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For Christine Brewer, cabaret’s intimacy is something new

On Dec. 3 and 4, acclaimed soprano Christine Brewer will give cabaret a go at the Blue Strawberry. The stories and songs she has planned include glimpses into her childhood growing up in Grand Tower, Illinois, with her brothers, Jeff and Steve Burchyett.
Christine Brewer
"Some things I’m singing are things that I sang as a child," Christine Brewer said of her new cabaret show.

The art of cabaret has long held appeal for Christine Brewer. But it wasn’t until last year that the Grammy Award-winning soprano found the time to contemplate planning such a show. As the COVID-19 pandemic led to massive upheaval, Brewer’s typically busy opera schedule was decimated, with gig after gig suddenly canceled.

“I had all this time to sort of think about stuff,” the Lebanon, Illinois, resident told St. Louis on the Air. “I kept singing. I warmed up every day, and I sang through things.”

Christine Brewer will join "St. Louis on the Air" Monday.
Christian Steiner
Christine Brewer joined "St. Louis on the Air" on Monday.

One of the most highly regarded sopranos in the world, Brewer had previously considered giving cabaret a go. Her recitals even have similarities to a cabaret show, as Brewer typically talks a bit about her pieces in addition to performing them. But a story-first performance was still a different beast. In cabaret, the story drives the songs.

Then her husband, Ross, offered an idea for a personal, cabaret-ready concept: Why not explore the music she enjoyed as a child, and follow the journey from there?

The idea led Brewer down a new path — and to her cabaret debut Friday and Saturday evening at the Blue Strawberry in the Central West End.

“I’m really excited about it, but in some ways I’m nervous, because when you’re singing for a more intimate audience … it’s really daunting,” Brewer said.

On Monday’s show, the opera star joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about her hopes for the event, which will feature Joseph Welch as pianist and music director.

“This is going to be more of a story of my musical journey and the people who influenced me through my life, really. … Some things I’m singing are things that I sang as a child, and a couple things I’ll just do a cappella, the way I would’ve sung them in church when I was a kid,” Brewer said.

Listen to the full conversation and enjoy some musical highlights:

Christine Brewer on her Blue Strawberry cabaret debut
Listen as the opera star talks with host Sarah Fenske about this weekend's shows, how she was pushed to become a performer and what makes her nervous even after all these years singing in public.

Related Event
What: Christine Brewer at the Blue Strawberry
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4
Where: 364 N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.