May Festival Chorus
The May Festival Chorus has earned acclaim locally, nationally and internationally for its musicality, vast range of repertoire and sheer power of sound. The Chorus of 130 professionally trained singers is the core artistic element of the Cincinnati May Festival as well as the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and the Cincinnati Pops. Throughout each season the Chorus Members collectively devote more than 40,000 hours in rehearsals and performances.
Founded in 1873, the annual May Festival is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere and is under the leadership of Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena, Director of Choruses Robert Porco and rotating creative partner that changes from year to year. The annual Festival hosts an international array of guest artists and presents two spectacular weekends of dynamic programming. Highlights of the 2018 May Festival included a fully staged performance of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS led by Robert Porco, the Verdi Requiem with guest conductor Eun Sun Kim, as well as Juanjo Mena leading Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan’s Credo and a celebrated performance of Handel’s Messiah.
Many important choral works have received their World and American premieres at the May Festival, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi, and Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses.
The May Festival Chorus has strengthened its national and international presence through numerous PBS broadcasts of live concerts and several award-winning recordings, many in collaboration with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops. Most recently, a live recording of Robert Nathaniel Dett’s The Ordering of Moses featuring Music Director Laureate James Conlon conducting the Chorus and the CSO at Carnegie Hall was released to critical acclaim in 2016 on Bridge Records. In 2001 the Chorus recorded Christmas with the May Festival Chorus, a popular a cappella holiday recording which was re-released on the Fanfare Cincinnati label in 2017, and a 2004 May Festival recording featuring the world premiere recording of Franz Liszt’s St. Stanislaus was awarded the 30th International F. Liszt Record Grand Prix by the Liszt Society of Budapest. The Chorus is also featured on the 2012 Cincinnati Pops release, Home for the Holidays, and several other Pops albums.
The May Festival Chorus has garnered two awards in recognition of its continuing artistic excellence and performances throughout the state. In 2011 the Chorus received the Spirit of Cincinnati USA Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award from Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 1998 the Chorus earned the Irma Lazarus Award from the Ohio Arts Council’s annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts.