Cancellations, digital programs, relief funds: How Cincinnati’s arts organizations are coping with COVID-19

A previous production of The Magic Flute/ provided by Cincinnati Opera

Cincinnati Opera’s news yesterday that it must cancel its 2020 Summer Festival — the company’s 100th anniversary — was just the latest in an ongoing wave of arts cancellations due to COVID-19. Because of extended stay-at-home orders and closures, it was literally impossible to begin set-building and rehearsing, let alone fly in the international stars who were coming from Italy and the Czech Republic.

I doubt that entire seasons have ever been canceled for such a plague, although world wars have interrupted some. Of the many arts organizations that I have interviewed this month, a few leaders have predicted to me, that, until people feel comfortable being with other people in a theater, museum or a concert hall (and you can add to that, restaurants and stadiums), they will not return. And that won’t happen until there is a vaccine.

As Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers tells me in Friday’s Business Courier, we all thought things would be closed for a weekend, and then it would be back to normal. Now we talk about the “new normal.”

The Blue Wisp Big Band at Caffe Vivace last month.

I began observing how the coronavirus was impacting our city’s freelance musicians about a month ago, when restaurants closed, and musicians began streaming their music live from empty bars, for tips. That article, “Virtual Reality,” on April 3, included some jazz musicians, as well. Trumpeter Matt Anklan, an adjunct at Miami University, said that 60 percent of his income is from freelance jobs — now completely gone.

A spot check of Cincinnati’s major arts organizations, “Critical Stage” on April 10, told stories of how groups are struggling to hang onto their staffs even as they tally their losses. Losses will be big. ArtsWave — which was just midway through its annual, $12.4 million campaign when the virus hit — predicts that losses in Cincinnati’s arts community could top $30 million if there is no arts activity all summer.

Van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures at Cincinnati Art Museum

Still, there was a note of optimism, despite the expected red ink. Cincinnati Art Museum’s Cameron Kitchin told me, “The arts are about connecting and inspiring. What greater time of need do we have for inspiration and connection than right now, in this time of social distancing and flickering hope? If we look at what the arts to able to provide for humanity, this is a moment where we are called to action.”

Friday’s article (April 17) is about how small and mid-sized arts groups in our region are coping. There will be more stories to come, including some with good news of how people are stepping up in a time of crisis.

As I wrote in a column at the very beginning of the trickle of online arts offerings — now a tsunami — the arts offer escape, joy and comfort. Don’t forget, these organizations can’t wait to welcome you back, live and in person, when we all reach the other side.

Chuck Miller, savior of Sorg Opera House, steps down

Chuck Miller in his element, backstage at the Sorg

It took a man with a vision to see the beauty behind the dilapidated and abandoned Sorg Opera House in Middletown. Now, as John Kiesewetter reports this morning, Chuck Miller has resigned as president of the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) to become the new executive director of the historic “State Movie Palace of Kansas,” the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. Wife Denise Brodsky has also resigned her position on the board.

Current board members Roger Daniels and Chris Riva are stepping in to fill roles, although his successor has not been decided.

Here’s my story from about a year ago of how Chuck and his devoted board have been working — extremely hard — to restore the Hannaford-built theater to its former grandeur.

There are similarities between the Sorg Opera House (1891) and Music Hall (1878) as you can see in the balconies. Both were designed by Samuel Hannaford. The Sorg is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the lobby
You can visit your old Music Hall seats

I’m posting a few memories of visiting the Sorg while these dedicated preservationists were at work restoring and programming a series of concerts in the hall. By the way, the acoustics are wonderful. And, for people who remember Music Hall’s old seats, you can revisit them up in Middletown.

Good luck Chuck and Denise! You’ll be missed.

Randy Brecker to visit Caffe Vivace

It’s a chance to see a world-class trumpeter in a venue not much bigger than your living room, says Brent Gallaher, co-owner of Caffe Vivace in Walnut Hills.

Caffe Vivace, the hip new coffee house by day, jazz venue by night, is hosting Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker in its listening room next weekend. He’ll play four sets over two nights — Feb. 15 and 16 — with two different groups of outstanding local musicians.Read More »

Scot Woolley was a multi-talented performer and mentor to many

Scot Woolley at the keyboard with his brother, CSO violinist Stacey Woolley

Scot Woolley will be remembered as one of Cincinnati’s brightest stars and an indispensable member of the region’s arts community from Northern Kentucky to Dayton.

He was a gifted pianist, singer, conductor, arranger, dancer and composer who worked around the world. He was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a faculty member at Wright State University, where he was music director and voice instructor.

Mr. Woolley died on Jan. 26 after suffering a medical emergency while driving to his Westwood home. He was 60.

