Divas dive into downtown scene to bring opera & art song to new listeners

Kate Pomrenke and Kyle Schreiber of the Black Swamp Opera Ensemble


BG Independent News

An ensemble of young vocalists wants listeners to belly up to the bar and drink in the beauty of song.

The Black Swamp Opera Ensemble will perform Cocktails & Cadenzas, a variety of operatic arias, art songs, and musical theater pieces, on Friday, January 12, at 9 p.m. at Two Foxes Gastropub.

All six singers recently earned Masters of Music in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts. Now on the cusp of careers, they are taking their art to the places they like to hang out, according to sopranos Kate Pomrenke and Kyle Schreiber.

Pomrenke said she got the idea for the ensemble after performing at Toledo on Tap, an event celebrating beer brewing.

“Why can’t we do something like that here? There are so many singers here that have graduated,” she said. “We’re all young singers looking for whatever opportunities we can to perform, and this is a good way bring our art to the community.”

“We’re just a group of friends,” Schreiber said. “We graduated, and we’re all in the area.”

Other members are Jarrod Davis, tenor, John Mink, baritone, Savanah Stricklin, soprano, and Brett Pond, baritone. They are accompanied by a pianist.

Schreiber said that while they were still in school, they talked about doing a Halloween show. So the ensemble made its debut in October with a Halloween performance, complete with costumes, at Grounds for Thought. They followed that up with a Christmas concert, also at Grounds, mixing carols in with their usual repertoire.

“It’s very casual,” Schreiber said. “We don’t want it to be super fancy. We want to go to bars and coffee shops. We want it to be accessible.”

That means singing for the folks who come specifically to listen to them as well as entertaining those who just happen to be in the venue. People can listen to a song or two, or the whole concert, Pomrenke said.

The performances are presented round-robin style. Each singer will perform one piece, and then the next singer will perform. Each performs five or six pieces.

The program is not firmly set. Every performer has a number of pieces prepared, and what actually is presented depends on what the others sing and the performers’ sense of what the audience may appreciate.

Pomrenke said they’d like to perform monthly, in coffee shops, bars, libraries or wherever they’re wanted.

She said she hopes other singers can join over time.

Also, they plan to incorporate duets, and possibly scenes, to the solo numbers.

At this point, the members are all engaged in auditioning for young artist programs or other performing situations.

Northwest Ohio is a good place to be located, Pomrenke and Schreiber said. The cost of living is low, and they are within a few hours of at least a half-dozen metro areas.

Beside the Black Swamp Opera Ensemble, the members perform in church choirs, the Toledo Opera Chorus, Michigan Opera Chorus, as soloists and in concerts.

“We’re all just trying to get what opportunities we can,” Pomrenke said.