Most weeks, Cincinnati can boast a good balance of offerings in various arts categories: visual art, theater, literary, film, music, dance, etc. This week’s FIX choices are pretty music-heavy, I admit. With the world premiere of a 154-year-old opera and an appearance by a top string quartet on its 50th anniversary tour, it should be. Still, there’s plenty of variety here, and some of these music events appeal to various other senses, even the sense of smell. You read that right. Let’s see what’s happening at the ol’factory:
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “EarShot” | 7:30 p.m. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: The CSO is collaborating with the American Composers Forum, League of American Orchestras and New Music USA in the project EarShot, the nation’s first full-scale program to connect orchestras and composers. Assistant conductors Samuel Lee and Daniel Wiley will conduct new works by Giuseppe Gallo-Balma Jr., Joseph Sowa, Martin Hebel and Leyou Wang in this free concert. The four young composers have been mentored by Music Director Louis Langrée.
Thursday, Oct. 5
NightLight 513, “Harry Potter” | 7 p.m. Covington Plaza, 1 Madison Ave., Covington. DETAILS: This innovative outdoor movie series for grownups features big-name movies on a screen with Cincinnati’s skyline in the background, a DJ before the show, several local food trucks on site, plus area craft brews and wines. They call it “social cinema.” Whatever. This week marks the end of NightLight 513’s season; the 2017 psychological horror film “Get Out” will close things out the next night, this Friday, Oct. 6.
Mary S. Stern Lecture, Isabel Wilkerson | 7 p.m. Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, downtown. 513-621-2787. DETAILS: This year’s Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library Stern Lecture features Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson discussing her bestseller “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which explores the decades-long migration of Black Americans from the South to cities in the north and west, and how that migration has changed the nation’s cultural and political landscape.
Friday, Oct. 6
Cincinnati World Cinema, “Black Barbie: A Documentary” | 7 p.m. Garfield Theatre, 719 Race St., downtown. 859-957-3456. DETAILS: Beulah Mae Mitchell, who worked on the first Barbie doll production line as part of her 45-year career with Mattel, came up with a basic question early on: “Why not make a Barbie that looks like me?” She asked the company’s owners that question, kept pushing, and was the force behind the long process that resulted in the creation of Black Barbie in 1980. It’s a family story, too: When filmmaker Lagueria Davis moved to Los Angeles, she had her mother ask an older cousin if she could stay temporarily with her. Yes, that cousin was “Aunt” Beulah Mae, who shared her story and inspired Davis to create this documentary on Mitchell’s “little act of revolution,” which premiered at this years SXSW Festival. Through Oct. 8.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Nina Simone Piano Concerto Competition Finals | 7:30 p.m., Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: Known now as a legendary jazz singer-songwriter, Nina Simone was in her early years a serious classical pianist who might have had a major concert career. She took lessons at Juilliard but was rejected for scholarships, and ended up playing piano in nightclubs for a living. Still, you can hear classical influences, especially her love of Bach, in her jazz improvisations (see video above). So it’s fitting that this new biennial piano competition for Black Americans, founded by CCM piano professor emeritus Awadagin Pratt and his Art of the Piano festival, honors Simone’s struggle and legacy. Previous rounds took place at CCM this summer. The concert, conducted by Music Director Louis Langrée, features finalists Clayton Stephenson in Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1, Kayden Kelly in Liszt’s Concerto No. 1, and Joshua Mhoon in Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2.
CCM Philharmonia, “Virtuosity Redux” | 7:30 p.m., Corbett Auditorium, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: How does CCM top last year’s “Virtuosity” concert? With this program, conducted by Mark Gibson, of brilliant orchestral works: Barber’s “School for Scandal” Overture, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and Bartok’s mightily virtuosic Concerto for Orchestra.
Red Tree x Antigone Music Collective | 6 p.m., Red Tree Art Gallery, 3210 Madison Road, Oakley. DETAILS: Cincinnati’s Antigone Music Collective, dedicated to bringing accessible new music by living composers to audiences, begins its 2023-24 season at the Red Tree Art Gallery. The program includes music commissioned by the group (its flagship project is the Antigone Quartet Prize), plus “modern era masterworks and other new music works that deserve more recognition.” Cellist Liam Battle and violinist Amelia Korbitz, both of whom have studied at CCM, are the collective’s leaders.
Saturday, Oct. 7
Concert:nova, Nine-Fold Harmonies | 7:30 p.m. Union Hall, 1311 Vine Street, Over-the-Rhine. DETAILS: Concert:nova’s season opener, featuring performances of nonets by Louis Spohr and Bohuslav Martinu, is billed as a “multi-sensory musical experience,” with a twist, or maybe a spritz or splash: The performers will pair the sounds of the various instruments with essential oils. After the performance, audience members can create their own custom scents, blending the “sounds” they most enjoyed. So if you’ve ever wondered what Louis Spohr’s music smells like, here’s your chance. The nine performers include Philip Marten (violin), Elizabeth Beilman (viola), Hiro Matsuo (cello), Boris Asafiev (bass), Henrik Heide (flute), Emily Beare (oboe), Joe Morris (clarinet), Marty Garcia (bassoon) and Molly Norcross (horn).
