Surround Yourself in Song


Greetings From the Board Chair and Executive Director

By J. Mark Holcomb and Steven Sunderman


Dear Friends,

Welcome to the beautifully renovated Music Hall and the 2018 May Festival. This iconic landmark and vibrant community gathering space re-opened in October following an 18-month renovation, and the results are spectacular. You may not know that Music Hall was built for the May Festival in 1878. We are grateful for the level of responsibility, care, ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into making Music Hall more welcoming, more comfortable and more accessible than ever…all the while rediscovering this beautiful building’s historic grandeur.

We express our deepest thanks to Otto Budig, the Music Hall Revitalization Company Board and 3CDC for leading and managing this critically important endeavor. We also want to thank the many donors, government officials and lenders who stepped up to ensure Music Hall will be here for future generations. The work of Messer Construction and the craftspeople—the hundreds of workers who poured themselves into Music Hall—speaks for itself. We are so grateful for these men and women from throughout the community.

It is wonderful to bring the Festival home to Music Hall where we are truly focused on our mission “to engage, energize and connect our community with the highest quality performances of great choral music.” This purpose is expressed in meaningful ways throughout the 2018 May Festival.

Many friends and neighbors ranging from ages 16 to 92 will participate in the new May Festival Community Chorus during Handel’s Messiah, inspired by Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena’s vision to invite the wider community to make music with us.

The May Festival’s mission is also realized through “Sing Hallelujah,” the free community concert bringing together a diverse array of Cincinnati singers and musicians. Creative Partner Dr. Rollo Dilworth has curated a May Festival concert like no other, exploring different musical expressions of “Hallelujah.”

From the Cincinnati Choral Academy that now impacts the lives of 300 area students each week to the “Street Chorus” assembled for the performance of Bernstein’s MASS, engaging and connecting the community is woven into the fabric of everything we do.

Of course, our mission gets to the very core of our organization, the May Festival Chorus. Under the superb leadership of Robert Porco for nearly 30 years, the Chorus is a phenomenal group of volunteer singers—people from all walks of life—who play an integral role in Cincinnati’s cultural vitality. From performing concerts at our Music Hall home to singing the National Anthem for the Reds and FC Cincinnati, the May Festival Chorus engages, energizes and connects our community through music. We are, after all, “The City that Sings.”

We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to James Bagwell who is ending his tenure after 21 years of leading the May Festival Youth Chorus. He has faithfully flown from New York for most of these years to lead the Youth Chorus’ Sunday rehearsals. Imagine for a moment how many lives he has affected—how many young singers he has inspired. Engaging and connecting the youth in our community will continue as Matthew Swanson assumes the role of Associate Director of Choruses and Director of the May Festival Youth Chorus.

It takes a great deal of time, talent and resources to present the May Festival each year, and we are grateful to the outstanding artistic leadership team, Chorus members, guest artists, Board members, volunteers, many sponsors and donors, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musicians and staff. Lastly, we want to thank all of you. Whether you have been subscribing for decades or this is your very first May Festival experience, we are thrilled to have you with us. Enjoy the performance!

Sincerely, Melanie M. Chavez, Chair, Board of Directors Steven Sunderman, Executive Director