How’s your musical memory? A Q&A with Music Hall acoustician Paul Scarbrough

Music Hall has new acoustical treatments, such as these new “clouds” overhead.

Acoustic: əˈko͞ostik/ (plural acoustics): “The properties or qualities of a room … that determine how sound is transmitted.” (

In the words of the dean of acoustics, Leo Beranek, acoustics is “the science of sound.” Things such as resonance, frequency (pitch), amplitude, wave reflections and delay times affect how we hear music, he writes in  “How they Sound: Concert and Opera Halls.”

Music Hall, formerly made of wood and plaster-over-brick, now has concrete floors, walls moved inward and a stage that is now 12 feet closer to the audience. A few days before it reopened after its $143 million renovation, I met with acoustical consultant Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks in Springer Auditorium to  find out how he and colleague Chris Blair have been making acoustical adjustments to what is now a new concert “hall within a hall.”

Question: Music Hall has very good acoustics, and you’ve said that your goal is to build on that. Now, how has the sound of the hall changed?Read More »


Classical notes: Arts news around town

Young Professionals Choral Collective performing at Rhinegeist Brewery. Provided: YPCC

Innovative OTR chorus to host national directors, singers:  The Young Professionals Choral Collective (YPCC), the innovative local choir that is led by KellyAnn Nelson, plans to  bring together more than 150 young professionals and choir directors from across the country for a weekend of song and exploring the “City that Sings.”

The event, Oct. 21-22, will share the innovative choral collective model with national choral leaders.

YPCC artistic director KellyAnn Nelson

What makes this choir so special? The group appeals to 20-to-40-somethings who love to sing and socialize — sometimes simultaneously.  They rehearse, perform concerts and — yes, party too — in bars, breweries and other alternative venues in the OTR area. The chorus is diverse, with as many men as women. They perform demanding literature, and do it well. Since Nelson founded it in 2012, membership has swelled to more than 900.Read More »

Review: Pops ‘Star Wars’ show is glorious tribute to John Williams

a multi-generational crowd filled Music Hall for the “Star Wars” show at the Pops. Mark Lyons, photo.

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, John Williams composed the first soundtrack for “Star Wars.” That collaboration with George Lucas  (later subtitled “A New Hope”) launched one of the most successful  space epic film series of all time.  Today, it’s hard to imagine these space odysseys where aliens and humanoids coexist with robotic droids without Williams’ thrilling symphonic scores.

On Friday, Williams’ music, famous for its big brass and sweeping strings, took the starring role, as John Morris Russell led the Cincinnati Pops in a retrospective of some of the Hollywood legend’s greatest themes. The second half of the program was entirely devoted to the “Star Wars” franchise, while the first sampled from other films, such as “Harry Potter” and “E.T.”

It was the Pops’ first performance in Music Hall following a $143 million renovation that has updated the 140-year-old building and completely reconfigured the orchestra’s home in Springer Auditorium. A multi-generational, sold-out crowd filled the hall. In the new Pops configuration, it seats nearly 2,500. (A few tickets might be available for Sunday’s show.) Read More »

Don’t miss BLINK

BLINK Parade
Example of a parade such as will be seen at BLINK tonight at 7 p.m. Photo provided

BLINK starts tonight with a parade from Findlay Market to Washington Park in OTR. What exactly is BLINK? Think Lumenocity on steriods. The four-night event, 7 p.m. to midnight each night, is a spectacle of light “projection mapping,” art installations, lighted displays, Cincinnati’s famous murals “painted” with light, and much more, along the path of the Cincinnati Bell Connector. There will be interactive displays for “hands-on” participation as well as live entertainment all along the 3.6 mile streetcar line, from Findlay Market to The Banks.

And it’s all free.

“It’s shaped around unity and the values we hold as a community,” says Timothy Maloney, president & CEO of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, founding sponsor.

But with 60 attractions spanning 20 city blocks, you need a plan. Take it all in (or parts of it over a few days) by planning dinner, drinks or a performance in tandem. I plan to go the Cincinnati Pops season opener in the newly renovated Music Hall — which is incidentally right across the street from many of the attractions, and right on the streetcar line. I might decide to just jump on the streetcar and hop on and off.

Click here to see the map or download the event guide.

However you decide to see it, you can be sure that BLINK will be like nothing Cincinnati has ever seen.


Review: First impressions of Music Hall

img_8959“CINCINNATI – A $143 million renovation of the National Historic Landmark pushed the orchestra forward, narrowed the room, and cut 1,000 seats. In the Cincinnati Symphony’s homecoming, the acoustics were still a work in progress.”

Read my first impressions of Music Hall’s acoustics by clicking here:  “Old is New Again in Cincinnati’s Reborn Music Hall” at Classical Voice North America, journal of the Music Critics Association of North America.

img_8950I went back on Saturday for the free Community Open House, and was amazed to see thousands of people of all ages and some with strollers and wheelchairs, pouring through the doors and visiting every nook and cranny of the hall. Read More »

Take a tour of Music Hall with Janelle

Take a sneak peek of Music Hall in my personal tour of what you’ll see in the newly renovated lobby and Springer Auditorium.


The ribbon was cut at Music Hall this morning, to the applause of about 100 donors and supporters on the front steps. During speeches praising those who spearheaded, shepherded and paid for the 16-month, $143 million renovation, there were a few notable quotes:

“Music Hall is no longer endangered. It has been saved.” — Joe Rudemiller of 3CDC

“This building is a testament and a monument to everyone who built this city.” — Rep. Bill Seitz. Majority Leader, Ohio House of Representatives, adding that the state pitched in $30.5 million, including a onetime historic tax credit of $25 million.Read More »

Big weekend

IMG_8934I was happy to be invited to appear on a podcast for WCPO’s “Hear Cincinnati” with host Meghan Wesley Thursday to talk about all of the activities this weekend surrounding the opening of Music Hall after its 16-month, $143 million renovation.

The Music Hall segment is about 27 minutes into the podcast. Listen here.

Listen Friday when I visit 91.7 WVXU at 1 p.m., for “Cincinnati Edition.”

And speaking about events, you can find the lineup of free performances and tours during the FREE community open house at Music Hall, starting with a ribbon-cutting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at You’ll also catch lots of free performances in Washington Park.

And be sure to take a stroll around the neighborhood to see the newly renovated Memorial Hall, the brand-new Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater and recently expanded Ensemble Theatre. All will be open and offer tours and more.

To save you time,  here’s Saturday’s lineup:Read More »