Queen City Opera, Tchaikovsky’s “Undina” | 4 p.m., Finneytown Performing Arts Center, 8916 Fontainebleau Terrace, Finneytown. 513-503-8323. DETAILS: How often do you get the chance to see the world premiere of a 100-plus-year-old opera by a great Russian composer? I had the opportunity to witness the unveiling of Rachmaninoff’s unfinished “Monna Vanna” at Saratoga – orchestrated and conducted by Igor Buketoff, starring Tatiana Troyanos and Sherrill Milnes, no less – in 1984, so it’s not often! Well, Cincinnati listeners this weekend have the chance to see the first staging of Tchaikovsky’s 1869 “Undina,” for which only sketches and extracts exist (he reportedly destroyed the score in 1873, and only the five surviving numbers have been performed and recorded so far). Kudos to Queen City Opera and its conductor/director Isaac Selya, who reconstructed the opera, for this impressive undertaking. Repeats Oct. 8.
Sunday, Oct. 8
Athenaeum of Ohio, Organ Blessing and Solemn Vespers | 7 p.m., Chapel of St. Gregory the Great, 6616 Beechmont Ave., Mt. Washington. 513-231-2223. DETAILS: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary & School of Theology will celebrate the installation of its new organ, Pasi Opus 29 by Pasi Organ Builders of Washington state, with a special blessing and dedication led by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr. Michael Unger, CCM professor of organ and harpsichord, will be the guest soloist for the program, with the October Solemn Vespers performed by the Athenaeum’s chorales and chamber orchestra.
Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, “Melodious Monk” | 2 p.m., First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St., Avondale. 513-280-8181. DETAILS: This installment of CCJO’s Jazz@First Series features some top-notch local musicians – Kim Pensyl on trumpet and flugelhorn with the Phil DeGreg Trio – in a program of music from their 2011 album, “Melodious Monk: A New Look at an Old Master,” paying tribute to the great Thelonious Monk. All these performers, of course, are well-known to Cincinnati jazz audiences. Trumpeter Pensyl, twice named one of Billboard’s Top 20 Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Year is a professor of jazz studies at CCM. Pianist-composer DeGreg, a retired CCM professor, was a long-time performer at Cincinnati’s noted Blue Wisp. Complimentary wine and cheese at intermission are included with admission.
October Festival Choir | 4 p.m., Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church, 103 William Howard Taft Road, Mt. Auburn. 513-281-5945. DETAILS: Christian Miller, who divides his time between Mt. Auburn and the gypsy jazz-swing band The Burning Caravan, conducts this annual program, and this edition is full of musical riches: J.S. Bach’s well-known cantata “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” Haydn’s Missa brevis “Sancti Joannis de Deo,” three spirituals, Vaughan Williams’ “Five Mystical Songs” and a world premiere by Cincinnati composer Rick Sowash, “Lament, Prophesy and Alleluia for the People of Ukraine.” Soprano Heidi Miller, alto Salleigh Harvey, tenor Alex Gushrowski and bass Sam Smith are vocal soloists, with Movers & Makers’ own Thom Mariner featured as baritone soloist in the Vaughan Williams songs. Free admission with goodwill offering.
Monday, Oct. 9
Jazz at the Park, Brad Myers and Mandy Gaines | 6-9 p.m., Washington Park, Over-the-Rhine. DETAILS: Mandy Gaines is known as a “jazz vocal powerhouse,” and her frequent musical partner Brad Myers is a versatile guitarist-singer fluent in many genres. The weather may be getting cooler, but Jazz at the Park can still be hot.
Tuesday, Oct. 10
Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative, “The Hound,” “Jason’s Footage” and more | 7:30 p.m., Fifth Third Bank Theater, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., downtown. 513-621-ARTS. DETAILS: CPI continues its season of staged readings of area playwrights’ works, this time featuring short plays by Michael Defrancesco (“The Hound”) and Clint Bramkamp (“Jason’s Footage, “Buffalo Girl 1973” and “Monumental Art”). A resident company at the Aronoff since the arts center opened, the Initiative offers audiences the chance not only to discover new playwrights, but to give them immediate feedback.
Chamber Music Cincinnati, Kronos: Five Decades | 7:30 p.m., Memorial Hall, 225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-342-6870. DETAILS: Hard to believe it now, but the once-upstart Kronos Quartet has been around for 50 years now. The San Francisco-based group has revolutionized the chamber music repertoire, broading its stylistic horizons, producing more than 70 recordings and commissioning more than 1,000 new works and arrangements for string quartet. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the quartet comes to town in a program entirely of works written for them over the years by a wide array of composers, among them Philip Glass, Steve Reich, the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Mexican composer Severiano Briseño and Cincinnatian Bryce Dessner of the National. Musicians from the College-Conservatory of Music join Kronos in some numbers. This is a rare opportunity to hear one of the most creative and influential chamber ensembles of our era.