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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Music of the season

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The Vocal Arts Ensemble

The holidays are upon us. You’ll find inspiring music in many of the region’s sacred spaces, as well as in the newly renovated Music Hall — now beautifully decorated for the holiday season. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite concerts coming up this month, and discovered a few new ones, too.Read More »

Levine’s May Festival appearance canceled amid sex abuse allegations

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James Levine. Photo courtesy of the Met Orchestra.

The Cincinnati May Festival has canceled the appearance of James Levine this May following allegations over the weekend of sexual misconduct that began in the 1960s.

The festival announced on Monday that the performance of Verdi’s Requiem will take place as scheduled on May 18, 2018. A replacement conductor will be announced at a future date.

The festival’s decision followed news that the Metropolitan Opera has suspended Levine after reports surfaced that he had allegedly molested at least three young men for years, according to the New York Times.

Levine, now 74 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, is a native of Cincinnati, where he began his musical training and was a graduate of Walnut Hills High School. He was scheduled to open the festival on May 18 with Verdi’s Requiem, a work that he conducted in New York on Saturday, which was broadcast live over public radio from the Met.

Levine was May Festival music director from 1973 to 1978. His last appearance at the festival was in 2005. His appearance was to have celebrated the return of the May Festival to Music Hall after its $143 million renovation.

The New York Post broke the news on Dec. 2 about a 2016 Illinois police report detailing the allegations of sexual abuse of a then-teenage musician in 1986, while Levine was music director at the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago. Peter Gelb, general director of the Met, told the New York Times that, at the time, Levine had denied the accusation and the Lake Forest Police Department did not follow up.

However, in graphic accounts reported by Michael Cooper in the Times online edition on Sunday, two more men have come forward to allege sexual misconduct with Levine when they were teenagers.

Levine is one of the most celebrated conductors in America. Salacious rumors have swirled around his private life for decades, but he has consistently denied any wrongdoing.  According the Times, Gelb said that the Met had investigated allegations twice previously during Levine’s 40-year tenure at America’s most important opera house.

Levine has been a beloved figure at the Met, where he has conducted more than 2,500 performances. Now confined to a motorized wheelchair after widely-publicized health problems, he stepped down to become music director emeritus last year.

The Met has canceled his upcoming conducting engagements.

CSO’s ‘Pictures’ impresses at Music Hall

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A large crowd was on hand to hear the popular “Pictures at an Exhibition”

A crowd-pleasing program and a rare trumpet soloist added up to an electric evening at the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra on Saturday.

Music Hall was fairly full for Saturday’s concert, which was highlighted in the second half by a magnificent performance of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in the well-known Ravel orchestration. There was also a remarkable performance by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, who made her Cincinnati debut in Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major.

But first, the program, led by guest maestro Andrey Boreyko, opened with another rarity: Stravinsky’s Funeral Song of 1908.  Read More »

Theater upgrades at CCM earn bravos

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Corbett Auditorium getting new seats, stage floor and carpeting. Photo courtesy of CCM

I decided to go to UC’s College-Conservatory of Music last night to see what kinds of renovation upgrades the arts and media school got for $15 million.

After hearing a vibrant performance of the CCM Wind Orchestra and Wind Ensemble in Corbett Auditorium — the official unveiling of the redo — here’s the verdict: The new seats are more comfortable, the new carpeting is attractive, sight lines are great and Corbett’s wonderful ambiance and fine acoustics have been carefully preserved.

Launched in spring of 2016, the $15 million project has benefited all of CCM’s performance venues, including Patricia Corbett Theater (which has newly refurbished seats and new HVAC systems), Cohen Family Studio Theater, Werner Recital Hall and Watson Hall.

Corbett Auditorium, though, has the most extensive updates. They include an all-new stage floor, a new main curtain and valence and new LED house lights. You’ll also find new ADA seating locations and a new assisted listening system.

With slightly larger seats (20 to 22 inches wide) and more leg room, the auditorium has lost a few seats, with capacity now around 669, says Ray Dobson, senior director of performance operations.

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Corbett now has comfortable, slightly larger seats and more leg room.

Behind the scenes, state-of-the-art upgrades won’t be immediately apparent to audiences, but will offer students the chance to work with the latest in theater technology.

“It was a big leap for us, but now we’re able to give students a solid foundation in what’s out there in new technology,” Dobson said during a pre-concert tour.Read More »

This just in: Grammy nominations tap CSO, The National and Fred Hersch

The CSO has been nominated for two Grammy Awards

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is up for two Grammy Awards for its groundbreaking album recorded live in Music Hall, Concertos for Orchestra. The orchestra, led by Louis Langrée, was nominated today for Best Orchestral Performance, as well as Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Zhou Tian’s score, which he called “a love letter” for the CSO.

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch is nominated — twice — for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his latest album, Open Book, a lush, ravishing collection of solo piano improvisations. And his tune “Whisper Not” on the same album is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

The National, the band whose members grew up in Cincy, is up for Best Alternative Music Album for Sleep Well Beast.

Of note to opera lovers, the great Siberian baritone who just died, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, was also nominated for Sviridov: Russia Cast Adrift with the St. Petersburg State Symphony, for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. See the complete list here.

The Grammys will air live on CBS from Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sunday, Jan. 28.