“A terrible void has been left and nobody can fill it,” said his brother, Stacey Woolley, a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “Scot really revered the Great American Songbook and the old Broadway. He loved Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. He revered the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and the high bar that was set by the MGM Studio. That’s what he tried to pass along to the generation that followed, that you must look back and understand that you’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.”Read More »

Jazz Hall of Fame to hold inductions Sunday

Marc Fields

 

 

 

Cincinnati’s Jazz Hall of Fame will be inducting 10 jazz luminaries in a jazz-filled celebration hosted by media legend Nick Clooney, 7 p.m. Sunday April 8 at Mount St. Joseph Auditorium. The honorees are: Bill Berry, Melvin Broach, Mandy Gaines, Wilbert t. Longmire, Artie Matthews, Michael Moore, Bill Rank, Steve Schmidt, Lee Tucker and Rick VanMatre.

In addition, special recognition will be given to the Cincinnati Pops, founding maestro Erich Kunzel and current Pops conductor John Morris Russell for 52 years of supporting jazz in Music Hall. The original Symphony Jazz Quintet will be honored, consisting of Paul Piller, Marie Speziale, David Frerichs, David Horine, Frank Proto and Robert Bradley.

Kay Casey, founder of the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame, and her board have made it their mission to shine a light on a Cincinnati treasure that, in previous years, received little recognition even though its history is rich. Clooney, always an entertaining host, is donating his time for the fourth year.

The event will include performances by current jazz talents: The Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band, Marc Fields Quartet and the Rob Allgeyer Trio featuring Nancy James, vocals. There will also be performances by jazz studies scholarship winner Tyler Marsh, piano, and his brother, Ethan Marsh on bass, and current scholarship winners Sam Breadon on guitar and Ziaire Sherman on baritone saxophone.

Hall of Fame members will be treated to the Philip Paul Trio in a reception for the inductees. Paul, of course, is the legendary session drummer for King Records.

Tickets help support the John DeFoor Jazz Master Classes at local high schools. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. 1-800-838-3006 or Support@brownpapertickets.com.

 

‘Classical Roots’ to explore Music Hall’s diverse history

Classical Roots Community Mass Choir
Photo provided

This year’s “Classical Roots” concert will explore Music Hall’s history as a gathering place for a wide spectrum of Cincinnati’s society.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s “Under One Roof,” led by Pops conductor John Morris Russell, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 20 in Music Hall. The program will illuminate Music Hall’s history — both as a great concert venue for the orchestra in the main hall and as a community gathering place that hosted many of the greatest jazz, soul, rock and R&B artists of the 20th century in the Greystone Club. Today that space in the South Hall is known as the Music Hall Ballroom.Read More »

‘Around Cincinnati Christmas’ to feature local celebs, Christmas music

Carmon DeLeone reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Around Cincinnati Christmas

A holiday tradition continues with the 13th annual Around Cincinnati special airing at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Here’s the lineup of stories and music from producer/host Lee Hay:

Readings:

A new reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” from the Cincinnati Ballet’s longtime conductor, Carmon DeLeone.

A new Memories from the Hills of Home story from Katie Laur.

Our theater contributor Rick Pender reads the story ‘Postage.”

CCM Professor Michael Burnham recites “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

Music:

The late Katie Reider’s beautiful rendition of “Silent Night.”

Rosemary’s Clooney’s iconic “White Christmas” is featured

Maysville, Kentucky native Rosemary Clooney‘s performance of “White Christmas.”

Native American musician Douglas Blue Feather performs “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

Local Grammy nominee Zak Morgan sings ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Hamilton, Ohio’s world group The Klaberheads perform their “Christmastime in Margaritaville.”

Cincinnati’s Keith Little (The Cincinnati Blues Man) with his rendition of “The Christmas Song.”

Adagio Trio (harp, flute, cello) performs “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

Finally, it’s the Steve Schmidt Organ Trio with “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

Around Cincinnati Christmas will air at 7 p.m. on December 24 on 91.7 WVXU, 88.5 WMUB, wvxu.org, and on the free WVXU mobile app.

Finding a niche: Memorial Hall’s Longworth-Anderson Series

The newly renovated Memorial Hall is a gem of a theater

The Memorial Hall Society’s Longworth-Anderson Series was such a hit last winter, it’s coming back for a second season. The winter lineup is impressive: Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos (Best Mexican-American/Tejano Music Performance), the all-girl folk band I’m With Her and country star Marty Stuart.

Longworth-Anderson has found a niche. Its concept is both diverse and non-traditional, presenting artists from multiple genres, including rock, pop, folk, bluegrass and jazz.  Last year, the series – held in Memorial Hall’s intimate jewel box of a theater — sold out four out of six events, held winter and spring.

Marty Stuart, Country Music Hall of Famer

Even though Rosanne Cash was a headliner, it wasn’t guaranteed that the fledgling series would take off. Read More »

Review: Pops’ American Originals looks back a century

Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers stole the show at the Pops. Lee Snow, photo

The Cincinnati Pops’ American Originals concert on Friday was a trip down memory lane to America’s musical roots a century ago.

For Vol. 2 of his Americana project, Pops maestro John Morris Russell brought together an eclectic  group  of guests, ranging from the sensational bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers to the extraordinary singer and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Rhiannon Giddens.

Like the first edition, the show was recorded live in Music Hall for an album on the Pops’ Fanfare Cincinnati label by the Grammy-winning producer Elaine Martone and engineer Michael Bishop.Read More »