VOP winner Mel Arizpe at Manchester Pride

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—  John Wright

Arizpe wins individual title, teams with real-life partner to earn group award at Voice of Pride

Mel Arizpe, a frequent bridesmaid at Voice of Pride, made up for lost ground this year by winning overall and as part of the duo Mi Diva Loca, which one the inaugural “group” award.

But wait, it gets more interesting.

Arizpe’s singing partner in Mi Diva Loca, Laura Carrizales, came in second place. And Arizpe and Carrizales are a couple in real-life as well. Arizpe gets to fly to Manchester, England, later this month to partake in that city’s Pride celebration, and will perform at Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade next month.

Rounding out the top five were Juliana Jeffrey, Robert Olivas and Angie Landers. You can see footage from some of the performances in our video section here. Congrats to everybody!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Voice of Pride finals at the Rose Room

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—  John Wright

Voice of Pride finalists selected at Round-Up

I was one of the judges at the semi-finals round of the Voice of Pride competition which took place last night at the Round-Up. Twenty-four performances — 19 soloists and five duets — competed to enter the final round at the Rose Room next month. Ten soloists and three duets advanced after three hours of singing. And with seven judges, a policy of dropping the top and bottom scores to equalize the voting and a variety of tastes, you never know if the ones you liked most will advance. But for the most part, my favorites did. (I would only quibble with one or two taking more deserving performers’ space.)

Once again, Juliana Jeffrey did stunning work — she’s been in the top 3 for the past three years. There were other familiar faces (and voices) as well: Mel Arizpe, Robert Olivas and Christine Pradia — all of whom were in the top five in recent years — made it through. Greg Castillo, last year’s second runner-up, was part of the duet Present for the Future … with Juliana Jeffrey, pictured. Their group also advanced.

There were some new names as well, including Chae Studebaker (a sweet country balladeer voice), a woman named only Red (soulful R&B sound) and Joel Canavales (who started the show off right). This is the first year duets and groups are eligible, and two others to advance are called Classic Resurrection and Mi Diva Loca.

Here’s the complete list of finalists, in alphabetical order: Mel Arizpe; Joel Canales; Laura Carrizales; Melissa Hubenak; Juliana Jeffrey; Angie Landers; Robert Olivas; Christine Pradia; Red; Chae Studebaker, plus the duos Classic Resurrection, Mi Diva Loca and Present for the Future.

Finals will be Aug. 15 at the Rose Room.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Online exclusive: ‘Dreamgirls’ star Syesha Mercado talks about gay BFFs and Voice of Pride

Syesha Mercado, Dreamgirls, American IdolIf you caught Dreamgirls at Music Hall, you got the chance to see Syesha Mercado make the leap into leading lady status with her turn as Deena Jones. And if you haven’t, well this weekend is your last chance. She took some time with us to give some insight on what’s behind that voice and talent. And with her experience on American Idol as a contestant, she offered some advice to those competing in the now-happening Voice of Pride contest. You might have even seen her at one of the preliminaries.

Read it here.

—  Rich Lopez

Things look official at The Brick and Joe’s now

The club just posted this pic of their new sign going up. Perfect timing for tonight’s Voice of Pride qualifier contest.

—  Rich Lopez

Carlos Saenz at ilume Friday night

I went to check out Carlos Saenz’s CD release party in the Great Room at the ilume Friday night and it was quite the scene. A hefty crowd turned out for the Voice of Pride top 10 finalist as he celebrated the release of his single, “Elaborate Lives.” It didn’t hurt that Bar 10 was there doling out the free drinks.

His vocals sounded good but the sound wavered off a bit by the end. The mike issue went unnoticed however, and he turned in a decent gig with covers of Erasure, The Doors and even Journey by way of Glee. Backup singers included other VOP finalists Mel Arizpe, Juliana Jeffrey and Robert Olivas. There was even an “awww” moment when he introduced his family who had come up from Brownsville to see his show.

Looking at this now, it’s a whole lot darker than I figured on. D’oh! But you should get the idea of the show.

—  Rich Lopez

Voice of Pride finalist Carlos Saenz announces CD release party

Carlos Saenz makes a move toward his music career with a CD release party Feb. 5 at ilume. The single, “Elaborate Lives,” from the musical Aida, is an apropos ballad to Saenz’s voice and features guest vocals by Jeanie Tracy of “Cha Cha Heels” fame. I called Saenz to get his thoughts on this big, bold step to music stardom. Check it out after the jump. Of course, deets on the event are in the poster.

—  Rich Lopez

Voice of Pride winner bows out of future commitments

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Gasparro

Michael Doughman of the Dallas Tavern Guild sent the following  press release out today regarding Voice of Pride winner Michael Gasparro.

We are sorry to report that due to sudden and personal, unforeseen circumstances, Michael Gasparro, the winner of 2009 Voice of Pride will not be able to fulfill his commitments and has been withdrawn from further participation.  This occurrence was not through any fault of Michael’s and he will always be recognized as the winner of Voice of Pride 2009.  We mutually agree to release him from his further commitments.

I called Doughman for further word. He stood by the release, however, he did offer this: “Michael was very disappointed. Whatever it was, it was personal enough for him to do this.” What this means for sure is we won’t be performing at the Pride Parade.

I interviewed Gasparro after his win back in August. He was quite gracious and humble during our chat. Hopefully the circumstances, whatever they may be, will iron out and put this talent back on track.

—  Rich Lopez