Culture FIX: Nov. 29-Dec. 5

The leaves are raked, the lights are up, the turkeys have been picked clean (and so, some say, have the Bengals) … And now, ’tis the season! Make way for a feast of holiday fare: “The Nutcracker,” “Messiah,” “Feast of Carols,” “White Christmas,” “Advent Lessons” and other favorites highlight the week.

Wednesday, Nov. 29

“Fiona” illustration by Loren Long

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, “Fiona: The Musical” | 7 p.m. ETC, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-421-3555. DETAILS: If you read David Lyman’s cover story in the December issue of Movers & Makers, in print or online, you know what this one’s all about – a celebration of our fair city’s favorite hippopotamus. Only in Cincinnati, right? It’s based on the story of Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo hippo who captured the community’s heart when she was born prematurely in 2017. Playwright and Cincinnati native Zina Camblin wrote the book, and long-time ETC composer David Kisor supplied the score for this world premiere production.

Music in the Museum, organist Isabelle Demers | 7:30 p.m. Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate. 513-287-7000. DETAILS: Called one of the city’s “best-kept secrets,” the 1929 Grand E.M. Skinner Symphonic Concert Organ inside Cincinnati’s iconic Union Terminal has been silent from concert use for years, after workers during the building’s restoration discovered the instrument was in desperate need of electrical and other upgrades. Now the restoration is complete, and the Music in the Museum concert series resumes with guest organist Isabelle Demers, a Quebec native, showcasing the organ. Saxophonist Rick VanMatre joins her in a program that ranges from Joaquín Rodrigo’s rich-Corinthian-leather “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” to John Williams’ music from “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter.”

Thursday, Nov. 30

CCM Dance, “An American In Paris + Other Works” | 8 p.m. Patricia Corbett Theater, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: The centerpiece of this wide-ranging dance program is the regional premiere of guest choreographer Peter Davison’s “An American in Paris,” set to George Gershwin’s famous symphonic poem. CCM Instructor Ihaiah Miller offers a new work set to a concerto by Antonio Vivaldi, and Shauna Steele’s “Beyond Words, It Begins” employs Giovanni Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.” A new work by Jiang Qi is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s artworks, and faculty members Tricia Sundbeck and Isabele Elefson restage Marius Petipa’s classic “Esmerelda.” Through Dec. 2.

“Mujer de Mucha Enagua, PA’TI XICANA” (1999) by Yreina Cervantes,
cover art for the first recording of “El Niño”

CSO Proof, “El Niño: Nativity Reconsidered” | 8 p.m. Music Hall Ballroom, Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: Composer John Adams’ ground-breaking “El Niño,” a 2000 Nativity opera-oratorio, used scripture and a wide range of poetry to explore, as he put it, “what is meant by a miracle.” It’s a massive work, but conductor Christian Reif has devised a chamber-orchestra version with reduced vocal forces that has made it more accessible for intimate settings. Reif’s spouse, soprano Julia Bullock, who developed the concept for the scaled-down version in 2018, joins contralto Jasmin White, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo and bass-baritone Davóne Tines as soloists. Adams is one of the most important composers of our time, and this is a good opportunity to explore his music.

Memorial Hall, “An Evening With Rick Steves” | 7 p.m. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-977-8838. DETAILS: Renowned travel expert and PBS star Rick Steves has taken us to interesting places around the world for decades, enlightening generations of Americans. Here’s a chance to see him in person and hear his behind-the-scenes stories of his life and travels. His appearance is presented by CET, ThinkTV, WVXU and WMUB.

Friday, Dec. 1

Conductor Case Scaglione
(Photo by Sonja Werner)

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “Bach’s Fourth & Mahler’s Fifth” | 11 a.m., Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: An odd-couple pairing of masterpieces here: Johann Sebastian Bach’s chamber-size Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, with its spritely flute duo, and Gustav Mahler’s sweeping, large-scale Symphony No. 5, with its stately funeral-march opening and popular Adagietto (said to be his love song to his wife Alma). Case Scaglione, music director of two European orchestras and a former New York Philharmonic associate, conducts the program. Also 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2.

Cincinnati Art Galleries, “Panorama of Cincinnati Art XXXVIII” | Opening reception 5-8 p.m., 225 E. 6th St., downtown. 513-381-2128. DETAILS: A benefit for the Cincinnati Art Museum, this XXXVIIIth annual exhibition and sale features more than CL (that’s 150) works by artists from the Cincinnati region. There are some big names here: Tom Bacher, Frank Duveneck, Henry Farny, Edward Henry Potthast, Herman Wessel … you get the picture. Well, actually, you CAN get the picture, and a percentage of proceeds from sales will go to the museum, as well as ticket revenues. Through Jan. XV.

Collegium Cincinnati, Handel’s “Messiah” | 7 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 314 E. 4th St., downtown. 513-428-2224. DETAILS: Hallelujah! Collegium Cincinnati, ensemble-in-residence at Christ Church Cathedral and purveyor of music early and new, presents its annual production of George Frederick Handel’s complete “Messiah,” led by Artistic Director Matthew Phelps. Handel’s familiar masterwork has stood the test of time, its popularity undimmed since its 1742 premiere, for which women attending were asked wear dresses “without hoops” so more people could fit into Dublin’s Musick Hall. Still good advice. Also 7 p.m. Dec. 2.

