Gifted MCC singer lends voice to North American musical premiere

You may not know her, but you will likely recognize her voice.

Millie Edwards Nottingham is the reading coordinator at MCC-Penn Valley. She is also an accomplished singer who routinely lends her voice to Metropolitan Community College events.

Millie Nottingham

And in March, she will take the stage with Kantorei KC and a jazz combo from UMKC for the North American premiere of “Passion Music.”

It will first be performed March 2 at the American Choral Directors Conference in Kansas City.

“Passion Music” tells the story of Christ’s crucifixion through a fusion of jazz and gospel music.

While that may sound like an odd combination, Nottingham says it’s “a beautiful piece. It has the freedom of jazz and the message of gospel.”

“Passion Music” composer Will Todd will fly in from London to rehearse with the group and will also play piano during the performance.

Nottingham says Todd uses some traditional hymns in the 40-minute piece but gives them a distinctive jazz sound.

“People will see how music styles come together to complement each other.”

Nottingham says music is teamwork and compares it to team sports where everyone has to do their part to achieve success. “Any time you’re working with an ensemble you have to come up with a singular sound,” she says.

Millie is the soloist or narrator of the piece.  She will sing five of the eight lead parts.

Chris Munce will direct “Passion Music.” He is the director of choral studies at Lee’s Summit High School. He’s also a member of Kantorei KC.

When Oxford University Press asked Kantorei KC to present the piece, Munce says he knew who the soloist should be.

“I asked Millie, because I have been a fan of hers for 20 years,” he says. “I collaborated with her while on the music staff at Unity Temple on the Plaza. As soon as I heard the part I knew it had to be Millie.”

While Millie is excited about the upcoming performance she also says “it’s challenging because you’re singing in front of a bunch of choir directors. People in music tend to be more critical about performances.”

The American Choral Directors Association will be treated to the performance of “Passion Music” March 2 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts’ Helzberg Hall.

But they won’t be the only ones to hear the performance. There will be a public performance at 3 p.m. March 3 at Community Christian Church on the Plaza. For ticket information click here.

Beyond her performance in “Passion Music,” you can hear Nottingham perform under the name Millie Edwards at venues around Kansas City.

Related (from 2016): Meet the woman behind the voice: MCC’s Millie Edwards Nottingham