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Mill City Singers Return to Orchestra Hall

Article by Claudia Kittock

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to perform at Orchestra Hall? The Mill City Singers have been incredibly blessed to have done it twice, and it's better than you can imagine. The latest performance was on Thursday, April 4.

Mill City Singers at Orchestra Hall, April 2019. Photo credit: Ann Eilbracht

Singing with J.D. Steele is a unique experience. We set up and get ready to sing by talking with each other, laughing, and hugging. When it is time to sing, we gather and warm up...onstage. As J.D. warms us up, he warms up the audience. They sing along, and soon, everyone is smiling and singing. His warm-ups are silly and get everyone laughing and vocally warm!

After singing a few songs, J.D. decides it's time to get the audience involved again, so he sets to work teaching them the song he wants all of us to sing. J.D. teaches in a unique way. First, he recites the lyrics, and has everyone repeat them. After going through the lyrics several times, he moves on to each part, singing the part and having each section repeat what he sang. It only takes about 5-6 minutes to have the whole group singing a new song in four-part harmony. At Orchestra Hall, that includes the audience. If that isn’t lively enough, J.D. will start dancing with someone in the audience, urging all of the Singers to do the same...and we do.

J.D. chooses songs of hope and songs about community. We sing and are filled with joy. The songs range from Gospel to Motown to folk, but each and every song reminds us there is hope. We leave every rehearsal feeling better than when we walked in.

The Singers have a roster of 297 people, all of whom love to sing. None of us are professional singers and some struggle to sing at all, but everyone loves to sing. J.D. has that magical ability to take all of our very ordinary voices and put them together into something that sounds quite special.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” We come together to remember what community is, what joy there is in the simple act of singing, and to find hope, leaving every rehearsal buoyed to go out and face the world for one more week.

The only thing better than reading about this is doing it. Join us! No auditions, no fees. Just contact Claudia Kittock at We rehearse on Saturdays from 2:00-3:30p on the 8th floor of the Guthrie.  Come!

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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