By Thomas Consolo
Just when you’d think the arts season would be winding down for a summer hiatus … BAM! … an explosion of festivals. Your mission, Mr. Phelps, if you choose to accept it: Take in as much as you can with the understanding that there is a finite number of hours in a week. Here’s your dossier. We promise it won’t self-destruct.
What was begun as Decoration Day, a day to remember the nation’s Civil War dead, has evolved over the years into Memorial Day. It’s still a time to remember those who have fallen in service to our country, but it also has effectively become our national first day of summer. The result is parallel celebrations that are, respectively, solemn and celebratory. There are plenty of both kinds to choose among, so here are a few representative samples.
Taste of Cincinnati
Downtown Cincinnati | East Fifth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27: Taste of Cincinnati
The venerable Taste of Cincinnati, marking year 41 in 2019, is the longest-running culinary arts festival in the United States. The more than 250 dishes offered by more than 50 restaurants and food trucks from across the region are enough to make even Ciacco say “enough!” (If you want to pare down the menu, here are this year’s Best of Taste winners.) Continuous live entertainment will play on four stages across the festival’s four blocks. New this year is the Eat & Run 5K, a chance to run off some of the food you’ll eat later (or ate the day before). It kicks off at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Memorial Day at Spring Grove
Spring Grove Cemetery | 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45232; 513-681-7526
Thursday, May 23, through Monday, May 27: Memorial Day Weekend activities
Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery is the final resting place for about a dozen Civil War generals, depending on your attitude toward brevet ranks. They include Joseph Hooker, the Union commander at Chancellorsville, the battle now considered Robert E. Lee’s greatest tactical triumph. Scores of other Civil War soldiers lie in Spring Grove, too, as do hundreds of veterans from America’s other wars. To mark the holiday, the cemetery offers activities through the weekend, including a military band concert, tours of the Norman Chapel and Veterans Tribute and a flag decommissioning. On Monday, there’ll be an actual Decoration Day ceremony.
Memorial Day Concert
Blue Ash Towne Square Amphitheater | 9520 Towne Square Ave., Blue Ash, OH 45242; 513-232-0949
Monday, May 27, 7 p.m.: Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony
A few miles northeast, meanwhile, the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra offers its annual Memorial Day concert. You can, of course, expect to hear the “Armed Forces Salute,” and this year’s program, led by music director and pianist Michael Chertock, features Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”
Cincinnati May Festival | 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-381-3300
The variety of last week’s inaugural weekend doesn’t let up in the festival’s second week. Coming up in Week 2 (at Music Hall unless otherwise specified):
• Thursday, May 23, 7 p.m.: In this week’s Festival Extra, Craig Hella Johnson wears both composer and conductor hats as he leads his Vocal Arts Ensemble, and guests from Grammy-winning Conspirare, in his “Considering Matthew Shepard.” Since its sold-out performances here in 2017, CMS has been performed by Conspirare and VAE members in more than 20 cities nationwide. Johnson will host an after-concert conversation after the performance; in 2017 nearly half the audience remained to learn more. In the College-Conservatory of Music’s Corbett Auditorium (290 CCM Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45221).
• Friday, May 24, 8 p.m.: For those of you still shaking your heads at King Bran, how about a different kind of “Game of Thrones,” this one with operatic music of Boïto, Mahler and Mussorgsky. A familiar face, James Conlon, is on the podium (now as music director laureate), leading the Prologue from “Mefisofele,” “Das Klagende Lied” and a Conlon festival favorite, the Prologue and Coronation Scene of “Boris Godunov.”
• Saturday, May 25, 7 p.m.: Juanjo Mena, Conlon’s successor as the festival’s principal conductor, closes the festival with Bach’s “St Matthew Passion,” which is merely one of the unassailable pillars of Western art. Mena sang in a Baroque choir in Spain until the age of 23, so this music is close to his heart. The only caveat: It was written well before anyone was in a hurry to get home to check Instagram, so please NOTE the earlier start time of 7 p.m.
Cincinnati Fringe Festival | 1120 Jackson St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
May 31-June 16
I know what you’re thinking: “Tom, it’s not May 31 yet.” Correct, but the offerings of the Fringe Festival are so varied – by subject, genre and location – despite the festival’s origin with Know Theatre that a little homework is in order. Take advantage of some time to plan ahead and go to the festival’s lineup page or the ArtsWave guide and find something that sounds interesting to you. Trust us, there’s something for every taste.
Nowhere Else Festival | 190 Townsend Road, Martinsville, OH 45146
Friday, May 24, through Sunday, May 26
Want to get away from it all for the weekend but still enjoy great music? Karin and Linford Detweiler have the answer. It’s a music festival at their rural Clinton County retreat. Karin and Linford’s alter ego, Over The Rhine, performs all three nights, and they’ll be joined by more than half a dozen other bands.
Cincinnati Film Society | 320 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220; 513-281-8750
Friday, May 24, through Tuesday, May 28
It’s wall-to-wall music this weekend at the Esquire, courtesy of the Film Society. Different as they are, we guarantee you’ll be able to sing along with at least one of these movies: “Deconstructing the Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour,” “Purple Rain,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Woodstock.” Check the website for screen times.
May 26-June 16, 290 CCM Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45221; 513-556-6638
Art of the Piano was created in 2011 by Awadagin Pratt is “an intimate festival” to raise the level of artistry for young pianists. It was based on the master classes Liszt offered in the 1800s. “Intimate,” however, has come to embody a baker’s dozen world-class pianists who come to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to teach and perform in Werner Recital Hall.
Pratt, professor of music and artist-in-residence at CCM, launches this year’s festival at 7 p.m. Sunday with baritone Simon Barrad in Schubert’s haunting late song cycle, “Die Winterreise.” At 3 p.m. Monday, Alexander Korsantia performs sonatas by Haydn and Schubert.
For more details, read M&M’s preview of Art of the Piano by Thom Mariner.
Saturday, May 25, 3 p.m.: “Boom. Bang. Scrrratch.” 800 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-369-6900
The SoundWebs website says it best: “SoundWebs explores wordless sound, wordless music and the ways they intersect.” Listeners are led through “guided sound walks and performances of experimental, contemporary, and classical music, including a series of newly commissioned works.” The experience is curated by Rebecca Smithorn, who studied conducting at CCM and now leads Ensemble 4-33, a name inspired by John Cage’s landmark (really, it is) “4’33”.”
For Part 1 on Saturday, concert:nova performs new works by Shawn Milloway and Rachel Walker, and “Try” by Andrew Norman in the main atrium of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Parts II and III will be presented in, respectively, June and July.
Two last chances on local boards:
• “Mamma Mia”: Here we go again with the feel-good revue of Abba songs. Through Sunday at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater (801 Matson Place, Cincinnati, OH 45204; 513-241-6550).
• “Chicago”: Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – everything Kander and Ebb needed to cook up this now-classic, satirical musical. Through Saturday courtesy of the Footlighters at Stained Glass Theatre (802 York St., Newport, KY 41071; 859-652-3849).
Middletown Arts Center | 130 N. Verity Parkway, Middletown, OH 45042; 513-424-2417
Opens Friday, May 24: Photography & Digital Art Competition 2019
This is the eighth year for the Middletown Arts Center’s photography and digital art competition. Artists 18 and over submitted their work in April; nearly 100 were accepted. Opening reception 8 p.m. Friday. Runs through June 20.
• “The Cat’s Pajamas”: Works by Kate Rowecamp. Through Sunday, May 26, at 1305 Gallery (1305 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-253-4709). The gallery’s hours are brief. Check the Facebook page before you go.