French strike impacts CSO concerts this weekend

Maurice Cohn to step in at CSO this weekend. Photo by Ken Yanagisawa

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is reporting that strikes that have been occurring in France over the last few days have caused “logistical complications” that will not allow music director Louis Langrée to be in Cincinnati this weekend to conduct concerts.

Langrée was originally scheduled to conduct performances of a program that includes Also sprach Zarathustra on October 21-23.

Maurice Cohn will step in to conduct all performances of the program this weekend.

The Wall Street Journal reports that thousands took to the streets today to protest rising energy bills and inflation. The journal reports  that striking teachers, railway and health workers staged marches in dozens of cities across France, joining refinery workers who are already on strike.

Louis Langree with soloist Inon Barnatan, the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, AJ Waltz, photo

Travel has been “basically halted. He is just stuck there,” said the CSO’s VP of communications Felecia Tchen Kanney. In addition, Langrée is “in essence, an official in France,” as the director of the Opéra Comique. He was appointed by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron.

Because of the fluid situation, the orchestra had to make a quick decision to find a replacement, she added.

Cohn is a two-time recipient of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award, Maurice Cohn currently serves as Assistant Conductor for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He is a regular guest conductor with the Chicago-based contemporary ensemble Zafa Collective and is also the Assistant Conductor of the Aspen Music Festival for the 2022 season.

Pianist Hélène Grimaud is still scheduled to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto.

Concerts are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300,


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.

Drummer Philip Paul, ambassador for the King legacy, dead at 96

Philip Paul Trio at Cricket Lounge. Photo by Paula Norton

More than 50 years after playing his last session at King Records, drummer Philip Paul was still performing in jazz clubs and restaurants around Cincinnati.

Mr. Paul – who in person was quiet and always sharply attired – performed over a span of eight decades. Over that time, he became known for his meticulous playing and versatility of style, whether it was blues, country or rock ‘n’ roll. A street was named for him in Cincinnati. He shared his talent and encouraged young musicians. He was world-renowned. The last time Paul McCartney was in town, the Beatles legend wanted to meet Philip Paul.

The former studio drummer for King Records played on the original recordings of “The Twist” and “Fever,” and continued playing with his latest trio until just a few months ago. Mr. Paul, who lived in Evanston not far from King Records, died on January 30 at age 96.

“No one represented the amazing story of King Records better than Philip Paul. King was the most eclectic independent label and Phil’s drums can be heard on the entire rainbow of genres the label produced – driving R&B, jazz ballads, bebop, doo-wop, Country & Western, even bluegrass,” musician and music journalist Larry Nager wrote to me from Hawaii, where he now lives. “As a drummer he had more flexibility than, say, a tenor sax player or guitarist in not being locked into a single style. He even developed his own way of playing country rhythms, using a stick and a brush on his snare to create that “boom-chang” sound. But it was Phil’s calm and coolness and his skill at listening – perhaps the most important skill for a musician – that made him such a great sideman. He was the perfect ambassador for the King legacy, which had been neglected for far too long in a city known for celebrating almost everything about itself, from baseball to chili.”

A few years ago, I enjoyed listening to jazz at the Cricket Lounge in the Cincinnatian Hotel. It was the Billie Walker Trio, featuring that wonderful pianist, now gone. Setting the tone for the trio, unobtrusively and smoothly, was a superb drummer named Philip Paul, with the trio’s longtime bassist Ed Conley.

Mr. Paul’s playing was sophisticated, effortless. It was unforgettable for nearly anyone who ever heard him — or even better, played with him.Read More »

Q&A with Sujari Britt

Sujari Britt performs the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations 8 p.m. August 6 at Seasongood Pavilion, Eden Park. She returns at 4 p.m. Aug. 8, Moonlite Pavilion, Coney Island for “Restorative Strings”

I caught up with rising star cellist Sujari Britt, who has been studying in Finland, via email in time to ask a few questions before she makes her Cincinnati debut with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra next weekend, Aug. 6 and 8.

Question: Please tell us a little bit about your musical journey. Why did you decide to study cello in Finland at the Sibelius Academy?

Answer: I began my cello travels at the age 4 after studying for a bit on piano and violin. At age 20, it is humbling to reflect that for the past decade-and-a-half I have devoted my time to exploring classical cello literature, techniques and approaches.

