May Festival voices bloom again in Music Hall

After more than a year of vocal rest, singers are finally sprouting again as part of the 2021 May Festival.

The Cincinnati May Festival has announced program details and artists for the 2021 Festival with five performances taking place between May 21 and 30 at Music Hall. Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena will conduct two performances each of two separate programs with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), vocal soloists and members of the May Festival Chorus, for a total of four concerts. Director of Choruses Robert Porco will conduct one concert featuring the CSO and vocal soloists. Nearly every work programmed will be a Festival premiere, and many of the soloists, Sara Couden, Elliot Madore, Sophia Burgos, Sasha Cooke, Davóne Tines and Joélle Harvey will be making their May Festival debuts. 

CCM grad Joélle Harvey makes her May Festival debut.

“It is an emotional time as we take our first steps coming together again,” said May Festival Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena. “My heart has never been more full of hope and optimism. I can think of no better way to connect and express the complex emotions we all feel that through voices raised together in song. This May, we will discover the voice in everything: From challenge and sadness to hope, joy and triumph—this will truly be a Festival of music that speaks to our time.” 

Juanjo Mena

Though the May Festival Youth Chorus will not have a physical presence at Music Hall this year, they will participate through the premiere of a new collaborative project commissioned from composer Robert Busiakiewicz and digital designer Stacey Fox. “singing / everything,” inspired by writings of Gertrude Stein, invites the listener to alter the musical work through an innovative online platform. Youth Chorus members individually recorded “modules” or “tracks” in March, and Fox has used these to build a web-based immersive digital environment. “singing / everything” will be available on during the Festival. 


Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22, Music Hall

Juanjo Mena conducts music of Anton Bruckner, Janet Perry, Gustav Mahler and Gustav Holst.

Friday, May 28, Music Hall

Robert Porco conducts music of Aaron Copland, Maria Schneider and John Adams.

Saturday and Sunday, May 29 and 30, Music Hall

Juanjo Mena conducts music of Gustav Mahler, Benjamin Britten, Franz Schubert, Gustav Holst and Reena Esmail.

As part of the Festival’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, the Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 30 performances will be streamed live and available FREE for 24-hours on

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