CSO, Pops nominated for two Grammy Awards

Both the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Pops are in the list of 2020 Grammy nominations released today by the Recording Academy. And there are several other Cincinnati-tied nominations this year, too.

Music director Louis Langrée, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra are nominated for Best Orchestral Performance for “Transatlantic.” This album includes the world premiere recording of the critical edition of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The CSO also gave the world premiere performance of this new edition at La Seine Musicale in Paris in 2017.

The award goes to both the conductor and to the orchestra.

And John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops, as well as producer Elaine Martone, are nominated for “American Originals 1918” in the category of Best Classical Compendium. Performers on the album include collaborators Rhiannon GiddensSteep Canyon Rangers and Pokey LaFarge.

Other local ties include violinist Tessa Lark, who studied at CCM, for her recording of Torke’s “Sky” Violin Concerto with David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony, in the category of Best Classical Instrumental Solo.

Cincinnati-born jazz pianist extraordinaire Fred Hersch has received yet another nod for Best Instrumental Composition for “Begin Again” on the album, Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band” conducted by Vince Mendoza.

And from Northern Kentucky University, the recording of a composition by NKU School of the Arts faculty member Kurt Sander, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, is nominated for Best Choral Performance. The double-CD set features the PaTRAM Institute Singers led by Peter Jermihov, conductor. The 90-minute piece is one of the first English-language settings of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

And two choral conductors associated with the Vocal Arts Ensemble are up for Best Choral Performance: Craig Hella Johnson and Donald Nally.

Other names spotted:

Blanton Alspaugh, producer of the Vocal Arts Ensemble’s “Canticle” – released on the CSO’s Fanfare Cincinnati label – as well as Sander‘s The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom, is nominated for “Producer of the Year, Classical.”

In the same list, under nominated producer James Ginsburg, I spotted brothers Anthony McGill, clarinetist, and Demarre McGill, flutist and CCM professor… 

In memoriam Peggy Kite

Peggy Wulsin Kite, who grew up during the golden era of the Baldwin Piano Co., which her family owned, passed away yesterday. She had recently suffered from pneumonia.

Mrs. Kite, who still played on one of the two Baldwin pianos in her Montgomery living room, was born in Cincinnati in 1928. She spoke about growing up in her grandparents’ mansion, which sat on 24 acres on Madison Road, and sliding down the banister when the adults weren’t looking. Several years ago, she wrote an extensive personal memoir entitled “The Piano Maker’s Daughter” about her life as the daughter of Lucien Wulsin II, the chief executive of Baldwin, then America’s largest piano company. One of seven children, she liked to say that she was “Opus 6” of the family brood.

She attended Mills College in Oakland, California and knew the Darius Milhauds like family — a relationship that began with Baldwin. Mrs. Kite was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Here’s a link to the in-depth article I wrote for the Enquirer, with several videos and historic company photos from Cincinnati Museum Center.

About two years ago, I was contacted by a Japanese concert manager, Shoji Sato, regarding an upright Baldwin piano that had survived Hiroshima. They wanted to share a story with Mrs. Kite about the piano and its former owner, and news that an album — “Music for Peace” — had been made on the piano by the American virtuoso Peter Serkin. She was slightly amazed (as was I) and delighted to hear about it. She graciously agreed to be interviewed by NHK World Television to give her opinion of the project. I helped facilitate that interview from Japan with my iPhone as she sat in her kitchen. Here’s the story.

Mostly, I remember Peggy as a warm, unassuming person who loved and supported classical music and all of Cincinnati’s cultural organizations. I never saw her without a smile on her face, and we shared many interesting conversations. I will miss bumping into her at Music Hall.

A memorial service will take place 10:30 a.m. Nov. 23 at the Indian Hill Church, 6000 Drake Road.

