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The Smooth Sounds of Laura Velvet

December 2, 2018

A winter concert series features three UMD alumni singers.

Laura Velvet and the Bookhouse Boys, a band featuring UMD alumni Lisa Holman, Cally Nielsen, and Maija Elizabeth Tatro presents the Duluth area with a five-concert series.

Laura Velvet singers (l-r) Maija Elizabeth Tatro, Lisa Holman, and Cally Nielsen
Laura Velvet singers (l-r) Maija Elizabeth Tatro, Lisa Holman, and Cally Nielsen

Their performances bring the sentimental and romantic torch songs of artists including Nina Simone, Roy Orbison, and Leslie Gore as well as hits from Motown and modern acts.

Lisa Holman, a recent UMD grad with music and French majors, plays the part of 1960's Torch Singer Laura Velvet. From opera and collaborative concerts to studying abroad at the celebrated French Music Conservatory La Schola Cantorum, Lisa's UMD experience prepared her well for center stage. Starring at the Duluth Playhouse as Carla in Nine! The Musical, she was lauded by the Duluth News Tribune for bringing operatic flourishes to her performance as the seductive mistress. "Laura Velvet is the perfect fit for me at this stage in my career," says Lisa. "I love watching audiences react to this timeless music presented in an engaging show."

Lisa's vocal partners, the Velvettes, are played by UMD alumnae Maija Elizabeth Tatro as Audrey Bordeaux and Cally Nielsen as Annie Blackbird.

Born in Cloquet, Minn., Maija Elizabeth Tatro has a bachelor's degree in music from UMD where she performed with vocal jazz group, Lake Effect, for four years. She's sung in music festivals in Ireland, the Manhattan Concert Productions Jazz Festival at the Apollo Theater in New York City and starred in four vocal jazz cabaret shows, serving as music director for one. "My family says I've been a performer since I first learned to talk," Maija says. "Audrey Bordeaux is different than any other character I've done, so I'm exploring new dimensions as an artist. I'm so fortunate to work with such amazing talent."

Cally Nielsen, hails from the suburbs of Minneapolis. “We do a lot of Motown, ‘50s and ‘60s jazz, and it’s really sultry,” she says. “We do full dress too. We have the long black dresses, big hair, and silk gloves." Growing up in a musical family, she started singing at a young age alongside her father, a singer/songwriter. He instilled in her a love for music and creating music as an art form. Cally, who graduated with a double major in music with a vocal emphasis, communication sciences disorders (CSD), and a minor in psychology, says she honed her technical skills in UMD's Vocal Jazz program. "Music is my outlet for creative expression," Cally shares. "It's a way to connect with people through their heartstrings."

Laura Velvet singers, center (l-r) Maija Elizabeth Tatro, Lisa Holman, and Cally Nielsen

The singers are joined by Andrew Perfetti on guitar, bass player Dicky Brooks, and Luke Perry on drums. The fourth instrumentalist is UMD staff member John Heino on keyboards. He says, "Laura and the Velvettes have such passion for this music. Their energy is positively contagious."

Upcoming Laura Velvet Events

A Laura Velvet Christmas at Sacred Heart
Dec 7, Fri 7 PM · Sacred Heart Music Center · Duluth, Minnesota

Hope for the Holidays Concert Fundraiser for the Union Gospel Mission
with Laura Velvet and the Bookhouse Boys and the Bigtime Jazz Orchestra
Warm winter clothing will collected
Dec 8, Sat 7 PM · Rex Bar · Duluth, Minnesota

A Very Laura Velvet Christmas at Pier B
Dec 12, Wed 6:30 PM · Pier B Resort Hotel · Duluth, Minnesota

A Very Laura Velvet Christmas at the Keyport Lounge
Dec 19, Wed 6:00 PM · Keyport Lounge · Superior, Wisconsin

Laura Velvet performs at New Year's by the Lake
Dec 31, Mon 5:30 PM - 1 AM · Greysolon Plaza · Duluth, Minnesota

Laura Velvet Performance Info

About UMD Department of Music

Top photo by Don J, Olson. Center and bottom photos by Jeff Peabody. Background information for this article came from Big Buffalo Entertainment and a Bark story by Zack Benz and Rachael Brown.