I believe it is time well-spent! I remain grateful for the incredible support and guidance of my early studies with Professor Marion Feldman (Manhattan School of Music, NYC). I met my current instructor, Professor Martti Rousi  (Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland) when he visited MSM for a master class. We were mutually enthralled, and I am thoroughly enjoying my tenure at Sibelius.

Q: How have you gotten through the pandemic, with your studies and performances? 

A: COVID-19 has rocked our planet. The health crisis has been far-reaching in distance, and its impact likely will reverberate for time to come. Our world has shifted due to this illness. Across the globe we have suffered from loss, grief, fear, change. On one hand, COVID-19 surfaced the swirling of not knowing; distrusting, and feeling unsafe, uncertain, alone. For many, solitude, loneliness, and panic became our sole companions.

On another hand, the health crisis seemed to pummel us with warning of our need for each other; for kindness, truth, and humanity. I am fortunate to have toughed-out this pandemic in the company of friends, and in the presence of strangers who paused to notice our shared want.

When the pandemic began in earnest, I was on tour in the states. Having completed a few community events, a decision was made to postpone the main concert and remaining events to protect the audience and musicians. That was March 2020. I am thrilled for the upcoming concert with Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra to once again see eyes and know the ears, hearts, and minds that share the space of sound with me.  I look forward with hope.

Q: The CCO season shines a light on musicians and composers of color, as well as on women. How do you think concert programs and even classical music institutions are changing, or will change in the future?

A: I genuinely appreciate CCO’s focus on emerging representatives of our shared joy for the classics. To my mind, the wider we open the door, the braver will be the talent, and the deeper the joy at the shattering of glass ceilings.Read More »

Opera in the Park

J’Nai Bridges performed a sizzling rendition of the Habanera from “Carmen”

The weather gods were smiling on Cincinnati Opera last night. The company managed to squeak past a turbulent day of downpours to mount its Opera in the Park concert last night at Summit Park in Blue Ash. The crowds turned out, and from all reports, a good time was had by all.

Audiences arriving at Summit Park, searching for their personal pods

Due to Covid, Cincinnati Opera is holding its 101st season outdoors in the park. We all sat in distanced “pods,” and the orchestra and cast performed on a specially erected, massive outdoor stage. We were treated to operatic chestnuts performed by some of the terrific cast members who will be appearing soon in “Carmen,” “Tosca” and “The Barber of Seville.”

One of the towers flanking the stage

I was pleasantly impressed by the sound quality, too. (You’ll read more about all that in this Friday’s Cincinnati Business Courier.)

Those who stayed home were treated by a live broadcast over WGUC-FM (90.9), hosted by Suzanne Bona and Cincinnati Opera artistic director Evans Mirageas. After more than a year away from the stage, Mirageas was visibly moved by the experience. He put it this way:

“Tonight is proof positive of the resilience of our staff, the steadfast devotion of our board and patrons, the dedication of all our artists onstage and backstage, and, most of all, the transcendent power of this art form of opera.”

The operas will be fully costumed and staged. Stay tuned for opera reviews and more at And remember, you can read for free, but you may be asked to register.

To see the season, visit

CCM welcomes new performing faculty members

Kristin Lee; photo by Sophie Zhai

The College-Conservatory of Music at UC has been busy adding faculty members recently. Dean Stanley Romanstein announced these prominent new profs this week:

Kristin Lee has been appointed Assistant Professor of Violin beginning Aug. 15, 2021. She is a recipient of the 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as a top prizewinner of the 2012 Walter W. Naumburg Competition and the Astral Artists’ 2010 National Auditions.

Read More »

CCM podcast goes behind the scenes of the entertainment industry

Brian Newman, a CCM alumnus, with Lady Gaga in Las Vegas, is podcast guest on June 14.

A new podcast created by UC College-Conservatory of Music alumni takes listeners inside the entertainment industry with stories and advice from Broadway performers, television actors, movie producers, make-up artists and more.

“School, Stage & Screen” is a revealing 11-episode podcast about success stories and fantastic failures from the entertainment industry — as experienced by graduates of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Producer Brian J. Leitten (BFA E-Media, ’02) and Broadway performer Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, ’19) delve into the differences between college and the real world with other CCM alumni like Diana Maria Riva (actor from Netflix’s Dead To Me), Andrea Stilgenbauer (producer of Kidding and The Affair on Showtime) and Brian Newman (Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga’s Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show”).