Memorial donations may be made to Camp Wekandu, Attn: Daniel Lovell, Division of Rheumatology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 3333 Burnet Ave., MLC 4010, Cincinnati 45229-3039; or to Matinee Musicale Cincinnati, P.O. Box 75197, Fort Thomas, KY, 41075-9998.

New Horizons Band celebrates 20th anniversary with fanfare

New Horizons Concert Band celebrates 20 years today.

New Horizons Band of Cincinnati has a proud history. Today, the band will celebrate 20 years in a special concert, 3 p.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 8221 Miami Ave. in Madeira.

The group started in 1999 with about six musicians, launched by Pete Metzger, the organization’s first musical director. Metzger’s background includes playing French horn in the United States Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland, and teaching for 30 years in the Sycamore School District. The band has grown to 65 today, with multiple conductors and instructors. It is geared to seniors of any skill level.

In today’s concert, a special guest conductor, Dr. Roy Ernst, the founder of the New Horizons Music Program and professor emeritus at the Eastman School of Music, will lead band members in a Vaughan Williams selection, Flourish for Wind Bands.

In addition, David Shaffer, noted international composer and arranger, has written a piece especially for the occasion, Fanfare Cincinnatus, and will conduct the band in its first public performance. He has been associated with Miami University Marching Band, Wyoming High School String Orchestra, and many other organizations.

Also conducting will be founder and first conductor Pete Metzger, in addition to Jack Conway, Bruce Knapp, and Susan Schirmer, the band’s three current conductors.

The concert is free, and there will be refreshments.

Incidentally, they always welcome new members. Feel like taking out that old horn? Tailored for seniors, but open to all, the concert band helps men and women enjoy the fun of making music together. For Information call 513-793-0473. For more info about today’s concert and more, visit newhorizonsbandcincinnati.org.

Star violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter speaks out about Cincinnati incident

Anne-Sophie Mutter with the CSO and guest maestra Eun Sun Kim/photo by Lee Snow

The cellphone incident at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has traveled around the classical music world. Last week, the New York Times interviewed Anne-Sophie Mutter for an article about cellphones interrupting live performances, both music and theater.

Apparently the young woman who was recording her entire performance from the front row-center seat of Music Hall was using two smartphones and a power bank.Read More »

The season is off and running

Louis Langre and Katia and Marielle Labque with the CSO


I’ve heard some wonderful concerts this month, starting with Damon Gupton’s debut as the new principal guest conductor of the Pops in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” It was fun to revisit the movie, but even better to hear the sound of John Williams’ score performed live in Music Hall. Gupton was a terrific host, and an engaging conductor. I couldn’t believe the cheers when the movie ended, and he launched into the “encore” — Williams’ orchestral suite from “Star Wars.” From my perch in the gallery, the brass sounded superb. See what the TV-movie star had to say before the concert about his new gig by clicking here.

John Morris Russell conducted the official opener of the Pops season, a stellar show with “Hamilton” star Renée Elise Goldsberry. Read the review here.

And the CSO also had an electric launch to the season, with Louis Langrée, the Labèque Sisters and a new concerto written for them by The National’s Bryce Dessner. Here’s my interview with Bryce.

What did you think? Here’s the review.

New security at Music Hall

Music Hall also debuted new security, with metal detectors in use for the first time. As far as I could tell, everything went smoothly.

Remember, the Arts Front at bizjournals.com/Cincinnati — the Cincinnati Business Courier — is free to read. You may need to sign up for a FREE subscription.

In memoriam Christopher Rouse

American composer Christopher Rouse

Publisher Boosey & Hawkes has just announced that American composer Christopher Rouse died today at age 70 in Baltimore.

His final work, Symphony No. 6, will have its world premiere on October 18-19 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Louis Langrée.

A prolific composer of a wide range of acclaimed chamber and ensemble works, Christopher Rouse built a legacy as one of America’s greatest orchestral voices. His catalog of influential works is marked by extreme emotional depth and colorful orchestration, and reflected his insatiable curiosity for music from across Western music history to popular rock.Read More »