Memorable afternoons at the Linton Music Series

Anthony McGill performing “Principal Brothers” No. 3 by James Lee III

The Linton Music Series presented two inspiring concerts this month in memory of founding artistic director Dick Waller. I want to share some terrific photos taken by Tina Gutierrez for Linton, along with a few thoughts about the programs.

Yesterday, Linton welcomed back an old friend, clarinetist Anthony McGill. The principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic started his career as a 21-year-old associate clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. McGill spoke a bit about Dick Waller, former CSO principal clarinetist, who “showed him the ropes” and shared many dinners with him.

McGill opened the program with a wonderful work by his friend, James Lee III, “Principal Brothers” No. 3. Each of Lee’s “Principal Brothers” series is dedicated to a symphony music who is Black and a principal player. No. 1 is a flute solo for Anthony’s brother, Demarre McGill, principal flute of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; No. 2 is for Titus Underwood, principal oboe of the Nashville Symphony; and No. 4 is for Bryan Young, principal bassoon of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. Lee’s three-movement piece for Anthony McGill was a ideal vehicle for the clarinetist’s beauty of line and expressive phrasing.

The remainder of the program consisted of two of the great clarinet quintets in music: Mozart’s Quintet in A Major, K. 581, and Brahms Quintet in B Minor. McGill was joined by Linton co-artistic directors Jaime Laredo, violinist, and Sharon Robinson, cellist, as well as violinist James Thompson and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt.

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Program announced: 30 YEARS OF STEPHEN Brings Broadway to CCM on Sept. 23 — Behind the Curtain Cincinnati

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music is thrilled to present a spectacular evening of music and stories, featuring our incredible students and a sampling of CCM’s most notable alumni. Join us for a front-row seat to the world premiere of 30 Years of Stephen: The Music of Stephen Flaherty at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Corbett […]

30 YEARS OF STEPHEN Brings Broadway to CCM on Sept. 23 — Behind the Curtain Cincinnati

Art of the Piano presents pianists, composers this month

Do you love piano music? Awadagin Pratt’s “Art of the PIano” Festival continues tonight with a recital by Conrad Tao at 7 p.m. in Werner Recital Hall at CCM. He is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and was named a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation.

His program is a combination of new music and classics:Read More »

New “Ascent” festival welcomes Cho-Liang Lin, Miró Quartet next week

Violinist Cho-Liang Lin

Alan Rafferty, a cellist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and CCM professor, is artistic director of a new, three-week festival, Ascent International Chamber Music Festival in Cincinnati. Alan tells me that 70 students have been at the festival, which is based at CCM, coming from all over the U.S.

In addition, there’s a concert series that continues this week, with three more concerts scheduled. The “headliners” include the renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin and the Miró Quartet.

Performances are in Werner Recital Hall at CCM, which has excellent acoustics.

Visit to read more. The concerts are ticketed — visit Event Brite to secure your tickets.

Miró Quartet

Here’s the lineup:Read More »

Ryan Speedo Green to make Cincy debut Sunday

Ryan Speedo Green, photo by jiyang chen

Last week, I had the privilege of talking to opera star Ryan Speedo Green about his upcoming appearance, 3 p.m. Sunday March 27 at the First Unitarian Church in Avondale, presented by Matinee Musicale.

Currently, he is singing his fifth production this season at the Metropolitan Opera, “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

He told me this inspiring story about his 4th-grade teacher, Elizabeth Hughes, who encouraged and believed in him and stayed in touch through thick and thin. I’ve been reading the excellent book about his life, “Sing For Your Life” by Daniel Bergner, and it’s detailed there.

But we touched on many other topics. He has been to Cincinnati before — to audition for graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. (He ended up going to Florida State University.) He’ll be giving a free master class at CCM on Saturday. And he has a brother in Dayton.

But he has never set foot in Music Hall.

Here’s a bit about Sunday’s program. He’s opening with the spiritual, “Deep River.” Besides some German lieder by Hugo Wolf and opera arias, he will be singing African American art songs.

“I love showcasing African-American music in a classical style. I will throw in spiritual because, obviously, it’s part of my history and part of African-American history,” he said.

