Chasing an orchestra around the world

img005I had to laugh when I stumbled upon Cincinnati Enquirer critic Henry Humphreys’ description of trying to catch up with the Cincinnati Symphony on its 1966 World Tour. The ’round-the-world tour was famously funded by the U.S. State Department, but apparently, they didn’t fund Henry’s trip… Because of journalistic standards, his — and my — employer has always paid the critic’s way. One of the most common assumptions I hear from readers is that the orchestra pays for and provides accommodations, etc., for the accompanying critic on tours.

Not so. Until about 10 years ago, I was not even allowed on the bus with musicians to get to concert halls in far-away foreign cities, and I always book my own flights and hotels. Once, I nearly missed a show in Vienna’s Musikverein when my connecting flight was canceled from Amsterdam. A flight attendant tracked down my luggage sitting on the tarmac, or it might still be there, and literally threw it on a plane they had found to take me to Wien… I have so many stories. But here’s Henry’s:

“Enquirer music critic Henry S. Humphreys barely made the delayed opening concert of the CSO world tour at Salonika. There was no space available on CSO flights from Athens to Salonika. No bus space. He was sold a train ticket, then thrown off the train because it was over-crowded. He returned to Athens airport, wrangled a seat near crew of plane which took off after a 55-minute argument about whether takeoff should be made. No hotel room in Salonika for Humphreys, so he located attic boarding house space. He could have used a fan — even a palm leaf one, he says.”


5 things to know about The Lego Batman Movie if you are 8 (or older)

Jack reviews The Lego Batman Movie, in theaters on Feb. 10.
Jack reviews The Lego Batman Movie, in theaters on Feb. 10.

Let’s be clear. If I didn’t have an 8-year-old to take me, I never would have gone to that advance screening of the new Lego Batman Movie. But I have to say that both Jack, who is a third-grader, and I thought the latest Lego movie was “awesome.” I admit I was skeptical about how entertaining a nearly two-hour movie filled with animations of superhero minifigs could be.

However, Jack — whose own tabletop explosion of Legos (er, sorry, Lego Bricks) rivals some of Gotham City’s worst scenes of destruction in the movie — was on the edge of his seat. Indeed, so were most of the adults in the room, who (when they weren’t laughing) were no doubt wishing they could put a few scenes on “pause” to get a better look. For instance, the lineup of Batman’s Bat-vehicles in his futuristic Batcave was truly impressive.

Even the credits were fun, with voices by actors such as Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Siri.  (I noticed quite a bit of Apple product placement, as well.)

I won’t divulge the plot. Suffice it to say that The Joker is up to his old tricks, and Batman, a real loner with several personality disorders, ultimately learns the meaning of family with his adopted son, Robin.

Jack’s review

Best part: That would be hard to tell. They were all really good. I would say the battle (in Gotham City). All the action was cool, and it was really funny.

Funniest joke: The password to Batcave.

Animation: It was really good. I don’t know how they did it. They probably just animated it, but they could have built it all out of Legos. But that would take forever.

What you need to know: It’s really good and it’s hilarious, and it has a great story-line. They added a bunch of superheroes and villains, and they also added villains from totally different places, like Harry Potter villains, sea monsters and King Kong.

Fun fact: They added a dark wizard, Voldemort from Harry Potter, and he actually yelled real curses, real Harry Potter spells.

Jack’s Rating: 5 stars


My last list … for now … of the best of 2016

636184558582936207-052816-May-Fest-08-1-.jpgIt seems that the end of a year always results in lists — looking back and looking ahead. And invariably, my list is different from your list. There were so many other great performances that I could have added here — the Polish Festival at CCM, the Ariel Quartet, the great jazz heard every week in our community, and the high-energy shows by John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops… not to mention the entire opening season this fall at the CSO, with Emanuel Ax, Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang, Gil Shaham and Branford Marsalis!

I loved it all. But here’s my column, in case you missed it, for better or worse. At the list’s end, I look back at two of the big stories in the arts that I covered, and look forward to the opening of Music Hall next October.

Continue reading

CCM E-Media Alumnus Nicholas Lipari Assistant Edits Latest Star Wars Film, ‘Rogue One’

Rogue One editor is one of CCM’s own…


CCM alumnus Nick Lipari. CCM alumnus Nick Lipari.

The force is strong with CCM alumnus Nicholas Lipari (BFA E-Media, 2012), who served as assistant editor on the latest film in the popular Star Wars saga, Rogue One! The blockbuster film opened on Dec. 15 with the biggest Thursday preview showing box office receipts of 2016, earning $29 million.

Although he may not be a Jedi (yet), Lipari is quickly making a name for himself in the film industry. “Nick is one of the youngest assistant editors in LA working at this level,” says CCM Professor of Electronic Media Kevin Burke. “The Assistant Editor works directly with the editor on the film,” Burke explains. Prior to his work on Rogue One, Nick served as the assistant editor on the recent live action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book.

This success comes as no surprise to Burke, as Lipari took top prizes in several national…

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Critic’s notebook: The chapter of the gods concludes

Here’s one of the performances I’ve been lucky to catch this fall in Cincinnati.

Soprano Mithra Mastropierro was superb as Brunnhilde
Soprano Mithra Mastropierro was superb as Brunnhilde

Last month, Queen City Chamber Opera mounted the final installment, Act III, of Wagner’s opera “Siegfried,” at the Dunham Performing Arts Center on the West Side. The performance, which was well attended on a bright Sunday afternoon, marked the first complete performance of “Siegfried” in Ohio in a century. (It was in collaboration with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati.)

(The first two acts were performed in the previous two years. It’s a rather epic way to perform a Ring Cycle… )

What is so remarkable about the efforts of the company’s founding music director Isaac Selya is the quality that he has been able to achieve on a shoestring. His orchestra — complete with five extraordinary horn players, harp and timpani — filled nearly half of the auditorium floor. Continue reading

Fanfare for the Common Man: Stories behind the story


img_7770I will never hear this piece quite the same way again. Writing about Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” was a fascinating journey that had several unexpected turns. First, I must thank my editor Amy Wilson, who asked a few months ago, “What about that Fanfare?” Thinking that everyone already knew all about it, I soon discovered that, no, that wasn’t the case. First of all, the CSO “commission” was honorary. Who knew that Copland wasn’t paid a dime to write it? The clincher was the date on the manuscript: Nov. 6, 1942. It might be a nice piece to run around election day, so I got to work. Continue reading

Ariel Quartet Concert Series Continues Oct. 25 at CCM

Second concert in Ariel’s series coming up!


After its stunning opening performance of the 2016-17 season in September, the Ariel Quartetreturns to CCM in concert at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25 in Corbett Auditorium with a program featuring the works of Mozart, Shostakovich and Dvořák. Tickets are available through the CCM Box Office.

The Ariel Quartet, string quartet-in-residence at CCM. The Ariel Quartet, string quartet-in-residence at CCM. Photo by Saverio Truglia.

The Ariel Quartet is comprised of Alexandra Kazovsky, violin; Amit Even-Tov, cello; Gershon Gerchikov, violin; and Jan Grüning, viola. Grand Prize winners at the 2006 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and 2014 recipients of the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award, the Quartet was formed in Israel 16 years ago and now serves as CCM’s distinguished string quartet-in-residence.

Cincinnati Enquirer writer Janelle Gelfand said nearly every seat in CCM’s Corbett Auditorium was filled for the Quartet’s Sept. 6 opening concert and praised the “vibrant” performance.

“I loved the…

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