. So I started a second career in digital marketing.”
It was a perfect fit for her, and over the years she’s embraced these two facets of her life.
“Together they’ve brought balance inside my brain,” Kamp said. “I have two careers that are equally fulfilling. It’s amazing.”
Despite the changes the pandemic has brought to the musical world of performance, Kamp said she’s “cautiously optimistic” that the opportunities for performers, especially in Chicago, will be there again.
“As days go on, I’m concerned that the landscape we saw before the pandemic might be lost. But on the other hand, I think a lot of people are realizing the power of art and are consuming it now,” said Kamp.
And it’s forced people, including artists, to learn new skills to adapt. Kamp said about 80 percent of the singers she knows figured out within a few weeks of lockdown how to acquire and use recording equipment to deliver virtual content. Pre-pandemic, it’s probably not something they would have done.
“Seeing people sort of dabble outside of where they thought they should is a cool thing,” Kamp said.
Tickets for Chicago a capella‘s Virtual Cabaret Performance on Oct. 3 are only $12. The show will feature live performances, including solo renditions of the singers’ personal favorites, with some accompanying themselves on piano or guitar. Songs include “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “Misty,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and others.
Two newly-created virtual choir performances will be presented, with the women singing “Shiny Stockings” and the men “Go the Distance” from Disney’s Hercules.
“It might be a bit of a showdown,” said Kamp.
The concert will also serve as a fundraiser for the group, and “pandemic proof” silent auction items will be available, including wine packages, at-home subscriptions like Ancestry.com, and a gourmet lobster dinner home delivery.
Visit chicagoacappella.org to get tickets.