Our history

About Working In Concert

A Timeline that brings us to Now

1995: Claudia Hommel with music director/pianist Bob Moreen offer the first “Cabaret in the Classroom” performances of Souvenirs of Paris, 1950; and master classes for high schools and That’s What Makes Paris Paree for elementary schools on tour and in the Chicago area.

1997: Claudia Hommel initiates a series of discussions among cabaret performers, asking “can we create a cabaret scene in Chicago”? The Chicago Cabaret Professionals is organized in 1998 as a nonprofit organization to advocate the art of cabaret.

1999-2000: The first SongShop sessions are held at Sherwood Conservatory.

2003: SongShop is offered as an ongoing workshop by the Community Music Division of DePaul University School of Music.

2004: The first SongShop Live performance is brought to Davenport’s Cabaret Room. In fifteen years there will be more than 45 concerts produced with SongShop participants.

2006: Oak Park based Bellissima Opera is formed by Christine Steyer, Paul Geiger and others to preserve and promote the tradition of the classically trained vocal artist and to expand public appreciation of both opera and classical music,

2008: Bellissima launches Bellissima Opera Outreach, its educational component bringing music to more than 23,000 students, often at no cost to schools.

2010: Bellissima Opera forms a nonprofit organization to carry out its work.

2014: Christine Steyer and Claudia Hommel meet at the Naked Voice Institute led by Stephen Smith at Northwestern University.

2014: Bellissima Opera Outreach begins the first workshops that will develop the underlying themes, characters and lyrics for the opera Future Perfect, one of the first stories of the Transcendence Triptych.

Early 2017: Claudia, Elizabeth Doyle and Lynne Jordan are joined by Roxane Assaf and others to launch the Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion, taking place in Paris that September.

2018: Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion comes to Chicago for an 8-day international exchange October-November.

Early 2019: Bellissima Opera joins forces with the Cabaret Connexion, SongShop and classroom programs to form Working In Concert.

Early 2019: Working In Concert initiates with Chicago Cabaret Professionals, Acts Of Kindness Cabaret, and The Cabaret Project the first Chicago Cabaret Week, co-sponsored by the city’s tourism bureau Choose Chicago. Postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coordinators look forward to the launching of Chicago Cabaret Week in May 2022.

September 2019: The Cabaret Connexion’s Tour de France takes a delegation of 25 artists to France for 11 days of workshops and performances with French and British cohorts.

August–October 2020: In spite of pandemic restrictions, we’re able to hold three garden concerts for SongShop Live.

December 2020: Approached by African-American performers who have long participated in SongShop and Cabaret Connexion, we launch a new initiative for Black Voices in Cabaret.

February and March 2021: Under pandemic conditions, we hold our first virtual concerts and events—SongShop Live optimistically sings of “A Brand New Day” and Black Voices in Cabaret presents an online forum and a 3-part concert “Healing through Song.”

April 2021: Bellissima Opera premieres the virtual opera On Call: COVID-19, the first of our “Tales of Transcendence”. The opera department of Western Michigan University quickly follows with the first collegiate performance, for which National Opera Association awards First Place for virtual opera production.

September 19 and October 3, 2021: We co-produce with Chicago Cabaret Professionals and The Cabaret Project the acclaimed concerts of “100 Years of Chicago Cabaret”, held aptly enough in Bronzeville, home of the “Stroll” a century ago.