Chicago’s handful of cabaret rooms closed ages ago. Nonetheless, a local singer is trying to resurrect the city’s cabaret scene.
Her name is Claudia Hommel, and she most recently appeared in the Grainger ballroom at Symphony Center, located in Chicago’s Loop, with violinist Johnny Frigo. The two were there to promote Hommel’s new CD, “Romance Language: French Songs for Lovers.” Hommel was born in Paris to American parents. Her family moved to Detroit when she was four, and she at first hid her French roots from her school chums.
“When you’re that age and nobody is speaking French, the normal reaction is to push it .aside, which I did with a vengeance,” Hommel said. Her mother fought back, however, plying Hommel with French recordings and literature.
Hommel sang in choirs all through high school and college, but didn’t give the performing life a thought until one of her teachers told her she was born for the stage. “She noticed something in me that I didn’t,” Hommel said. An opera workshop in Detroit led her to New York, where she studied with Martha Schlamme, and eventually to Chicago.
Hommel now makes her living both singing cabaret and taking her act to high schools around the country to perform for French-language students. She next performs at a lunchtime concert May 15 at the Union League Club, 65 West Jackson Boulevard; (312) 427-7800. For more information on Hommel’s concerts and recordings, visit her Web site: cabaret-paree.com.