CSO’s Classical Roots will explore rich role of African-Americans in Music Hall’s history

Friday, April 20, 7:30 p.m., Cincinnati Music Hall

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Classical Roots will return to Cincinnati Music Hall with a one-night-only performance and the theme “Under One Roof.” The concert conducted by John Morris Russell will explore an unwritten chapter from the renovated venue’s rich and diverse history.

“Music Hall has been a vibrant gathering place for Cincinnati since it was built in 1878, but much of its story is untold,” said Russell. “Though the history of Springer Auditorium is well documented, most Cincinnatians are unaware that some of the most prominent African-American musicians of the 20th century performed in Music Hall’s South Hall, known for two generations as the Greystone Club.”

Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price performed in Springer Auditorium, and the Greystone Club hosted such artists as Billie Holliday, Cab Callaway, Sarah Vaughan, Fats Domino and Duke Ellington.

Russell said the venue’s North Hall was used for years as an arena for many great African-American athletes, including heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles.

This year’s Classical Roots program “celebrates the history and artistry of black artists and audiences that helped secure Music Hall as one of our country’s most important cultural destinations,” Russell said.

Classical Roots is a Cincinnati tradition that celebrates African-American musical heritage and brings together friends and neighbors for a shared experience.

“The history of the African-American community here has often been relegated to the margins of our city’s narrative – like the two halls, north and south, of Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium,” Russell said. “And yet, when we really look deeply and sincerely into history the story becomes far richer and more nuanced. There is beauty, courage and eloquence in the Music Hall story that is only truly revealed when we understand we are all under one roof.”

Selections will include music by iconic African-American composers such as Eubie Blake and James Reese Europe. The program also will recognize Marion Anderson, the first African-American to perform on stage at Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium.

The Classical Roots Community Mass Choir will return as a staple for the annual concert. The group comprises more than 150 volunteer singers representing dozens of area churches. The group is prepared by director William Henry Caldwell with local music ministers.

Classical Roots also features the CSYO Nouveau Chamber Players, a string ensemble composed of African-American and Latino student musicians, as well seven CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows, who will perform together on stage for the first time since Music Hall  reopened in October.

Tickets are $10 and $25.
513-381-3300 or cincinnatisymphony.org/classicalroots

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