Culture FIX: May 22-28

We’re at that sweet spot in the calendar where it might not be summer officially, but you certainly can feel it: No more frost advisories (Is it really safe to plant those annuals?). The May Festival wrapping up. Outdoor concert series sprouting throughout the area. And partying with 500,000 of your closest friends at the big one, Taste of Cincinnati, putting an exclamation mark on Memorial Day Weekend. Yep, we’re headed for summer – come what May.

Wednesday, May 22

Cincinnati Song Initiative, “The Fellowship of the Song: Fellows’ Opening Concert” | 7:30 p.m., Werner Recital Hall, College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. DETAILS: Last fall, after screening 153 artists from around the world, the Cincinnati Song Initiative chose five singers and five pianists for its first Fellowship of the Song program a week-long schedule of classes, coaching and performances at the College-Conservatory of Music. Think of it as a sort of classical “The Voice” without the gimmickry and hype, steals and saves, where nobody gets voted out (uh-oh, hope that doesn’t give CSI an idea …). Though the private sessions started May 20, tonight marks the public debut of the CSI Fellows in a concert with an attractive international program songs by Jean Sibelius, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Edvard Grieg, Francis Poulenc and John Harbison. The concert is free to the public, and a closing concert is set for May 25.

Cheryle Renée and Shorty Star

Blues & Brews, Cheryle Renée & Shorty Star | 6-9 p.m., Washington Park, Over-the-Rhine. DETAILS: Washington Park’s various outdoor concert series are up and running again, and it’s a great spot to gather on warm-weather evenings. Brews don’t hurt, either. Cincinnati’s Cheryl Renée, a noted blues singer and keyboardist who’s performed around the world since the early 1970s, entertains at the park with her frequent collaborator, drummer and vocalist Shorty Star. As Cheryl Renée says, “Blues is IT!”

Thursday, May 23

Bang on a Can All-Stars

Cincinnati May Festival, “Voices of the Earth” | 7:30 p.m., Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-3300. DETAILS: The 2024 May Festival reaches its final weekend with two fascinating programs featuring the work of composer Julia Wolfe, the festival’s first curator (or Festival Director) under its innovative new model of artistic leadership. This program includes “Anthracite Fields,” Wolfe’s powerful, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio about the struggles of miners in Pennsylvania coal country during the early 20th century, with the famed Bang on a Can All-Stars joining the May Festival Chorus. Also on the program: Michael Gordon’s “Natural History,” a celebration of Crater Lake National Park (and nature in general) featuring the Steiger Butte Singers of Chiloquin, Ore. with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the chorus. Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams conducts. The festival concludes May 25 with Wolfe’s “Her Story,” a tribute to American women’s struggle for equal rights, and Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem”

Rockin’ the Roebling, Naked Karate Girls | 7-10 p.m., Smale Riverfront Park, 166 W. Mehring Way, The Banks. DETAILS: Why is popular Cincinnati rock cover band Naked Karate Girls showing up in Culture FIX? Glad you asked. Few know this, and they certainly won’t admit it, but the band was inspired by classical music specifically, Franz Schubert’s stirring but little-known song cycle, “Das Nackte Karate-Mädchen,” D. 999i. Or not. Anyway, this Cincinnati Parks-run outdoor music series on the downtown riverfront, which started last week, carries on with the band that has actually trademarked the nickname “The Greatest Party in the Galaxy (insert weird, floating TM thingy here).” Or, as Schubert might have put it, “Die größte Party der Galaxis.”

Friday, May 24

Fairfield Footlighters, “Four Old Broads” | 7:30 p.m., Fairfield Community Arts Center, 411 Wessel Drive, Fairfield. 513-867-5348. DETAILS: Wow, what a segue from Naked Karate Girls! Glad I didn’t switch those photos. Or maybe I should have. No, this isn’t a translation of some German comedy called “Vier alte Frauen.” Not even close. We’re talking Caribbean cruise here. This comedy-mystery by Leslie Kimball unveils the hijinks of retired burlesque performer Beatrice and her companions at Magnolia Place Assisted Living as they try to solve a mystery before going on the cruise. John Vanderplough directs the cast in this production by the Fairfield community theater company. Through May 26.

