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 »

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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 »

Thanks for the memories

It’s been a privilege. I can truthfully say I have loved every minute of writing about the arts in Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I am thankful to you, the readers of both print and digital, the people who have called me, written letters, followed me on social media, come up to me at Music Hall to say hello or to talk about music, and who have taken my OLLI class, “Behind the Scenes in the Arts.”

It has been a wonderful, totally unexpected ride that became 26 years almost overnight.

From the first day that I walked into the newsroom, never having taken a journalism course, I was starstruck by the people who worked there. What talent and creativity! In those days, I filed a review right after the symphony concert on Friday nights, which meant I raced to my car behind Music Hall, tore Downtown to the Enquirer building while forming the opening lines in my head, and wrote on a deadline of 45 minutes with a copy desk editor barking, “Where’s that review?” Loved those late-night editors, who would fix my typos and write the headlines. The best one described a pianist, to be nameless here, who slogged through a bizarre performance of Rach 2: “(Pianist) phones it in — From Mars.” I was usually home by 2 a.m. and the review was in the morning paper.

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With James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall, May 2014; photo provided by Spring for Music, Steve Sherman

But besides the reviews, I have loved writing stories about people. Sometimes I think that the whole artistic world has passed through Cincinnati. I’ve interviewed and met opera stars, violin legends, conductors, composers, crooners, rockers and movie stars. I couldn’t believe going backstage at the Met to interview Cincinnati’s own James Levine, who had pictures of his childhood home behind his desk. He knew everything happening in the Queen City. His mother, Helen, it turned out, had been sending him all of my clippings.

Then there was Rosemary Clooney. Driving down to Augusta, Kentucky, with photographer Craig Ruttle to spend time in her home was unforgettable. Later, John Kiesewetter, Jim Knippenberg and I covered her funeral. Yes, there were Hollywood stars. But more touching were the folks of Maysville who came out to bring their “girl singer” back home.

janelle.and.peter
With rocker Peter Frampton in his studio at his Indian Hill home talking about his gig with the Pops.
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With Rosemary Clooney and her husband, Dante DiPaolo

When Erich Kunzel died in 2009, I was proud that Reds announcer Marty Brennaman mentioned during the game the next day that The Enquirer had done a nice job on his obituary.  Early that morning, I was interviewed on NPR about the Cincinnati Pops maestro, and the force of nature that he was. And about a week later, I was on tour in Japan with the CSO.  On a day off at the mountainous shrine of Nikko, a man in my tour group said as we ate lunch, “Cincinnati. I heard you just lost a conductor there.” He’d heard my interview, 6,000 miles away.Read More »

A jazzy, joyful premiere

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich/photo by Bill Keefrey
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich/photo by Bill Keefrey

“I don’t like the ivory tower,” said Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. “When I’m writing for musicians, I can hear them in my head.”

Indeed, there was no “ivory tower” here. On Sunday, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer was in the house — First Unitarian Church, home of the Linton Music Series — to hear the world premiere of her delightful “Pas de Trois,” honoring the 40th anniversary of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, to whom the piece is dedicated. It was her sixth piece for the ensemble: Pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinst Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson.

Her Piano Trio marked their 10th anniversary, and she has also written a Double Concerto (violin and cello), a Triple Concerto, a Septet and a Quintet for the musicians:

Creator and performers discuss their longtime collaboration.
Creator and performers discuss their longtime collaboration.

Admitting that she had “butterflies,” Zwilich said “When there’s a commission, I feel like people are betting on me, and that inspires me…. This is not my piece. This is their piece. Performance breathes life into music.”Read More »

How do you find things to do?

Dancers from Cincinnati Ballet
Dancers from Cincinnati Ballet

A reader asked me recently if there’s an easy way to find things to do — events such as concerts or plays. It’s an ongoing dilemma. Everyone seems to have their own calendar. I cobbled together a few ideas for him, but I wonder if there are other ways. Let me know!

The Enquirer’s calendar will send you a weekly “things to do” newsletter if you sign up here: https://account.cincinnati.com/newsletters. Also check cincinnati.com/thingstodo for daily ideas.

The glossy free magazine Movers & Makers has a very good monthly arts calendar, online and in free copies: moversmakers.org/

ArtsWave has a new guide that is pretty good. You need to scroll through it: http://www.cincyartsguide.com/

Cincinnati’s Chamber Music Network: sends you an e-mail if you sign on: chambermusicnetwork.org.

Got more? Let me know at jgelfand@enquirer.com or post it here! Thanks!