Opera On Tap 

By: Rachel Mattingly

Over spring reading week, I was lucky enough to go home and see my family in New York City. While I was there, I will freely admit to having done almost nothing: the ideal vacation. However, my mom told me that she would be performing at a free concert that her friend Adrienne Danrich was putting on for her organization, Music as the Message. My mom would be playing the electric bass during the final song of the night. I didn’t know anything about her friend, and went into the hour-long subway ride to Broadway Presbyterian Church armed only with the assurance that Adrienne was an amazing soprano. For the most part, I went to this show to support my mom, but ended the night beyond satisfied with the experience.

Before the performance, there was a cocktail hour. People milled around the beautiful church, indulging in various fruits and cheeses, catching up with one another in little groups. It felt like most people already knew each other, and it soon became evident that they were all connected through Adrienne Danrich. As people settled into the pews that served as seating, and she got behind the microphone, I began to realize that the show would be a lot more fun than I had initially surmised. There was no stage. Adrienne spoke from the center of the room, seemingly without cue cards. She talked about how Music as the Message got started, demonstrating all the while how important the organization and its purpose were to her. It was started following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and aims to spread joy and love through music. Performances used to be done over zoom, but have since become hybrid. The theme that night was “My Sister, My Friend,” given that the event fell on International Women’s Day. The night I attended, there was a projector screen behind Adrienne, on which we could see the people watching from their homes, including several members of her family who couldn’t be in New York to see her live. 

Before the show got into full swing, Adrienne discussed this joy-spreading focus of her concerts. She said that she wanted people to feel like they were in her living room listening to her sing, a feat she absolutely accomplished. True to her word, her show was informal and cozy, which made the beauty of her voice almost shocking in its intensity. 

I could not have understood the magnitude of Adrienne’s talent before attending. Her vocal range was breathtaking. After beginning the night with “I’m Every Woman,” she progressed into “Sous le dôme épais” from the opera, Lakmé, alongside another amazingly talented singer, Phyllis-Lewis Hale. I was in awe of how quickly she transitioned between pop and operatic vocals. Her voice was truly unfathomable in depth, as was the voice of Phyllis-Lewis Hale. Immediately afterwards, the two women sang “Sull’aria” from Le Nozze di Figaro, which was somehow even better. Adrienne’s microphone seemed completely superfluous. These two women’s joint performance finally taught me exactly why people have a tendency to cry during operas.

Throughout the show, Adrienne had an array of her friends perform, both in person, and through recordings. Shane Schag accompanied her beautifully on the piano. Towards the end of the night, the pastor of the Broadway Presbyterian Church, Chris Shelton, led the room through “Let Your Little Light Shine!” The very last song was “You’ve Got A Friend,” and this is when my mother, Deirdre Chadwick, joined the fray, on vocals and electric bass. 

The night ended with everyone getting up and dancing together in the space that Adrienne’s voice had been filling all night. She has an almost uncanny ability to connect with people, and I swear most of the audience was of her own supply. 

Music as the Message is produced by an organization called Opera on Tap, which emphasizes opera accessibility for underserved and underrepresented communities. The world of classical music is incredibly exclusionary and people like Adrienne Danrich, my mom Deirdre Chadwick at BMI, and those working at Opera on Tap are trying to change that. It’s unrealistic for most of you to get down to New York to see Adrienne Danrich in person, but all of her concerts with Music as the Message are also available on Zoom. In keeping with their commitment to accessibility, the performances are free, for as long as they can keep them free. I highly recommend following their calendar and tuning in for the next show, in addition to donating to Opera on Tap. All types of music should be available to all types of people. Discounting talented musicians from the world of classical music robs everyone.