Publicity shot for “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, “The Play That Goes Wrong” | 7:30 p.m., Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 1195 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-2273. DETAILS: Well, birds of a feather, and all that! Cincy Shakes also opens a farcical show tonight this one a play within a play, about a theater group’s off-the-script mishaps while trying to make it to opening night of their murder-mystery production. Expect a bit of slapschtick (is that a word?) in this show, described as a mash-up of Monty Python and Sherlock Holmes. The Broadway hit by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields runs through June 16.

Saturday, May 25

The scene at Taste of Cincinnati

Taste of Cincinnati 2024 | 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fifth Street, downtown. DETAILS: Since 1979, Cincinnati has marked Memorial Day Weekend with an outdoor festival of food, music and fun showcasing menu items from restaurants throughout the area. The venue has moved a few times, but it’s now along Fifth Street downtown between Main Street and Pike Street. The longest-running culinary arts festival in the nation, it’s organized by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, which says the 2024 Taste is bigger than ever (the web site lists menus from 33 food trucks, 28 restaurants and two caterers), with 550,000 visitors expected. And there’s plenty of musical entertainment, with artists performing on six stages along the festival venue. Admission is free but, most sadly, the food and drinks aren’t. Also 11 a.m.-11 p.m. May 26, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. May 27.

Off Ludlow Gallery

Off Ludlow Gallery, “Water Works” | Opening reception 6-8 p.m., Off Ludlow Gallery, 3408 Ormond St., Clifton. 513-201-7153. DETAILS: This tiny gallery in an exceedingly modest-looking building (actually a former Clifton post office, note the mailbox in front), has won praise for its exhibits since it opened in 2019. It’s a project of the Clifton Town Meeting Arts & Culture Committee to display work by Cincinnati artists. This five-day show features creations by 15 artists inspired by water. In addition to the opening reception, there’s an artist talk 1-3 p.m. May 26 and a closing event 6-8 p.m. May 29.

Sunday, May 26

Works from “Cincinnati Then and Now”

Jenny Farrell Graham and Robert Farrell, “Cincinnati Then and Now” | Opening reception 2-4 p.m., The Barn, 6980 Cambridge Ave., Mariemont. 513-272-3700. DETAILS: Robert Farrell, who died in 2002, was a Cincinnati Fire Department lieutenant and also an artist who painted, among other things, landscapes of local scenes. His daughter, Jenny Farrell Graham, is a fiber artist and retired nurse in southeastern Indiana who is re-imagining her father’s work through her own medium. She’ll share stories of her father and his artistic techniques at the opening reception. Through May 30.

Monday, May 27

The Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra in concert

Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, Memorial Day Concert | 7 p.m., Tom Stone Amphitheater, 4309 Cooper Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. 513-549-2197. DETAILS: Among many area Memorial Day events and observances, here’s a standout. Directed by pianist-conductor Michael Chertock, who is also principal keyboardist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, BAMSO provides residents of Blue Ash, Montgomery and surrounding areas with free concerts throughout the year, notably around major holidays. This “Up, Up, and Away!” concert for Memorial Day features music from “Wicked” and “Rocky,” plus Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” Talk about diverse musical programming. How do you say “Gonna Fly Now” in Russian?

Tuesday, May 28

Mitchell Sturges

Music Live@Lunch, tenor Mitchell Sturges | 12:10 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. 4th St., downtown. 513-621-1817. DETAILS: This concert concludes Christ Church Cathedral’s long season of free Tuesday lunchtime concerts, which began back in September. Tenor Mitchell Sturges, a Salt Lake City native who lived and performed in Cincinnati for several years, returns to give a program from his song repertoire, which concentrates on works by contemporary American composers. He’s also a noted opera artist, having performed in productions in Vienna for three years, then serving as a teaching artist for the Arizona Opera. You can bring your own lunch, or buy one at the cathedral.

Mandy Gaines

Jazz at the Square, Mandy Gaines | 5-8 p.m., Fountain Square, downtown. 513-621-4400. DETAILS: While Music Live@Lunch at Christ Church is winding up, but Jazz at the Square three blocks west is just getting warmed up. The Tuesday-evening series, which showcases many of our area’s top jazz artists, is a great way to relax after work, have a drink and bite to eat, mingle and listen to some cool jazz throughout the hot summer. Tonight it’s “jazz vocal powerhouse” Mandy Gaines.

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