May Festival in full swing

View of the stage on Opening Night at the May Festival

Here are last weekend’s reviews:

Friday night’s review of Mark Simpson’s “The Immortal” is published on the national website, Classical Voice North America, free to read by clicking here.

And Saturday’s review is published locally by the Cincinnati Business Courier. Remember that the Arts Front is always free, but you may need to register for a FREE subscription. Click here for the review, and click here to read the season preview.

Tonight, May 23: Craig Hella Johnson leads Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble in a performance of his own oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shepard.” The work provides “a space for reflection, consideration and unity around (Matthew Shepard’s) life and legacy,” Johnson says. Rod Caspers, stage director. 7 p.m., Corbett Auditorium, CCM. (Note the show is moved from PCT due to ticket demand.)

Herald trumpets hail the season

Friday, May 24: Music director laureate James Conlon returns to the Festival for the first time since 2016 to lead Mussorgsky’s Prologue and Farewell Scene from “Boris Godunov,” Boito’s Prologue from “Mefistofele” and Mahler’s “Das Klagende Lied,” with soloists Morris Robinson, Sarah Vautour, Taylor Raven, Richard Trey Smagur, John Siarris and Donnie Ray Albert. Conlon gives the preconcert lecture at 7 p.m. in Springer Auditorium.

NOTE THE EARLY START TIME, Saturday, May 25: Juanjo Mena leads J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” with soloists Berit Norbakken Solset, Carlos Mena, Werner Güra, James Newby, Andrew Stenson and Hanno Müller-Brachmann and the May Festival Youth Chorus.  7 p.m., Music Hall (Note the early start time).

And here’s the review of the second weekend.

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 bizjournals.com/cincinnati. To read the latest news about City Council postponing its vote on FC Cincinnati’s development plan, click here.

JOINT STATEMENT FROM CINCINNATI ARTS ASSOCIATION, MUSIC HALL RESIDENT PERFORMING ARTS ORGANIZATIONS, and MUSIC HALL REVITALIZATION COMPANY

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

Choral couple to leave area as Christopher Eanes takes on role at National Cathedral

Christopher Eanes. Courtesy of the Cathedral Choral Society

Christopher Eanes has been appointed the executive director of the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, KellyAnn Nelson announced the end of their tenures as co-directors of the Cincinnati Boychoir on Facebook on Monday night. Eanes will also be departing Collegium Cincinnati, the ensemble he founded at Christ Church Cathedral.

Nelson, founding director of the Young Professionals Choral Collective, will continue her role with YPCC through the 2019-20 season. She grew the group of singers — all busy young professionals in the Cincinnati area — from a few who came together to sing in a bar in Dec. 2011 to a roster of more than 1,200 singers who perform concerts and sing carols city-wide.Read More »

Scot Woolley was a multi-talented performer and mentor to many

Scot Woolley at the keyboard with his brother, CSO violinist Stacey Woolley

Scot Woolley will be remembered as one of Cincinnati’s brightest stars and an indispensable member of the region’s arts community from Northern Kentucky to Dayton.

He was a gifted pianist, singer, conductor, arranger, dancer and composer who worked around the world. He was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a faculty member at Wright State University, where he was music director and voice instructor.

Mr. Woolley died on Jan. 26 after suffering a medical emergency while driving to his Westwood home. He was 60.

“A terrible void has been left and nobody can fill it,” said his brother, Stacey Woolley, a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “Scot really revered the Great American Songbook and the old Broadway. He loved Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. He revered the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and the high bar that was set by the MGM Studio. That’s what he tried to pass along to the generation that followed, that you must look back and understand that you’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.”Read More »

Year in review: Great performances of 2018

It’s always revealing to look back at the best things I saw – and heard — over the year. Cincinnati audiences heard memorable performances, musical rarities and world premieres. There were also some musical milestones, such as the Cincinnati May Festival’s first concert conducted by a woman. Here are a few of my personal favorites from 2018.

Jamie Barton red dress sm
The incomparable Jamie Barton

In January, a rare recital: Jamie Barton and pianist Kathleen Kelly launched their road tour in the Queen City with the recital that they performed in December at Carnegie Hall. The recital tour was part of a big season for the mezzo-soprano, who was honored with the 2017 Beverly Sills Artist Award by the Metropolitan Opera. Her program was a journey of discovery — with many unexpectedly delicious moments. That was partly because, in a rare occurrence on concert stages today, fully half of her program consisted of music by women: Elinor Remick Warren, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Amy Beach and Libby Larsen.

Presented by the venerable, 105-year-old music club Matinée Musicale, the event was held at the beautifully-restored, circa-1908 Memorial Hall in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine historic district.  Its 550-seat theater was packed to the rafters.Read More »

‘Tis the season…. for sing-along Messiahs

Butler Philharmonic and Chorus, Paul John Stanbery, music director

Performances of Handel’s Messiah are among the best-loved traditions of the holiday season. This year, there are several to choose from, for singers and listeners alike.

The Majesty of Christmas — The sing-along Messiah by the Butler Philharmonic and Chorus on Friday, Dec. 7, might be the region’s largest. Music director Paul John Stanbery says their first Messiah last year drew 1,000. It’s so popular, “we might need to do it twice,” he says.

Stanbery has assembled a fine cast of soloists: Soprano Jennifer Cherest, mezzo Kaylee Nichols, baritone Tom Dreeze and tenor Scott Wyatt. They’ll be performing the Christmas portion, plus selected arias and of course, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Oh, and you won’t need to bring your own score, unless you want to. The chorus parts will be shown on two giant video screens. There will be designated areas for singers by type: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.Read More »