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Trio's Spirit Ball bringing 'dark chamber cabaret' vibe to the Southern

The debut release by the trio Please Don’t Tell brings to mind a bit of classical, a touch of jazz and a new take on Old World style that all but begged for a spirited release party.

The Charlottesville-based musicians, purveyors of a sound they describe as “dark chamber cabaret,” include lead vocalist, pianist and songwriter Christina Fleming; cellist and backing vocalist Nicole Rimel; and violinist and vocalist Anna Hennessy. Together, they unite experiences ranging from Kennedy Center performances to punk club shows into a sound all their own.

“It’s rooted in really strong friendship and simply enjoying each other’s company,” Fleming said. No surprise, then, that the release party turned into a ball of bygone elegance.

The Spirit Ball begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at a favorite haunt, the Southern Café and Music Hall, and also will feature Charming Disaster, the New York-based goth-folk duo of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris and synth-pop group Nouveau Vintage. DJ Cadybug also is on the bill.

Fleming said Charming Disaster is “also in the cabaret theme we tend to occupy.”

The event is a release party for Please Don’t Tell’s first professional recording, a six-song EP recorded at Fatback Sound in Nashville, Tennessee, with Gabe Rabben and Sam Wilson.

“We even were recorded more like a chamber ensemble than a rock band,” Fleming said.

“We wanted to have a physical release as well, so we had records pressed. It’s rooted in Old World imagery.”

Speaking of Old World imagery, the Spirit Ball also is an opportunity for fans to get dressed up. If you’re right at home in Victorian, goth or steampunk garb, commence rummaging in your closets now.

“We always joke that we didn’t have to buy anything” to wear, Fleming quipped. And don’t hesitate to leaf through vintage family photos for inspiration. Fleming said the musicians are “encouraging people to dress as fancy spirit versions of themselves, or of an ancestor.”

The project began when Fleming sought a way to unite her operatic soprano and percussive piano style to the songs she was writing. She and Rimel started a cabaret duo to explore the stories of resilient women overcoming challenging circumstances.

“We got together, and we just clicked,” she said.

Hennessy, who was a music major with Fleming at the University of Virginia, came on board for what originally was planned as a one-off “spooky dinner theater” after the pandemic and stayed when the three-member mix of influences proved irresistible.

“We’re accentuating the storytelling in the songs,” Fleming said. “There’s some jazz influence and some classical influence. It’s sort of instrospective.” The trio has found beauty and power in “being able to find the absurdity in the difficult things life throws at us.”

If you need to find a way to embrace life’s absurdities in style, the Spirit Ball environment will give listeners a chance to step outside their routines without judgment, “letting a part of themselves shine” that may not get to come out to play very often, Fleming said.

Tickets are $15 at the door and $12 in advance, and there’s a ticket four-pack for $40. Get details at


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