Thursday, April 20, 2017
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Last year’s Divas concert was so good that it’s coming back for an encore.
Valley of the Divas 2, which raises money for Creative Bridge Coalition, will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. in Ford Family Recital Hall.
Again, it will feature a group of some of the best female singers the Mahoning Valley has ever produced, led by Grammy Award-winner Maureen McGovern.
Also on the bill are:
Sugar Joans, who was a semifinalist on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2014. Joans was supposed to be in the inaugural concert last year, but an accident just before the day of the show forced her to cancel.
Maureen Collins, Easy Street Productions co-founder with the big Broadway voice.
Leanne Binder, veteran local bluesy rock singer and songwriter.
Janis Jones, jazz and gospel singer.
Appearing as special guest divas will be Katy Collins and Mazhorell Johnson.
McGovern, Collins, Binder and Jones appeared last year.
Jennifer Brindisi of 21 WFMJ-TV will be the announcer of the concert, which will keep the same format as last year. Each singer will do a few songs solo, and then in groups.
Creative Bridge Coalition is a local nonprofit that provides music-based educational programming to children with special needs.
Binder has been keeping a busy pace in recent months.
In addition to her performance schedule, she has been promoting concerts; launched Generation Rock, a premiere local rock all-star band; and appeared two weeks ago in a Beatles cabaret with Collins.
She’s also been traveling back and forth to Nashville for songwriting sessions and a trade show.
Last year’s inaugural Divas show was too much fun for her to pass up this year.
“I thought it was incredible,” she said. “It was such a huge success and a lot of fun, and I was amazed and overwhelmed with the people who came through the door in support of Creative Bridge. It was an honor and a blast being with Maureen and Janis. I also got to meet Maureen McGovern, and she could not have been lovelier.”
Each of the singers have distinctly different styles, and each will bring that style to the Divas concert.
“The cool thing is we’re each brought in to do what we do,” said Binder. “I make sure I’m doing rock. Janis does gospel, Maureen does Broadway ...”
Binder has a big voice, and it will be on display. “It will be the big power bluesy-riff driving rock like I do,” she said.
Her current side project, Generation Rock, is not your typical act. At its first (and so far only) show in February at the Embassy in Boardman, the band drew more than 400 people. The other members of Generation Rock are Rajma (guitar, fiddle, vocals), Patsy Palumbo (drums), Roy Guerrieri (bass, vocals) and Lake Baum (guitar, piano, vocals).
“We’re doing booking now,” she said. “It’s not a bar band. It’s a venue type of show.”
Binder will head to Nashville to do some writing in May, then return for summer gigs in the region. She has her own music publishing company and pitches her songs to film projects and other artists.
She’ll return to Nashville in the summer to take part in a music trade show that showcases instruments and concert equipment.