It's May Festival Season!
Mon, 13 May 2019 08:00 am

May Festival season is upon us here in Cincinnati. This historic, annual festival was founded in 1873 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious choral festivals in the Western Hemisphere. Their annual festival consists of two weekends of outstanding concerts backed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and internationally-acclaimed guest artists. This year, they even throw in a few extra concerts (see below for the full schedule of what to expect!)

Did you know that in the mid-1800s, German immigrants who resided in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine community had a deep appreciation for the arts? They ended up forming singing groups and invited similar choirs in nearby towns to join them in a song festival. This eventually grew to be an annual gathering that took place in various Midwest cities. In 1870 when it was Cincinnati's turn to host, it was decided that Saenger Hall would be built as a temporary structure to house the festival. This building was constructed where Music Hall now stands but was not an ideal setting for the festival since it was built with a tin roof!

In 1873, renowned conductor Theodore Thomas happened to be traveling through Cincinnati on tour with his New York-based orchestra and noticed that the city's residents had great musical potential. He decided to work with local arts-advocates Maria Longworth Nichols and George Ward Nichols to create a large music festival that wasn't tied ethnically to the current ''Saengerfest'' held at Saenger Hall. This was the beginning of the May Festival. It started as a 108-piece orchestra and 800-person choir that came together biannually, and eventually sparked the building of Music Hall in place of Saenger Hall, in order to provide a better facility for the festival. The third May Festival was the first to take place inside the new Music Hall in 1878. At the time, it was the largest concert hall in America.

Since the May Festival's conception, it has remained one of the nation's most eminent choral festivals, attracting internationally-acclaimed artists to join them in their annual performances. So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets now at mayfestival.com. Not able to attend? WGUC is recording the Friday and Saturday performances and will broadcast them on Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. in October!






2019 May Festival Concert Schedule

Friday, May 17, 8 p.m., Music Hall
Juanjo Meno, conductor; Roomful of Teeth; Rod Gilfry, baritone; May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

BRAHMS: Schicksalslied
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Toward the Unknown Region
MARK SIMPSON: The Immortal (U.S. Premiere)

Saturday, May 18, 8 p.m., Music Hall
Sir James MacMillan, conductor; Lauren Michelle, soprano; May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

POULENC: Gloria
JAMES MACMILLAN: Seven Last Words from the Cross

Friday, May 24, 8 p.m., Music Hall
James Conlon, conductor; Morris Robinson, bass; Sarah Vautour, soprano; Taylor Raven, mezzo-soprano; Richard Trey Smagur, tenor; Donnie Ray Albert, baritone; May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Cincinnati Youth Choir

MAHLER: Das klagende Lied
BOITO: Prologue from Mefistofele
MUSSORGSKY: Prologue and Farewell Scene from Boris Godunov

Saturday, May 25, 7 p.m., Music Hall
Juanjo Mena, conductor; Berit Norbakken Solset, soprano; Carlos Mena, countertenor; Werner Güra, tenor; James Newby, baritone; Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass-baritone; May Festival Chorus and Youth Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

BACH: St. Matthew Passion

Extra Concerts:

Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m., Woodward Theater
Roomful of Teeth

Sunday, May 19, 7 p.m., Music Hall
Juanjo Mena, conductor; Sir James MacMillan, conductor; May Festival Chorus
FREE COMMUNITY CONCERT

Thursday, May 23, 7 p.m., Patricia Corbett Theater - University of Cincinnati
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor; Vocal Arts Ensemble

CRAIG HELLA JOHNSON: Considering Matthew Shepard