“Then, German is sort of my lifeblood at the moment. It’s where I became a man and a musician in the opera world, living in Vienna. I been living in Europe for almost eight going on nine years, and (singing at) one of the greatest opera houses in Europe at the Wiener Staatsoper for five of those years. I learned so much from there, being immersed amongst the Austrian and German culture and really got to hone my German.”

Green will be singing Mahler, Wagner (an aria from “Der fliegende Holländer”) and one his favorite Verdi arias from “MacBeth.” And, we can expect a piece from one of his favorite oratorios, Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”

“I consider myself operatically a Verdi – Wagner singer,” he said. “I love Mozart. I love all of these composers. I’m going to give you a little bit of a taste of my future.

“I’m excited to showcase my gambit of musical styles.”

Tickets, $25, at or call 513-977-8838. Green also performs a free master class, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday March 26 in Werner Hall at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Hamilton County Commissioners and ArtsWave Announce COVID Relief Grants for Hard-hit Arts and Cultural Nonprofits

Melissa Gelfin De-Poli and Cervilio Miguel Amador dancing The Nutcracker from a previous Cincinnati Ballet season. Photography: Peter Mueller

Thanks to Covid-19, this has been a terrible time for everyone, including workers and performers in the arts, who have been among the hardest hit in the nation. And the new variants have not made their comeback any easier.

Hamilton County has teamed up with ArtsWave to announce that it will award $2 million in nonprofit arts and cultural grants funded through the County’s allocation of American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars.

The grants will be awarded to combat the negative economic impact of Covid-19 on the local arts community and to fuel the region’s economic restart. Links to the applications and funding guidelines are available on the County’s Covid relief site – and

The Covid-19 relief grants will cover costs incurred due to business disruption, in a two-year period in which performing arts venues and museums lost significant box office and admissions revenue. The grants can also cover costs of mitigation expenses for re-opening and adaptations required for digital programming. Total grant amounts will be based on operating revenue from the prior fiscal year.
ArtsWave will host a virtual information session on Wednesday, February 3, 2022, from 12–1 p.m. answering questions and outlining the eligibility and application process. To join the information session, visit and click on “Hamilton County ARP Arts and Culture Grants Information Session.”

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What a year! Looking back and ahead in the arts

View of the CSO performing a livestreamed concert in Nov. 2020

I’ll never forget the fear in the eyes of both performers and audience members in the first few live, indoor performances I saw in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. We were masked, spaced vastly apart and there was no intermission to avoid viral spread. Otherwise, many performances were livestreamed online, with musicians masked and separated by space and screens.

Then in 2021, as vaccines became available and theaters began to reopen to full audiences, there was elation and relief by many who were able to finally attend a show in person.

Every concert, play, ballet or art exhibition I attended in 2021 was deeply moving because it showed the perseverance of artists — indeed of all humanity — during this unprecedented time. I feel that we’ve come a long way.

Now, we are buffeted again by the Omicron variant. Just announced, there are at least two museum “pauses” (Cincinnati Art Museum is closed Jan. 3-12 and the Taft Museum of Art is closed Jan. 3-13).

“Hairspray” is postponed to a later date due to Covid in the cast.

There are also a few postponed performances. At the Aronoff Center, “Hairspray” scheduled to play January 4 – 9, 2022 is being rescheduled due to breakthrough positive Covid cases within the company of “Hairspray.” Ticket holders are encouraged to hold onto their tickets while the engagement is being rescheduled.

At Music Hall, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati is postponing its January 8 and 9 performances of “The Song Among Us” to a later date, to be announced. The release states that the postponement “is prompted by production challenges exacerbated by the recent rise in positive Covid cases across the nation.” Ticket holders may complete this form or call the box office at 513-381-3300 for ticket options, including donations, exchanges, and refunds.

I prefer to see the glass half full.  I believe we will get through this, and the arts will persevere.

Singers Michelle DeYoung and Sean Panikkar share bows in Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” with the CSO. (Photo by Lee Snow)

I wrote a list of some of my favorite performances in 2021 in a column for the Business Courier. My list begins with Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall last March, and ends with “The Marriage of Figaro” at CCM in November. I’d like to know some of yours, too. (Let me know here, or on Facebook.)

