Surround Yourself in Song


Greetings From the Board Chair and Executive Director

By J. Mark Holcomb and Steven Sunderman


Dear Friends,

Good evening and welcome to another incredible May Festival. We are delighted to once again present some of the most masterful choral repertoire ever composed. This year’s lineup of extraordinary guest singers and conductors, complemented by our own May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, represents a new approach to presenting these classic works. While the finishing touches are made to Music Hall’s renovation, we are blessed to present in the Taft Theatre. The CSO has been performing here at the Taft since September, and the Chorus performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at the Taft in October. The Taft Theatre has been a generous host during the renovation. Your support during this time of transition and renaissance is appreciated, and we thank you.

Four world-renowned guest conductors will lead the May Festival over the next two weeks. Markus Stenz, Matthew Halls, Michael Francis and Harry Bicket each bring an international presence and expert musicianship to the podium. The important news for 2018 will be the inaugural season of the new principal conductor, Juanjo Mena.

The dynamic and innovative artistic leadership model of the May Festival will allow for fruitful musical relationships and inventive collaborations. Consisting of Principal Conductor Designate Juanjo Mena, Director of Choruses Robert Porco and an annually rotating Creative Partner, the May Festival artistic leadership is primed for a vibrant and ever-refreshing future.

Our Creative Partner this year, Gerard McBurney, introduces the Dream Project, an initiative that will breathe new life into classic masterworks—Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Gerard brings with him an impressive background, most notably as the director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Beyond the Score” series. The Dream Project performances, which you can read more about on page 10, will integrate multimedia storytelling elements, allowing audiences to enter into Mendelssohn’s and Elgar’s dream worlds in a profoundly tangible way. These are the kinds of collaborations and performances taking the choral and orchestral experience to the next level across the country and around the world. We can’t wait to see these come to life on the Taft Theatre stage!

Another element of this year’s May Festival of which we are especially proud is Artist-in-Residence Eric Owens. Musical America’s 2017 Vocalist of the Year, Eric will perform as soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and you’ll find him around the Queen City for various events and classroom visits during the Festival. It’s a testament to the May Festival and to the Cincinnati choral community to have an artist of Eric’s stature in residency with us.'

Finally, as the May Festival explores new artistic opportunities, our roots remain firmly planted in the Queen City. This was evident in recent weeks during the new “Listen In!” community discussion series. Matthew Swanson, our 2016 Conducting Fellow, led these talks in various neighborhoods around the city, giving an opportunity for new audience members to familiarize themselves with the works on the program, as well as for choral veterans to take a deep dive into the nuances of these masterpieces and their composers. Each discussion was followed by a casual reception, which sparked additional dialogue and new friendships.

Friendships, musical and otherwise, remain at the heart of the May Festival. Thank you for your support throughout this eventful year. We look forward to welcoming you back to the iconic Music Hall for May Festival 2018!