Sunday, January 16, 2000

Seton Hall refurbishing complete

Metro orchestra makes hall home

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra takes the stage at Seton Hall next Sunday, it will be in newly refurbished surroundings.

        Now, organizers would like to make Seton Hall at Seton High School in Price Hill a performing arts center for the western Cincinnati.

        “We have had the performing arts series there for 30 years,” says David F. Allen, 60, one of the founders of Seton-Elder Performing Arts Series and director of music at Elder.

        Today, 900 subscribers attend the nine-concert series, and the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra has made Seton Hall its home.

        Originally, the auditorium only was used by high school performing groups, Mr. Allen says. Gradually, special guests were invited to perform with the students, such as singer Marian Spelman, their first star.

        “The (stars) were a drawing card to the public, but also, it was a great thrill for the kids to perform with them,” Mr. Allen says.

        As the series evolved, the directors began to book local groups, such as brass ensembles and barbershop singers.

        “Last summer, because it has grown into such a local performance venue, an anonymous donor completely redid (the hall) for us,” Mr. Allen says. The auditorium has new seating, lighting and a new stage floor. It is now air-conditioned, so it can be used year-round.

        “The ripple effect is that it creates wonderful interest in our high school performing groups,” Mr. Allen says.

        Mr. Allen will conduct Sunday's 3 p.m. concert, which includes the 60-piece Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra, a 150-voice alumni chorus and guest soloists Nancy James, Sean Kelly and Maribeth Samoya, Seton's choral director and one of the series' directors.

        The program, “The Best of Rodgers and Hammerstein in Concert,” features orchestrations from the original Broadway shows of Carousel, State Fair, The King and I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma.

        Hearing the original scores, obtained from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Concert Library, is a rarity, Mr. Allen says. Pictures from the Broadway productions will be projected on a screen onstage.

        Tickets: $10; $8 for groups of 10 or more. 241-3324.

        PRIZE WINNERS: They've done it again. The opera department of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music has walked away with first prize awards in the 1999 Video Competition of the National Opera Association (NOA).

        CCM won two of the four awards announced last week. They are for The Rake's Progress, directed by Malcolm Fraser and conducted by Mark Gibson, and Der Kaiser von Atlantis, directed by student Rebecca Rosenthal and conducted by visiting faculty member Glenn Lewis.

        The awards will be presented at the NOA convention to be held at CCM, Feb. 10-13.

        JEWISH MUSIC: The Wind Symphony at CCM performed in a recording session last week for an extraordinary project.

        CCM's Robert J. Werner Recital Hall was wired for three days while a crew of New York engineers and producers taped works by Ohio composer Samuel Adler and New York composer Bruce Adolphe for a unique, 50-CD compilation to be released in 2001.

        The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, sponsored by the Milken Family Foundation, will present a vast panorama of Jewish musical activity in America from about 1810 to the present.

        Nearly 250 composers will be represented in several hundred recordings made in the United States and Europe, ranging from small liturgical settings to symphonies and operas.

        The Wind Symphony recorded Mr. Adler's To Celebrate a Miracle, a Hanukkah Suite for Concert Band, which he wrote for the United States Marine Band.

        The musicians also taped Mr. Adolphe's Out of the Whirlwind, a six-movement work for mezzo-soprano (Phyllis Pancella), tenor (John Aler) and large wind orchestra. It is based on poems and melodies written by victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

        “It's extremely powerful, and it's powerful without knowing Yiddish,” says Rodney Winther, director of the Wind Symphony. “I know my students really felt it.”

        The experience offered a unique opportunity to the musicians, who include undergraduate and graduate students.

        “Because of the scope of the project and the high professional level of it, it forces all of us to perform at that level,” Mr. Winther says. “If it weren't us doing it, it would be a bunch of New York pros doing it.”

        Although American composers of Jewish ancestry are well-known — such as Aaron Copland, Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein — this is the first archive of its kind.

        “A lot of people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have written music for use in Jewish holiday observances and synagogues. It's the largest classical music recording project ever undertaken,” says Mr. Adler.

        The worldwide project includes more than 100 international artists and performing groups.

        “In a climate of conservative recording for the big labels, this project stands out as being unusual because of the sheer size of it — 50 CDs — and the fact that it's an archive that exists for artistic and historic reasons,” says New York producer David Frost, who was in town for the recording sessions.

        The CCM musicians are still pinching themselves.

        “The electricity before you start something like this — you can just feel it,” Mr. Winther says. “You really put everything on the line; it shows you what you're made of.”

        A composition by CCM composer Joel Hoffman was also recorded recently in Europe for the project.

        CSO AT CARNEGIE: In his final season as music director, Jesus Lopez-Cobos will lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in its annual concert at Carnegie Hall.

        Mr. Lopez-Cobos will conduct works by Barber and Tchaikovsky (Jan. 22, 2001) in the American Orchestras Series of the 2000-2001 season announced Monday. Teen-age cellist Han-Na Chang will be soloist in Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1.

        Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops also have a Carnegie Hall date — Jan. 23, 2001 — for a show they have dubbed “Swingin' with the Pops.” Soloists will include the Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army Field Band.

        The season will open Sept. 24 with a day-long celebration of the 80th birthday of the violinist Isaac Stern, who almost single-handedly saved Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball.

        Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, who succeeded former Cincinnatian Judith Arron as executive and artistic director after her death last year, will continue her legacy of dedication to education and new music. To make concerts more accessible to the community, he is launching a new program to provide 72 tickets priced at $10 to each event sponsored by Carnegie Hall.

        Construction of a third performance venue in Carnegie Hall has begun in the lower space recently occupied by a movie theater. Carnegie Hall is carrying out a $75 million fund-raising drive for the hall, to be the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall.

        This year, the CSO will be one of the first orchestras to perform in Carnegie Hall in the new millennium when it appears on Jan. 28 with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.

        Janelle Gelfand is Enquirer classical music critic. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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