School for Creative & Performing Arts, “The Nutcracker” | 7 p.m. SCPA Corbett Theater, 108 W. Central Pkwy., Over-the-Rhine. 513-363-8100. DETAILS: Shows at Cincinnati Public Schools’ arts-focused school have a reputation for polish, enthusiasm and professionalism, and SCPA’s production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s enduring Christmas ballet should be a good chance to see future stars in the making. Through Dec. 3.

Saturday, Dec. 2

College-Conservatory of Music, “Feast of Carols” | 2 & 5 p.m. Corbett Auditorium, University of Cincinnati. 513-556-4183. DETAILS: CCM’s annual holiday choral extravaganza is back, featuring not only the school’s own choirs but high school ensembles from Milford, Little Miami, St. Xavier and Campbell County, six conductors and more. It’s a can’t-miss festive event. Also 2 & 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

Cincinnati Community Orchestra, “Holiday Celebration” | 7:30 p.m. Church of the Savior United Methodist, 8005 Pfeiffer Road, Montgomery. 513-317-0300. DETAILS: Celebrating its 70th season, this venerable ensemble that blends amateur and professional players has an interesting mostly-classical Christmas program on tap, led by Music Director Mark Rudoff. On the program are Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Christmas Overture,” Gustav Holst’s “Christmas Day,” “Winter” from Alexander Glazunov’s “The Seasons,” music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve-Sarajevo 12/24,” a piece that pays tribute to a cellist said to have played continuously in a town square during the shelling of Sarajevo.

Sunday, Dec. 3

Seven banners bearing the “O Antiphon” symbols at Christ Church Cathedral

The First Sunday of Advent – the fourth Sunday before Christmas day and the first day of the Christian liturgical year – is the occasion for beautiful services of prayers, readings, hymns and carols in churches everywhere, telling the story of the prophecy, promise and birth of Jesus. Locally, several major churches are hosting afternoon Advent concerts celebrating this special musical tradition (admission is free, but offerings are accepted):

Christ Church Cathedral, An Advent Procession with Lessons and Carols | 5 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. 4th St., downtown. 513-621-1817. Begins with a 4:30 p.m. pre-service performance by cathedral organist Stephan Casurella; concert built around the seven “O Antiphons,” traditionally sung prior to Christmas, that became the stanzas of the familiar Christmas hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”; procession includes seven Antiphon banners. Service also can be viewed via livestream online.

St. Peter in Chains, Advent Carol Service | 3 p.m. St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, 325 W. 8th St., downtown. 513-421-5354. DETAILS: The Cathedral Basilica’s choir, directed by Matthew Geerlings, performs seasonal music, with the “O Antiphon” chants and handbells marking the start of Advent.

Bach Ensemble of St. Thomas, Bach Vespers for Advent | 5 p.m. St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 100 Miami Ave., Terrace Park. 513-831-2052. DETAILS: Pre-Vespers lecture at 4 p.m.; Organ Prelude Recital at 4:30 p.m. by Jason Gunnell on the church’s new Fritts Op. 43 organ; service features Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” and Michael Praetorius’ “Puer natus in Bethlehem.”

Cathedral Concert Series, Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols | 3 p.m. Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1140 Madison Ave., Covington. 859-431-2060. DETAILS: Cathedral Bishop’s Choir led by Principal Organist/Choirmaster Gregory J. Schaffer; modeled after the traditional (since 1918) service at King’s College, Cambridge; featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn, Ralph Vaughan-Williams and other composers.

Monday, Dec. 4

Queen City Cabaret, Rosemary Clooney’s “White Christmas” | 7 p.m. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-977-8838. DETAILS: Vintage pop-jazz duo Sarah Folsom and Matthew Umphreys are Queen City Cabaret, a resident company at The Carnegie in Covington. For this performance, singer and pianist take a nostalgic look back at Irving Berlin’s memorable music for the 1954 film “White Christmas” as sung by Cincinnati’s legendary Rosemary Clooney. The film, of course, also starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, with Clooney and Trudy Stevens dubbing in Vera-Ellen’s singing parts. A little twist in the recording history here: There was no official soundtrack recording for the movie, because Clooney was under contract with Columbia Records, and Decca held the soundtrack rights. So Columbia released a record with Clooney alone, and Decca brought in Peggy Lee to sing Clooney’s parts for its album. Stylish and sophisticated QCC is on familiar ground here, having released the album “Count Your Blessings: A Tribute to Rosemary Clooney” in 2021.

Tuesday, Dec. 5

Music Live@Lunch, jazz pianist Ricky Nye | 12:10 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral Chapel, 318 E. 4th St., downtown. 513-621-1817. DETAILS: There’s just something about Christmas songs and carols performed in a jazz-piano style. Local pianist Ricky Nye presents a special holiday program for the cathedral’s popular free series of musical lunch breaks.

Broadway Across America, “Mrs. Doubtfire” | 7:30 p.m. Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., downtown. 513-721-3344. DETAILS: Yes, the now-classic 1993 Robin Williams comedy film – about an unemployed actor who transforms himself into a Scottish nanny so he can be with his kids – has been turned into a Broadway musical, and it’s been highly successful as what the Hollywood Reporter calls “a feel-good, family-friendly musical comedy.” The touring show features Tony nominee Rob McClure in the title role he originated on stage. Through Dec. 17.

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