Finding Their Voice

Longtime musician helps Juneau singers prepare for cabaret

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fairbanks jazz musician Barney McClure has visited Juneau for the last five Februaries to host his six-day Winter Cabaret workshops for Juneau Jazz & Classics. And still, he appreciates it every time.

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"The best thing about it is watching people at the beginning of the week evolve into who they are at the end of the week," McClure said. "I have had a long, long music career. I've played with a lot of very good people and been in a lot of neat situations. At this point in my life, to be able to sort of light this fire in people is fun."

Twenty-nine Southeast Alaska singers will perform jazz standards of their choosing during "Swingin' in the Rain" at 7 p.m. Friday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Hors d'oeuvres will be served throughout the evening.

The workshops started Sunday at the Juneau Senior Center.

"There are factions of every group where some people are very musical or even professional," McClure said. "The one criterion I always have is that we interpret the song according to the way they want to do it. We try not to do covers.

"It's only a problem with a very few, and in particular the youngest people," he said. "They have a hard time buying into that. What they really want to do is what they've seen on American Idol. Most people come as willing participants to learn and have a good time, and they know I'm not going to make it a bad experience."

McClure lives in Fairbanks, where he produces musicals and concerts with his wife, Diane. They just finished a run of "Man of La Mancha" with the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre.

He's a well-known jazz pianist and Hammond B-3 organist who's toured Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the United States. He's released five compact discs and a book on improvisational theory.

McClure started hosting the cabaret workshops in Ketchikan, then branched into Fairbanks. Nowadays, he accompanies performances in Juneau and Nome.

"I've never seen Nome when it wasn't covered in snow and the wind wasn't coming in sideways," McClure said.

"It's an Alaska phenomenon, because it's more of a rural interest than it is an urban one," he said. "Part of the fun is that these people know everybody in the audience and the audience knows them."

The 21st annual Jazz & Classics festival runs May 18 to 27. For more information, call (907) 463-3378 or visit

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