The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday October 16th


Mallarme Chamber Players mix cabaret with classical

The classical world of chamber music fuses with the contemporary sound of cabaret as the Mallarme Chamber Players kick off their 30th season tonight with a performance at the Cookery in Durham.

The group will be accompanied by local cabaret singer Ellen Ciompi, who will perform songs by Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder, two popular composers of the 1940s.

Suzanne Rousso, artistic director of the Mallarme Chamber Players, said the organization began 30 years ago as an informal group of local musicians and has since become a well-established presence in the local music community.

The players does not consist of one core group of musicians but it is repertoire driven, Rousso said.

She also said she often draws on UNC faculty and professors from the other universities in the Triangle to play different shows.

Rousso said the group initially performed strictly classical chamber music but has since expanded its repertoire to include more contemporary genres, like jazz and cabaret.

The goal of tonight’s performance is to present something different from the group’s usual classical sound in honor of its anniversary celebration.

In addition to performing, the Mallarme Chamber Players actively involve themselves in the community through educational programs with local amateur musicians. The group also started its own music festival last year.

“They have been contributing so much to the musical calendar, not only in the Chapel Hill-area, but throughout the state,” said Ellen Ciompi, a nurse at UNC Hospitals and the professional cabaret singer who will be performing with the group.

Ciompi, a one-time board member for the group, said she came up with the idea to focus the performance on Weill and Wilder and hopes that the audience will be inspired to learn more about these composers.

The idea came from a Valentine’s Day performance Ciompi does every year — themed around composers whose names start with ‘W.’

Ciompi became interested in music at a young age and grew up listening to musicians like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

“When I was an adult — when I realized you didn’t have to just sing this stuff in the shower — that was a big revelation,” she said.

She describes cabaret as a mix of singing and storytelling.

“(You have to) take this stuff and make it your own — make it personal,” Ciompi said.

Her advice to aspiring singers is to go to as many performances as possible and seek opportunities to perfect their own talent.

“Get out, see other things, don’t just watch it on YouTube,” Ciompi said.

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