New Orleans Nightingales all-female revue alights in time for Jazz Fest _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- Some of the members of The New Orleans Nightingales kicked off the Christmas New Orleans Style concert series as they sing at St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday, December 1, 2013. in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The it was one of 13 free 6 p.m. concerts scheduled there through out the month to Sunday, December 22. The Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Mass Choir performs Tuesday. The concerts are part of many month long happenings produced by the French Quarter Festivals, Inc. in partnership with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and Singing in the photo are Aurora Nealand, Debbie Davis, Yvette Voelker, Margie Perez, Vanessa Niemann, Alexandra Scott and Sophie Lee Lowery.

A watch of nightingales are flying into The Allways Theatre right in time for Jazz Fest.

Working in tandem with Allways’ producer Jonathan Mares, the New Orleans Nightingales are going to give the theater’s patrons two weeks of music offerings from some of the most recognized female talent in town.

Beginning this Thursday, April 24, and running through the following week until next Sunday, the all-female music collective will offer evenings of songs and stories long after the Fairgrounds has closed its gates.

Opening night will begin with a party to kick off the event and features many of the solo artists. After that, headliners like Gal Holiday, Debbie Davis, Banu Gibson, Tricia Boutte and Ingrid Lucia will each have an individual night to showcase their talents.

Inspired by the famous photo of New York musicians that formed the basis for the documentary “A Great Day In Harlem,” founder Lucia created the New Orleans Nightingales when she noticed something in the growing music scene on Frenchmen Street.

“I had the crazy idea that rather than waiting for a recording session, or a gig, I would get proactive and reach out to these women, many of whom I had never worked with before,” she said.

She approached fellow female vocalist to contribute one track from any of their previous recordings for the purposes of cross-marketing to each other’s audiences.

The front for the Flying Neutrinos, the jazz-singing Lucia originally thought up the idea as a way to expand marketing possibilities not only for herself but the other women involved.

“I figured if we were just sharing 15 to 20 percent of our fan bases, those connecting hubs would benefit us all,” she said.

But, as popular local singer Banu Gibson explained, “a good idea can turn into a great one.”

The recording attracted the attention of scouts from the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, and suddenly the group had opportunities that might have been harder to come by alone.

Gibson, who will share the stage with singer Debbie Davis in their tribute to Randy Newman on May 3, believes the collective’s depth of experience caused the-greater-than-anticipated-success.

“Their shared stage time and business knowledge has combined to showcase some of the city’s best singers and performers,” Gibson said.

From there, the group took off.

These Nightingales consist of 20 singer/songwriters that cover a wide swath of styles, including swing, traditional jazz, American songbook, and country swing.

They have played residencies at the Saint Hotel with a rotation of three members and a three-piece band, and they also have an ongoing residency at Three Muses in rotation with two members and a two-piece backup.

Their partnership with The Allways comes at an opportune time for the theater.

For many New Orleans’ theatrical producers, Jazz Fest is traditionally the time to take a break from production and retrench while preparing for either the upcoming fall seasons or a final show before summer.

After all, in a town known more for its music than theatrical fare, attempting to compete with one of the city’s two 800 pound cultural gorillas, the other being Mardi Gras, is considered by most producers as act of financial suicide.

Best go dark and wait for the two-week musical explosion to subside.

Allways’ producer Mares had other ideas.

Mares knew he needed something to fill his programming for Jazz Fest, and “The Normal Heart” director Kris Shaw knew Yvette Voelker of The Pfister Sister. It was during their meeting that Voelker suggested a different performer every night might be the way to go.

Mares was sold.

“I loved that idea. So we have a very nice selection of artists that are respected in the city and extremely talented.”

Furthermore, Mares was so taken by the idea that he has now programmed a Nightingales show every Sunday in the theater after the close of Jazz Fest.

For The Nightingales, it is just one more perch from which to sing.

Jim Fitzmorris writes about theater. He can be reached at