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.

Baroque Violin Shop owner Paul Bartel was an enthusiastic ambassador for music

Paul Bartel playing his Stradivarius violin, made in 1680

Paul Bartel was passionate about strings and equally passionate about sharing his love of classical music with students. The violinist, music educator, owner of the Baroque Violin Shop and founder of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center is remembered by Cincinnati’s music community as being generous, humble and always supportive.

‘He was a guy who was larger than life, always giving, always caring, always seeming to have boundless energy,” said Milan Dukic, executive director of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center since 2008. “In the early days of the center, if there was a shortfall, Paul wrote a check. He believed in the mission of having a community center and of having kids learn music.”

Mr. Bartel died on July 27 after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.

Mr. Bartel often spoke about how playing the violin in school became the inspiration for what he would become, Dukic said.

He was born in Columbus, OH. A 1972 graduate of Miami University, Mr. Bartel taught violin students and repaired instruments on the side while still a student in Oxford, OH. He taught strings at Finneytown School District for seven years, continuing to repair musical instruments in his spare time.

Paul Bartel in his workshop at the Baroque Violin Shop

With a vision to support young string players and school music programs by providing high quality instruments at low cost, he resigned from teaching to devote himself full-time to the Baroque Violin Shop, then in his Finneytown home.

As the business expanded, Mr. Bartel purchased the historic, 1805 Carrie-Jessup House in Finneytown in 1990, and spent six months restoring it. Over the years, the shop’s musical instrument rentals, repairs and sales have boomed, making the business one of the largest in the country, with a substantial inventory of stringed instruments.

The shop rents and sells violins, violas, cellos and basses to thousands of students and professionals in 50 states. There are 7,000 to 9,000 rental instruments in use at any given time, said CFO Stephen Heck, Mr. Bartel’s son-in-law.

“What I really respected about him was that he was quiet about his generosity. Most things people never knew about, because he didn’t want himself to be a focus,” Heck said. “He never did things to enhance his business. That was only secondary and never the focus.”Read More »

Arts in the news… Barbara Kellar honored; Louis Langrée extends Mostly Mozart

I’m catching up with arts news in a busy summer. Here are a few highlights:

Cincinnati MacDowell Society members Janet McDaniel (President), MacDowell Medal honoree Barbara Kellar with her husband, Larry Kellar.

In 1916, Cincinnati MacDowell Society began awarding the MacDowell Medal to an outstanding local artist for his or her contribution to the fine arts in the community. At the society’s annual meeting last month, this year’s medal was awarded to Barbara Kellar, for receiving a 2018 Regional Emmy for her CET show, “Showcase with Barbara Kellar,” as well as for her service to MacDowell. She is a past CMS president.

The portrait was painted by member Setsuko LeCroix as a personal surprise for Barbara. The medal, by the way, was designed by sculptor, member and past president, Ernest Bruce Haswell.

Louis Langrée 
Photo: Chris Christodoulou

Louis Langrée extends contract at Mostly Mozart: Music director Louis Langrée, who leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, has extended his contract with Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival through the summer of 2023. He has directed the New York festival since 2003, making 2023 his 21st season. The announcement was made by artistic director Jane Moss on the eve of the 2019 festival earlier this month.

Now in his 17th season, Langrée is credited with expanding the scope of the chamber orchestra’s repertoire well beyond the classical period, from Baroque composers such as Jean-Baptiste Lully to composers of today such as Magnus Lindberg. He has just finished conducting a run of the Barrie Kosky and Berlin Komische Oper production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” — a first for Mostly Mozart — at the David H. Koch Theater.Read More »

Impressive musical lineup to benefit Literacy Council

Lit_Council1 image 2019Next Sunday, June 23, an impressive lineup of local classical musicians will come together for a concert to benefit the Literacy Council of Clermont & Brown Counties. Reach for the Stars will take place at 4 p.m. June 23 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park.

Spearheaded by Suzanne Bona, host of the nationally broadcast public radio program “Sunday Baroque” and an accomplished musician, the concert aims to raise awareness and funds for adult literacy.

“With the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we thought it would be fun to feature music with astronomical themes such as Holst’s ‘Mars’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata,” said Bona. “Plus, Reach for the Stars is what the clients of the Literacy Council do every day as they open up the world of possibilities reading can bring.”Read More »

Vocal pyrotechnics by Roomful of Teeth at May Festival

Roomful of Teeth played the Woodward Theater for the May Festival. Photo provided/Lee Snow

It’s hard to categorize Roomful of Teeth, a vocal octet that calls itself a “vocal project.” On Wednesday, the singers — Abigail Lennox and Martha Cluver, sopranos; Alexandra Colaizzi and Virginia Kelsey, altos; Eric Dudley, tenor (former assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra); Avery Griffin, baritone; Thann Scoggin, bass-baritone, and Cameron Beauchamp, bass — amazed a sold-out house with their vocal pyrotechnics at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine.

There were about 150 music lovers, with a space for standing room, for this sold-out “extra” concert, a first at the 146-year-old Cincinnati May Festival.

It’s safe to say that their style of singing is unusual, if not revolutionary. Their musical palette — some of which was showcased in their first number, Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices — included whispering, throat singing, bending of tones, yodeling and possibly some Bulgarian belting, one of their specialties. It was performed with amplification, but nothing, I’m told, was electronically manipulated — which made the feats they achieved even more stunning.Read More »

Music Hall arts groups, FC Cincinnati pledge “good faith” agreement

A recent acoustical study determined that crowd noise from the FC Cincinnati stadium will infiltrate Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium, where concerts by the CSO, Opera, Ballet and others are held.

For the past week, there have been minute-by-minute reports on how the new $250 million stadium for FC Cincinnati will impact Music Hall, its tenants, and Cincinnati Ballet, which has its headquarters at Liberty and Central Parkway.

I’m publishing the statement from arts groups that arrived in my inbox today. For more, Chris Wetterich at the Business Courier is covering all the news at To read the latest news about City Council postponing its vote on FC Cincinnati’s development plan, click here.


This morning the Arts Organizations entered into an agreement of cooperation and support with FC Cincinnati regarding specifically the relationship between the new stadium and Music Hall. The Parties in regard to Music Hall and Stadium Operations have agreed to work together as good neighbors and in good faith on concerns related to noise, parking, traffic, and scheduling. Our collective goal is to minimize the number of occasions where performances at Music Hall occur at the same time as FC Cincinnati home games, and to minimize the impact of the stadium’s noise on Music Hall on the occasions when there are simultaneous events.

Specifically, this will include minimizing the stadium’s noise impact on Music Hall through stadium design and other sound mitigation measures at Music Hall. Regarding parking, if FC Cincinnati manages the Town Center Garage on game days starting in March of 2021 per an agreement with the City of Cincinnati, the team has committed to making a substantial amount of parking in that garage available to audience members attending performances at Music Hall when games overlap with performances. To be clear, this agreement does not speak to the ongoing negotiations between Cincinnati Ballet and FCC regarding the Ballet Center.

A rendering of the stadium site on the West End near Central Parkway/courtesy Business Courier