Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Celebrating Music Hall's 125 years

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, we asked you to tell us your favorite memory of Music Hall. Here are some of your comments:

Sprinting to prom made sweaty picture

Thirteen years ago, my husband, Halleck, and I were going on our first date at Music Hall: the Walnut Hills High School Class of 1990 Senior Prom.

After securing Hal's father's car, then dining at Top of the Crown, we drove down Central Parkway, parking near the current police station. It was 10:55 p.m. when the chaperones would lock the doors for the night. We assumed what we know now as the back doors to be the front doors. Pulling on all the locked doors and checking all the nooks on the back of Music Hall, we decided to run as fast as we could to the other side, where we sprinted up the steps in our sequins and tails.

Just as the parents were locking the doors and the photographers were closing up, we stepped in front of the camera for our first photo together. To this day, people joke about how sweaty we looked in our prom picture.

Charity Paddock, North College Hill

Music Hall memories all about Peter Noone

My memories of Music Hall involve Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and my daughter. For my 13th birthday, in 1966, my parents allowed me to take five girlfriends to the Herman's Hermits concert at Music Hall. There were two opening acts, The Who and The Blues Magoo. In her teen years, my daughter and her friends were quite impressed that I had seen The Who in concert - until they found out that I couldn't wait for them to be finished so that I could see Herman and that The Who was not the main attraction.

Then a few years ago, Peter Noone was the emcee for the flood benefit concert held at Music Hall, featuring several groups from my era. I won tickets on the day of the concert. I was excited that my daughter would get to share with me seeing my "idol" from the '60s. Much to my delight, she did like him, even thought he was still cute. She turned to me and said, "He has a lot of energy for someone his age."

Judy Lewis, Blanchester

Skitch Henderson urged saving hall

I have many fond Music Hall memories of outstanding performers and wonderful music.

One memory in the mid-1960s stands out: Skitch Henderson's plea. The physical condition of Music Hall was obviously deteriorating. Their were rumors that Music Hall was to be demolished. The stage was in such bad shape a plywood runner was used to reduce squeaking when performers walked on it and, the rumors said, to prevent someone from falling through the floor.

Henderson returned from intermission, sat down at his piano, and was poised to resume the concert when, suddenly, he stopped, and walked to the front of the stage. He looked at the plywood and the sad condition of the interior of Music Hall. He shook his head. Then he asked the audience if they knew what a magnificent gem they had in Music Hall.

He had heard the rumors about tearing it down. Then he asked if there were any Cincinnatians who cared enough about Music Hall to save it and restore it to its past glory. He ended by saying once Music Hall is gone, it can never be truly replaced.

Not long after that evening, J. Ralph and Patricia Corbett committed millions of dollars to save, restore and preserve Music Hall. I think about Skitch Henderson's plea when I visit Music Hall and would like to believe his comments played at least a small role in her preservation.

Jim Thomas, Wyoming

She discovered ballet at Music Hall as child

My first memory of Cincinnati Music Hall was to see a man performing on skis. He stood atop bales of straw and slid down the bales on his skis. I remember many people watching this event. I had no idea what was going on at the time, but I knew my parents were excited about this accomplishment.

Another memory was when my maiden aunt, Aunt Mayme, took me to see the ballet of "Peter and the Wolf." What an exciting event that was! I was dressed in a little burgundy velvet dress my aunt made for me. I felt special in my new dress as this was a special day for me. We climbed the beautiful staircase which seemed like a "Staircase to Heaven." I remember thinking, am I ever going to get to the top of the stairs? The year may have been 1937 or 1938. This experience was a great introduction to one of the arts in this wonderful old city. I not only saw a beautiful ballet, but I was inside this gorgeous old impressive building.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Cincinnati Music Hall as my cousin told me she was going to a Pop concert there. A gentleman, who attended grade school with me, was able to purchase tickets to attend Eric Kunzel's Patriotic Concert on Saturday.

Georgianna M. Dachs,Buffalo, N.Y. (Formerly of Kenwood)

Music Hall produced beautiful memories

I can remember as a child in the fourth grade at Pleasant Ridge Public School, my class going to a series of Pops concerts at Music Hall. How my mother always dressed me in my best clothes and how excited I was to be going downtown to the concerts. I believe there were five in all.

Many years later in 1940, I remember my graduation from Withrow High School and at that time Withrow was one of the largest high schools in Cincinnati. We had to hold our graduation exercises in a large enough hall to accommodate about 400 graduates.

How lovely were all the seniors. The girls in long white dresses and the boys in dark suits. Such an impressive occasion. Such beautiful memories.

Anne Longeway,Sycamore Township

Anniversary inspired classical music hall

It was at the 100th anniversary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in April 1995 that on stage were four international conductors, Jesus-Lopez-Cobos, Michael Gielen, Erich Kunzel and Keith Lockhart, and three international performers, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich and Richard Stolzman.

It was at this time that Cleveland was opening up their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a lot of publicity and fanfare. I thought to myself, is there a Hall of Fame for classical music? This began my quest to begin the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. Everyone I interviewed said, "If there is not a hall of fame for classical music, there should be."

Now eight years later and five induction ceremonies completed, the American Classical Music Hall of Fame has become a major force in classical music nationally and internationally. Without the Cincinnati Music Hall experience, none of this would have happened. I often say to people, "Cincinnati is major league baseball and football, but more importantly, Cincinnati is major league music."

David A. Klingshirn, Founder, Classical Music Hall of Fame

Hall brings back memories of events

In response to requests regarding the 125th anniversary of Music Hall, I think of two events:

I participated in a program where high school students carried flags of all the countries of the world. The one I carried was Afghanistan.

I was with the symphony orchestra. A good friend took my sister and me to see Mario Lanza. I will never forget the stage presence and talent of his magnificent stature.

Both of these events were in the early 1950s.

Virginia Niemeyer, Harrison

Great music paved way for auditions, career

I was a lucky kid. My mother and dad introduced me to great music at Music Hall and the Zoo Opera.

I studied voice at the old Conservatory of Music on Highland Avenue. I sang with the short-lived Cincinnati Light Opera Company and, in 1940, I passed an audition with the Zoo Opera. I was promised several small roles the following summer, but World War II had come along and I volunteered to "get my year over with." I served 5 years in the Army.

My career, of course, was in radio and TV in New York and Hollywood "working" with people like Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason, Jack Lemmon, and Arthur and Kathryn Murray.

Bill Nimmo, Milford

Tell us your favorite memory of Music Hall and we will publish and post online the best leading up to the 125th anniversary celebration in May: a marriage proposal made there, a first date, a critic's recollection of some opera great, the threat from the 1937 flood, a boxing match, a UC basketball game in the 1940s, a Janis Joplin concert, some happy mix-up - any funny or personal or unforgettable anecdote about this historic hall that belongs to all of us. Send to: Readers' Views, Enquirer Editorial Page, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax 513-768-8610; e-mail letters@enquirer.com.

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