And looking ahead, here is my list of “best bets” in 2022. It’s really just a broad sweep — because there are so many chamber music, vocal concerts, art exhibitions and dance performances that have yet to be announced. I think we have a lot to anticipate.

Verdi’s opulent “Aida” will be presented at Cincinnati Opera in summer 2022. Photo courtesy of Opéra de Montréal, Yves Renaud

My November picks in classical music

CSO on opening night/photo provided by Hannah Kenney

Since the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra officially opened its subscription season this weekend (here’s the review), I decided to look at the arts calendar to see what musical performances I want to get on my November calendar.

Wow! I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of our performing arts are ramping up. My November calendar looks almost normal, which in Cincinnati means that you can be out every night of the week. So here are some of my picks.

Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. – At CCM, renowned Russian pianist and pedagogue Boris Berman performs a guest recital performance in Robert J. Werner Recital Hall. Admission: FREE.

Note: Find all CCM events and the calendar here.

Nov. 7, 4 p.m. — Linton Music Series “Pure Bach,” featuring violinist Jennifer Koh performing the solo violin works of Bach. First Unitarian Church. For tickets and program, click here.

Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m. – Ariel Quartet, CCM String-Quartet-in-Residence, continues its concert series with Lera Auerbach’s “Frozen Dreams,” which premiered in 2020, and Béla Bartók’s penultimate quartet, String Quartet No. 5.  Robert J. Werner Recital Hall
Tickets: Prices start at $29.50.

Daniil Trifonov in recital

Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov performs a recital at Music Hall, presented by the CSO. His program includes music by Karol Szymanowski, Debussy, Prokofiev and Brahms.

Note: For all CSO events and concerts, click here.

Nov. 11, 8 p.m. —Stephen Hough recital at Xavier. Hough is a longtime visitor to the Xavier Piano Series, and is something of a Renaissance man. This month, he graces the cover of BBC Music magazine. His program includes Schumann’s Kreisleriana, Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 and Hough’s own “Partitia.” It’s in Xavier’s Gallagher Center Theater on the XU campus. For tickets and info about the entire Xavier Music Series, click here.Read More »

Queen City Opera: Tchaikovky’s little known “Life” Symphony impresses

Isaac Selya led the Queen City Opera Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s rarely-heard Symphony No. 7

Isaac Selya, artistic director and conductor of Queen City Opera, is known for inventive productions, usually of lesser-known operatic repertoire. He often pairs operas with social issues. Even Act I from Wagner’s Walkure featured a partnership with Women Helping Women and a discussion about domestic abuse.

As the arts begin to emerge from Covid-19, it was a good time for Selya to present a non-operatic project. On Sept. 5 in Finneytown Performing Arts Center, he led a rare performance (and possibly the Midwest premiere) of Tchaikovsky’s unfinished Symphony No. 7 in E-flat Major, “Life.” Two excellent young opera singers, tenor M. Andrew Jones and soprano Raquel González, performed arias and scenes from Tchaikovsky’s operas “Eugene Onegin” and “Iolanta.”

Selya dedicated this program to all those who have died of Covid-19.Read More »

Musica Sacra to return to live concerts

Musica Sacra in a recording session for a livestream during Covid last season. The chorus will return to in-person performances.

As the nation reopens from a year of lockdowns, more choruses are announcing that they will be returning to live performances. Of course, during the pandemic, vocal music was considered the most deadly form of spreading the Covid-19 virus.

Musica Sacra, a 60-member chorus founded in 1965, joyfully returns for its 56th season, live and in person. This year, the chorus will also collaborate with the CCM Chorale in Patricia Corbett Theater on the UC campus.

After a year of virtual programming, this season will be emotional, said director Brett Scott.

“The selections across this season present a range of emotions that may echo what many experienced in the past year,” Scott said. “From the terrifying trumpets at the opening of our first selection, the Lord Nelson Mass, to the poignant chorales of the Christmas Oratorio that are contrasted with grand, exuberant chorus movements, to the exquisitely tender consolation that envelops you throughout the German Requiem, each of these masterworks speaks to the heart of the human experience. They are audience-pleasing works in the best sense of the word and we are thrilled that our audiences will be able to experience them with us this year.”Read More »