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Grosse Pointe Shores

Detroit Jazz Festival brings pre-festival concert to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

August 14, 2013

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Legendary local female jazz vocalists will be joined by a promising newcomer at “Detroit Divas Sing, Sing, Sing” Aug. 23 at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Some of Detroit’s most divine divas will be serenading jazz devotees during a pre-Detroit Jazz Festival concert Aug. 23 at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.

“Detroit Divas Sing, Sing, Sing” — the third annual summer Ford House concert, part of the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Community Series — will feature three legendary ladies bringing back the big band sound with their bold, beautiful voices. Ursula Walker, Jeannine Course-Miller and Barbara Ware will be joined by an up-and-coming female jazz singer, the winner of the DJF Youth Vocal Competition. And Detroit trumpet great Johnny Trudell — who has backed the likes of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder — will be performing, as well.

“I’m excited that we’re doing the divas (concert) again,” Ford House President Kathleen Mullins said. “They were so amazing last year.”

Besides seeing some of Detroit’s jazz icons, this is a way to introduce emerging divas to audiences, she said.

DJF Artistic Director Chris Collins, the director of jazz studies at Wayne State University and a recent transplant to Grosse Pointe Shores, said the diva concerts are a perfect fit for the region. The Ford House concerts are held the weekend before the DJF, which takes place downtown over the Labor Day weekend.

“There’s a very powerful history of women vocalists coming out of Detroit” in musical traditions ranging from blues and rock to gospel and jazz, Collins said. “And then, of course, there’s (the city’s) great jazz tradition.”

The young singers picked to compete in the Aug. 15 DJF Youth Vocal Competition at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe Farms are not only chosen to perform, but they also get personal coaching from people like Walker, Collins said.

Audience members at the Ford House concert this year can expect a tribute to bandleader and trumpeter Harry James by Trudell.

“The band will be pulling out all the stops,” Collins said. He said Trudell’s band will be “made up of the very best musicians in the Detroit area.”

There will be some surprises and likely special guests.

“The audience is in for a real treat,” Collins said.

The Fords were major supporters of the arts, and the big band music that will be featured at this concert reflects the kind of music that might have been performed for party guests at the estate.

“It connects in so wonderfully with Edsel and Eleanor Ford and their love of music,” Mullins said of the annual DJF concerts. “It also gives our community so many more ways to enjoy the estate. It’s just a terrific place to sit back and enjoy great music.”

With the historic house, gardens and Lake St. Clair as a backdrop, visitors can appreciate the sights, as well as the sounds.

The lakefront grounds can accommodate up to about 3,000 guests for these concerts, Mullins said. Visitors might want to pack mosquito repellent, and they can bring their own food and beverages, but because of state liquor laws, she said they can’t bring alcohol. However, beer and wine will be sold on-site, and visitors can purchase food, as well.

“It’s a relaxing, amazing way to end the summer,” Mullins said.

The Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore, between Vernier and Nine Mile roads. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $30 for preferred seating or $60 for preferred seating with a pre- and post-VIP reception. In past years, Mullins said some tickets were still available at the gate, but not for all admission levels, so advance ticket purchases are recommended. For tickets, visit For more information, call the Ford House at (313) 884-4222 or visit For more about the DJF, log on to

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