The podcast will be available wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyDeezerTuneInStitcher and the CCM website.

Episode 2, which dropped this week is a conversation about big breaks and national tours by original and current cast members of Hamilton on Broadway; Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) discusses the difficulties of finding his voice as an artist, while Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16) dishes about losing hers mid-show.

Here’s the lineup looking ahead:

Read More »

CSO and Pops increase seating for in-person shows

Socially distant seating at a concert earlier this year by the Cincinnati Pops

Up to 500 seats are now available for all in-person CSO and Pops performances at Music Hall. In accordance with the expanded capacity for indoor events ordered by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the orchestra has added availability for all in-person events this spring.

All performances will still be limited capacity with socially distanced seating and mask requirements throughout Music Hall. Read more about health and safety protocols.

In-person concerts at Music Hall continue this weekend with two different programs of Mozart with soloists Conrad Tao (Mozart Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major) and violinist Melissa White in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, in G Major, “Strasburg,” MAR 12-14 in Music Hall.

A CSO concert viewed from the balcony earlier this year.

From personal experience, I have felt very safe with all of the protocols that are in place. Concerts are about 70 to 80 minutes in length with no intermission.

I’ve been told that some concerts have added performances due to demand. Now that more people are getting vaccinated, I’m very optimistic that the demand will increase.

Don’t forget, I’m reviewing concerts again. You’ll find them on the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Arts Front (it’s free to read). Last week’s performance of Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” was unforgettable. Click here to read about it.

Tickets: 513-381-3300,

Inauguration music to feature fanfare with CSO ties

Don’t forget to stream the inauguration orchestral fanfares at noon today, featuring 14 musicians from across the nation, including one from Cincinnati. You’ll find the livestream on social media and at …

In the meantime:

Composer Peter Boyer — well known to the CSO and Pops — announces that the United States Marine Band has commissioned him to compose a new piece of music to be premiered at the Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. His new work, “Fanfare for Tomorrow,” will be performed as part of the one-hour Prelude music of the Inauguration ceremony, conducted by the Marine Band’s director, Colonel Jason Fettig, at the U.S. Capitol on January 20. The Inaugural Prelude takes place from 10 am to 11 am EST.

“Fanfare for Tomorrow” began as a brief piece for solo French horn, originally commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra last year, as part of their Fanfare Project in response to the pandemic.

“I have significantly expanded and developed that music for a full concert band for this commission (and I will be preparing an orchestral version also),” Boyer says.

Here’s the link to the CSO version– performed by the CSO’s Elizabeth Freimuth.

The Prelude program also includes music by American composers Kimberly Archer, Adolphus Hailstork, Jim Stephenson and John Williams. Boyer says that CSPAN will include complete coverage of this early event.

The U.S. Marine Band will also accompany Lady Gaga in the National Anthem during the ceremony.

Vienna Boys Choir on a virtual Christmas tour

Vienna Boys Choir, photo by Lukas Beck

One of the favorite memories of my music journalism career was visiting the Vienna Boys Choir in their school in the lovely Augarten Palace in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna. At the time, the famed boy choir had some Cincinnati Boychoir members.

The legendary choir is prized worldwide for the pure tone of its young singers, who, pre-pandemic, carried on a busy world tour schedule. They have appeared in Cincinnati multiple times. This holiday season, with 300 concerts canceled for the ensemble, they have created a beautiful online program: “Vienna Boys Choir: Silent Night.”

Their “World Online Tour” can be followed on idagio, where you can register free, and then purchase concerts. This one, which is about an hour long, costs $9.90, and is available until 5:59 p.m. Dec. 31. Click here to book. 

Their selections are lovely — including Es ist ein Ros´entsprungen (Lo, how a rose e’er blooming), Max Reger’s serene lullaby Maria Wiegenlied (Mary’s lullaby) and of course Still Nacht (Silent Night).

Because of stay-at-home orders, the concert is streamed from the palace’s state rooms, which have baroque architectural features, and there are also some outdoor scenes. All four of the tour choirs perform. The sound is exceptional.

The choir’s dramaturg, Dr. Tina Breckwoldt, writes from Vienna: “Our holiday offering is a traditional German/Austrian selection, for that feeling of warmth and gemütlichkeit. The boys are singing around a Christmas tree, decorated with real candles, apples, and gingerbread (some gingerbread choristers as well).”

Don’t miss the snowball fight in the gardens at the end as the credits roll.