Sunday, April 01, 2001

Pops ventures into new territory this summer

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Pops is branching into territory that should appeal to a spectrum of music lovers this summer.

        The Chieftains, champions of traditional Irish music for 37 seasons, will perform with Erich Kunzel and the Pops at Riverbend on July 7 and 8.

        Classic New Orleans jazz will reign when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joins the Pops July 13-14.

        And country music star Larry Gatlin, whose song “Broken Lady” won a Grammy for him in 1976, will be the headliner in the annual July Fourth show. In a recent gig, he played for guests of President Bush at an inaugural ball. It will be Mr. Gatlin's Cincinnati Pops debut.

        Such a variety — world music, New Orleans jazz and country — signals a refreshing change from the usual Pops summertime fare. It's a good balance to the tried-and-true Broadway and Hollywood-themed nights, which are back by popular demand.

        “It's a great season of concerts with probably the broadest appeal ever in our 18 years at Riverbend,” says Mr. Kunzel, who will conduct four of the five concert weekends. “I've intentionally sandwiched the season with two audience favorites, beginning with a Broadway program of today's best musicals, and concluding with MGM silver screen classics conducted by my good friend and colleague Jack Everly.”

        There are several firsts. The Chieftains have appeared with the likes of Sting, Sinead O'Connor and the Rolling Stones (heard on their Grammy-winning 1995 album, The Long Black Veil). But for the first time, the Irish group will mingle their uillean pipes, tin whistles and bodhrans with the Pops.

        The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been in residence in New Orleans' famed Preservation Hall since 1952. Its founders have handed down the tradition to a new generation of players, appearing for the first time at Riverbend.

        The Pops' “Sounds of the River” show with Preservation Hall will include numbers from Show Boat, sung by soprano Cynthia Watters, tenor David Fischer and bass David Michael, making his Cincinnati Pops debut. Mr. Michael, who was the King in Cincinnati Opera's Aida last summer, is pursuing an opera career after a run as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble.

        Mr. Kunzel will kick off the Riverbend season June 29-30 with Broadway favorites such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King and Rent. MUSE, Cincinnati's Women's Choir directed by Catherine Roma, and Cincinnati Men's Chorus, directed by Patrick O. Coyle, will be joining the Pops for the first time.

        The Ohio Valley British Brass Band, Ed Nickols, director, will also appear on that show, with returning vocalists Kathleen Brett, David Fischer and Daniel Narducci.

        Mr. Kunzel will continue his “Symphantasy” tradition, drawing upon local talent for Symphantasy XIV: 2001 A Symphonic Space Odyssey (July 20-21). The extravaganza includes members of the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy; the Cincinnati Brass Band, directed by Anita Cocker Hunt; acrobats Darek & Jarek, aerialist Alexander Streltsov and ballet dancers Anton Kunikeyev and Daria Fedotova.

        “For our 14th Symphantasy, the year 2001 is our inspiration, and we'll have the NASA space program on the big screen,” Mr. Kunzel adds.

        The May Festival Summer Chorus, directed by James Bagwell, will collaborate in the Show Boat tunes, and appear in a salute to Metro Goldwyn Mayer musicals (July 27-28) with Mr. Everly conducting. In December, Mr. Everly was named principal pops conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra effective in 2002, succeeding Mr. Kunzel who is leaving that post.

        Unlike last summer, when Mr. Kunzel was in town to conduct the Pops' July Fourth special live on PBS, the music man will be in Washington, D.C., where, since 1991, he has conducted A Capitol Fourth for a nationwide PBS broadcast. Associate conductor John Morris Russell will share the Riverbend stage with Mr. Gatlin. (Tickets, $17, will be sold separately.)

        The concerts begin at 8:30 p.m.

        Subscriptions ($70-$150) go on sale Monday. Single tickets ($17-$37) go on sale June 6. For information (including upgrades to “Club Seats”) call 381-3300 or go to


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