A drum legend branches out… to piano

2003.0108.10.2--BLUE WISP--Steve Schmidt, piano, Larry Dixon, sax (center left), John Von Ohlen, drums, and Mike Sharfe, string bass play with the Blue Wisp Big Wednesday, January 8, 2003 at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club. Photo by Craig Ruttle/Cincinnati Enquirer
The jazz community hopes to raise $5,000 by Dec. 12 through Kickstarter to pay for studio and production costs for John Von Ohlen’s album, “The Pond.”

John Von Ohlen has recorded an album of piano musings — a surprise for someone who made his mark as drummer for Stan Kenton. Of course, we all know him as the co-founder and anchor of the Blue Wisp Big Band, which still plays every Wednesday night at the Urban Artifact in Northside.

“It’s not avant-garde or cutting edge, but it’s unique in the true sense of the word,” Von Ohlen says in an interview about his project on Kickstarter.

His original tunes are warm, lovely to hear and grounded in lush jazz harmonies. He also puts his own spin on a few standards. CCM jazz prof Kim Pensyl — himself a pianist, trumpeter, and prolific jazz recording artist — heard him play one day, and arranged to get him in the studio to record his collection.

Josh Moore is designing the cover art and a tee shirt featuring the famous cracked cymbal.

Now the jazz community is hoping to raise $5,000 by Dec. 12 through Kickstarter to pay for studio and production costs for the album, called “The Pond.”

Click here to make a pledge.




Helmut Roehrig founded music department at Xavier University

img_9071Helmut J. Roehrig established the music department at Xavier University, founded a chorus devoted to performing sacred masterpieces and was an accomplished organist. Music was his passion, but he never wanted accolades. Instead, said his friends and family members, it was his way of giving back.

“He brought out the best in everyone that he dealt with in any way,” said his wife of 54 years, Mary Evelyn Roehrig of Hyde Park. “Especially with people who never knew they could sing. They seemed to appreciate his striving for excellence, and he put his whole heart and soul into everything he did.”

Dr. Roehrig died on Nov. 6 at his home following a lengthy illness. He was 85.

Dr. Roehrig was born in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1932. In 1959, he traveled to Covington, KY, to become organist of St. Aloysius Church (now merged with Mother of God parish). He continued working there until he was able to pay back the parish for his ship fare, his wife said.Read More »

CSO shines in Paavo Järvi’s return

The CSO and Paavo Järvi, music director laureate, in Music Hall on Friday.

Music director laureate Paavo Järvi returned to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Friday, conducting for the first time in the all-new Music Hall.  It was just like old times. Well, almost.

Järvi’s energized leadership and a top-notch piano soloist, Alice Sara Ott, added up to a gripping program for the CSO’s first morning concert of the season. But even more uplifting than the performance was the sound that Järvi achieved in the hall.Read More »

CET Music Hall documentary to air Thursday

A few months ago, this was the view of the stage and orchestra pit.

Viewers will be able to go behind the scenes of Music Hall’s historic, $143 million renovation when CET debuts the documentary “Cincinnati Music Hall: The Next Movement,” 9 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 16) on CET.

Encore broadcasts will continue on CET and its sister channel CET Arts through November, including 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 19 on CET and 9 p.m. Nov. 20 on CET Arts. (See the full schedule at cetconnect.org/musichall.)

The documentary takes the viewer from the initial demolition  after the May Festival ended in May, 2016, to the opening weekend last month.

With co-producers Richard Wonderling and Don Hancock

In an interview earlier this fall, CET-TV documentary co-producers Don Hancock and Richard Wonderling said they aimed to film the construction site in all its grittiness, with dust and sparks, which would then dissolve away as people in opening-night attire arrived at the hall on opening night.

Above all, they tried to convey the special place that Music Hall holds in the hearts of generations of Cincinnati citizens, and its importance in the city’s historic and cultural life.

“Don and I needed a beauty shot of the grand chandelier in Springer Auditorium. We went up to the gallery and it was so silent – there was no one else in the house. It was almost spiritual. Just this pervading sense of beauty and tradition that stretched across time – across generations. Magnificent things happen at Music Hall, you just felt that. Vividly,” Wonderling said.

John Kiesewetter’s Media Beat review of the 60-minute documentary describes some of their fascinating discoveries as they filmed the 16-month project.


Review: Pops’ American Originals looks back a century

Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers stole the show at the Pops. Lee Snow, photo

The Cincinnati Pops’ American Originals concert on Friday was a trip down memory lane to America’s musical roots a century ago.

For Vol. 2 of his Americana project, Pops maestro John Morris Russell brought together an eclectic  group  of guests, ranging from the sensational bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers to the extraordinary singer and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Rhiannon Giddens.

Like the first edition, the show was recorded live in Music Hall for an album on the Pops’ Fanfare Cincinnati label by the Grammy-winning producer Elaine Martone and engineer Michael Bishop.Read More »

Barry Douglas to kick off extensive tour in Cincinnati

Irish pianist is in the midst of three “complete works” recording projects.

It’s been more than 30 years since Irish pianist Barry Douglas won the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. And his playing is as fresh and inspired as ever.

Take his latest album of Brahms piano pieces, his sixth CD in a collection of Brahms complete piano solo works for Chandos. Every piece is played as if a discovery. Douglas’ concept is to present each album as a recital.  Consequently, this album is vastly entertaining, from the opening Rokoczy March to the irresistible set of Hungarian Dances.

Douglas’ luminous touch is ideal in three Brahms’ studies, the composer’s arrangements of music by Chopin, Weber and Bach. But the most unforgettable are the pieces from Op. 76, which are rich with expressive beauty.

He kicks off an ambitious, five-week concert tour on Sunday at the Xavier Piano Series. Douglas performs at 2:30 p.m. in Gallagher Center Theater, Xavier University.

The pianist spoke by phone from Lurgan, Ireland. He and his wife had just enjoyed a fall day at Newgrange, a prehistoric monument on the River Boyne, a small break before getting on the plane Friday to Cincinnati.

Question: How extensive is your upcoming tour?

Answer: I will be gone for five-and-a-half weeks. I haven’t done a tour like that for a long time. I try to keep them around three weeks. I’ll be in the U.S., Canada and then I finish in China before Christmas. It’s mostly solo recitals, and I’m also playing with the Vancouver Symphony in November.

I’m going to be in the country for Thanksgiving, so I’m looking forward to that. It will be my second Thanksgiving, with friends in Fort Worth.Read More »

In memoriam Nancy Walker: Arts patron, influential classical music devotee

Nancy Walker with ClaireHuangci__ 2015
Nancy Walker shown with pianist Claire Huangci

Nancy Fuldner Walker was devoted to Cincinnati’s arts, with a special passion for Matinée Musicale.

An accomplished pianist, oboist and teacher, Mrs. Walker headed the 105-year-old music club for nearly five decades. During her tenure, Matinée Musicale presented a stellar roster of rising stars, thanks to her contacts with artist agents and her immense knowledge about the classical music industry.

“Walker was the heart and soul of Matinée Musicale, selecting music performers for recitals on their way to famous careers,” said Rick Pender, a theater critic and member of Matinée Musicale. “Her knowledge, judgment and great musical instincts sustained the organization at the forefront of local presenters for nearly half of its 105-year existence.”

Mrs. Walker died on Oct. 30 at Jewish Hospital. The longtime resident of Mount Lookout was 87.Read More »