By Rick Pender
Friday, Jan. 20, 6:30 p.m-1 a.m., University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
Don’t be fooled by the name Moveable Feast. One local wag wondered if it meant chasing down some food trucks. Another, remembering her college lit course, asked, “Did Hemingway write about it?” (Well, yes, kind of. In a memoir, he called Paris a “moveable feast,” referring to a place to be celebrated forever.)
In fact, Moveable Feast at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music is one of the city’s most imaginative and expansive arts fundraisers. It’s a grand celebration of the numerous artistic disciplines that attract CCM’s talented students – musicians, singers, dancers, actors, designers – passionate young performers and behind-the-scenes artists who are launching careers in the arts.
Brett Stover, longtime arts leader and marketing consultant, chairs Moveable Feast 2017.
“I’ve been involved with CCM for more than 25 years,” he said. “And I just love the breadth and depth of all the different disciplines across the school. This event gives everyone bite-sized tastes of everything. And it invites you to explore things you wouldn’t normally do.”
Steve Shin, a CCM grad who raises funds for Cincinnati Ballet, is working with Stover on Moveable Feast. His focus is on young professionals.
“A lot of people don’t realize what Moveable Feast is,” Shin said. “It’s one of my favorite events, not a standard gala where you enjoy dinner, watch a performance and have dessert. You really plan your own journey, like one of those ‘create-your-own’ storybooks.”
Moveable Feast showcases CCM’s world-class performing and media arts programs. As Shin pointed out, guests navigate a personal path across the expansive CCM Village. Upon arrival, they receive a listing of 20-minute samples of chamber music, jazz, musical theater, piano, opera/voice, acting, dance and orchestral performances. There are also tours of electronic media studios, lighting and scenic design labs and backstage facilities.
Stover has been a regular and offered this advice: “Come on time. Get the program and treat it just like when you go to a convention. Map out what you want to see and have a backup in case something is standing room only.”
With a laugh, he added, “Don’t stay at a food station too long, or you’ll miss a curtain!”
Trish Bryan and her husband, Rick, have been Moveable Feast sponsors for years.
“It’s one of my favorite events,” she said. “Every year you see the talented kids in all their disciplines. They change from year to year, but they always amaze. That’s the beauty of Moveable Feast. People who haven’t been there before are just totally blown away at the talent of these kids.”
For 2017 there’s a two-pronged, Broadway-related highlight: a performance of music from the musical “Anastasia,” having its Broadway debut next spring. Christy Altomare, a 2008 musical theater grad, will return to sing two songs composed by 1982 alum Stephen Flaherty with the CCM Philharmonia. Flaherty wrote songs for the 1997 movie that will comprise the score of the new show, and Altomare will entertain the Moveable Feast audience with the Academy Award-nominated “Journey to the Past,” as well as “Once Upon a December.”
Since graduating, Altomare has played in Broadway’s “Mamma Mia” as Sophie Sheridan and toured as Wendla in “Spring Awakening.” She recently played Anya in the pre-Broadway production of “Anastasia” in Hartford, Connecticut, and she’ll star in the show next spring. Her CCM performance will be filmed to promote the opening of “Anastasia.” Flaherty is highly respected for numerous hit Broadway musicals, including “Ragtime,” “Once on This Island” and “Seussical.”
Faculty member Roger Grodsky will conduct CCM’s sizeable Philharmonia to back Altomare’s performance. He said Flaherty’s music will be featured in additional settings during Moveable Feast.
“For instance,” he said, “the Jazz Band will present an original arrangement of ‘Amazing Mayzie’ from ‘Seussical,’ accompanied by musical theater majors in choreography by Diane Lala.”
Moveable Feast is also about food, with Jeff Thomas Catering providing dinner by the bite. Thomas has supported CCM for years (he’s a 1979 grad of UC’s College of Business). “It feels good to be able to give back to the university. CCM is just so special,” he said. “At every performance I see a rare passion for excellence.”
Feeding the crowd is no small task. “Each year,” Thomas said, “this event sells out at 700 guests who we need to feed. We also feed 500 students who are performing.”
For the cocktail hour, Thomas and his crew prepare nearly 3,000 canapés. “Then the staff breaks out to set up four different food stations throughout the performance spaces,” he said.
Each station is treated as a separate party to streamline service and make everything run like clockwork. Thomas aims to keep it simple. “People have a 15-minute time frame to grab food and beverage while racing through the halls of CCM.”
Moveable Feast is a fundraiser supported by CCM Power, the volunteer group formed by the recent merger of Friends of CCM and the CCM Alumni Governing Board.
Bryan said, “Our main focus is to provide scholarships and career development opportunities for the students, funding for travel, master classes and so on. That’s where the money goes: back to the kids!”
Stover summed up the experience. “It’s a great night out. There’s nothing else in Cincinnati that even comes close. We keep ticket prices very low so it’s an incredible value, accessible for everybody. It’s a big crowd on a cold January night. It’s eat and drink and be entertained!”
The event typically sells out in advance. Tickets are available online or by phone. CCM alumni and young professionals can purchase $50 tickets through Dec. 15. General admission is $75; host admission ($125) includes valet parking. More information here or 556-2100