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Grand Night performance to honor Ella Fitzgerald centennial

Regional performers, guest artists and Miami students give tribute in song and dance

Grand Night imageA talented cast of twenty-eight vocalists will be joined by eighteen of the region's finest jazz musicians and renowned guest artists to provide an evening celebrating the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, in her centennial year.

Performances for "Love Letters to Ella" will take place at Hall Auditorium on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17–18 at 7:30 p.m., presented by Miami University Department of Music with sponsorship by the William E. Schmidt Foundation and the Miami Parent's Fund. 

Dubbed "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

"Love Letters to Ella" is written and directed by Ben Smolder, associate professor of voice at Miami. Featured performers will include celebrated jazz artist Mandy Gaines, pianist Steve Schmidt, and the Grand Night All-Star Big band comprised of professional Cincinnati regional artists — accompanied by strings from the Department of Music. 

Opening the performance will be a special narrative led by Tammy Kernodle, professor of music at Miami, who will share history about Ella Fitzgerald's musical life story. "Ella set the standard for vocalists of the Great American Songbook and her prolific number of recordings made her the standard bearer for excellence in this genre," said Smolder. "Her story is uniquely American having raised herself from humble beginnings to fame by the sheer brilliance of her vocal talent and unceasing hard work," he said.

The performance will include new arrangements of American standards made famous by Fitzgerald including Take the A-Train, It's All Right with Me, Miss Otis Regrets, Our Love is Here to Stay, Cheek to Cheek, My Funny Valentine, Mack the Knife, and many others.

The design team includes Tiffany Lusht, assistant stage director; Danning Manning, assistant music director; Alex Lusht, sound design (courtesy of MindIgnition); Rob Holland, lighting design; and choreography by Jay Goodlett, formerly of Cincinnati Ballet.

Tickets are $15 Adults, $10 Students, available at the Miami Box office located in the Campus Avenue Building, by phone, 513-529-3200, or can be purchased online.