Twelfth Night's director, Mimi Gass, seems to have found a life in music shortly after infancy. She sang in a children's choir at Ferndale's Drayton Avenue Presbyterian.church starting at age five or six. She learned to play the ukelele and with a junior high school friend performed duets in the area, all the while attending Ferndale public schools. Mimi sang in the Ferndale High School choir and Madrigal Singers with a beloved director, the late Otto Brown.
At Albion College, she sang in a madrigal group and the college choir. She was graduated from Albion in 1968 with a degree in theater and music. She later earned a master's degree in education at Michigan State University. Mimi was hired by the Ferndale School District to teach in 1968, and was fortunate to teach music in the same place she'd learned so much, at Ferndale High School.
In 1980, she formed the Twelfth Night Singers and helped create a Wassail Feaste: three hours of food, wine and continuous entertainment performed in Royal Oak and Ferndale. The Feaste in part was a way of keeping together good student singers whose choruses and madrigal groups had won state awards. The group branched out to sing in area country clubs, the Detroit Athletic Club and Meadow Brook Hall in the Christmas season, in area churches and country clubs during the rest of the year for weddings and parties. It also quickly attracted singers of all ages and backgrounds, and most years has numbered 35-40 voices.The feasts ended in the mid-1990s. But the choral tradition goes on in lovely locations throughout the Detroit area.
Good teachers don't stop learning. Mimi "treated" herself to summer workshops with some of the best people in choral music: Robert Shaw, Norman Luboff, Kirby Shaw, Ed Lojewski and John Rutter.
She retired from the Ferndale District in 1998, then taught vocal music at Shrine High for three years after that.
Besides directing and singing in Twelfth Night, she's sung with the Langsford Singers, making what many choristers would consider a "pilgrimage" to the famed Eisteddfod choral competition in Wales. She sings with the Fort Streeet Chorale in downtown Detroit. And she's directed the Troy Chorus since 1999.
Mimi lives in Royal Oak but spends summers at her mother's home
in the Leelanau Peninsula's Glen Arbor. From there, she attends concerts at
nearby Interlochen Center for the Arts. That's familiar ground: She was a camper
and later a counselor there.
In Twelfth Night, Mimi chooses music, conducts auditions and rehearsals and directs the group whenever it's on a stage, as at the annual public performance at the group's rehearsal site, Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale. At appearances elsewhere, she's one of the altos, bobbing her head in the madrigal tradition to provide a tempo.
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