Audra McDonald, WEST SIDE STORY and More Headline Cincinnati Pops 2017-18 Season

Audra McDonald, WEST SIDE STORY and More Headline Cincinnati Pops 2017-18 Season

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Conductor John Morris Russell have announced the details of the Pops' 2017-18 season, the first back in the Orchestra's home at Music Hall following an extensive renovation and transition season at the Taft Theatre. The season features eight subscription programs, plus special non-subscription performances and Lollipops Family Concerts.

Highlights of the new season include one-night-only performances with Grace Potter, Audra McDonald and Gregory Porter, as well as concerts featuring film with live orchestra, other chart-topping stars from Broadway, Cirque de la Symphonie and more. The Pops' hit American Originals program returns, and will feature Rhiannon Giddens, Steep Canyon Rangers and Pokey LaFarge.

The season opening performance, part of five weekends of grand opening celebrations from Music Hall's resident companies, will feature music from film composer John Williams including selections from Star Wars and other blockbusters, as well as a world premiere of an unpublished work by the legendary composer.

"This building, our Music Hall, has nurtured some of the most significant musical performances in our nation's history, and as we re-open Cincinnati's musical treasure with the Pops, we pop the cork on a new era of musical splendor with works by America's greatest cinematic composer: John Williams," said Mr. Russell. "It's hard to put into words the thrilling anticipation, honor and sheer delight we are all feeling about filling this grand space with the brilliant virtuosity of the Pops during these extraordinarily special concerts. There is no better way to show off the new acoustical resplendence of our home than with the some of the most dazzling and ardently emotive film scores ever created," he said.

The Cincinnati Pops has garnered a worldwide reputation for its celebration of the Great American Songbook and performances spanning all genres. The 2017-18 season continues this tradition, with programs representing orchestral classics, holiday favorites, Americana, film music and jazz.

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra: 2017-2018 Subscription Season at Music Hall:
- The Music of John Williams: Star Wars and Beyond (Oct. 13-15)
- American Originals: Vol. 2 featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Steep Canyon Rangers and Pokey LaFarge (Nov. 10-12)
- A Night of Jazz with Gregory Porter (Nov. 19)
- Holiday Pops starring Laura Benanti and featuring Denzal Sinclaire (Dec. 8-10)
- 1812 Overture and More (Jan. 20-21, 2018)
- An Evening with Audra McDonald (Feb. 25, 2018)
- Cirque de la Symphonie (Mar. 9-11, 2018)
- Grace Potter (Apr. 8, 2018)
- West Side Story: Film with Orchestra (Apr. 27-29, 2018)


Cincinnati Pops Opening Weekend
The Music of John Williams: Star Wars and Beyond
8 p.m. Friday, October 13
8 p.m. Saturday, October 14
2 p.m. Sunday, October 15
John Morris Russell conducts the Cincinnati Pops Opening Weekend at the newly renovated Music Hall. The concert program celebrates the legendary film music of composer John Williams. His scores from such films as Star Wars,

Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones have engrained themselves into the American musical experience. These works demonstrate the full strength and warmth of the Pops while painting the action and emotion of the films for which they were written.

This program will feature a world premiere of unpublished work by John Williams, a rarity for any orchestra. The premiere is of the famous theme from Schindler's List, adapted for orchestra and solo cello. This beloved theme was originally written for violin and orchestra. While Mr. Williams wrote the cello adaptation several years ago, it was set aside and never performed. These concerts will be the world premiere of this work, and will feature the Pops' principal cellist, Ilya Finkelsteyn. The Pops is honored to have the opportunity to perform this piece before any other ensemble.

American Originals: Vol. 2
Featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Steep Canyon Rangers and Pokey LaFarge

8 p.m. Friday, November 10
8 p.m. Saturday, November 11
2 p.m. Sunday, November 12
Following up on the Pops' wildly popular 2015 American Originals concert and recording tribute to Stephen Foster, American Originals: Vol. 2 explores American popular music from the dawn of the 20th century. Like the first edition of American Originals, these concerts will be recorded live for an album release. Rhiannon Giddens,

whose work as a solo artist and founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, headlines the show with a stage presence and performance style containing "the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a folk holler, and the sultry insinuation of the blues" (The New York Times). The Grammy Award- winning bluegrass sextet the Steep Canyon Rangers also bring their tight harmonies and skillful expression, while singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pokey LaFarge, known for his charismatic performances and unique brand of cross-genre musical storytelling, rounds out the lineup.

A Night of Jazz with Gregory Porter
7 p.m. Sunday, November 19
Called "the next great male jazz singer" by NPR, Grammy Award-winning jazz singer, songwriter and actor, Gregory Porter, performs with Mr. Russell and the Pops for one night only. As an authoritative figure in the world of jazz and beyond, Mr. Porter's soulful vocals and rhapsodic, high-energy songwriting has made him a favorite of critics and audiences alike. His latest album, Take Me to the Alley, won the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Songs from his recent albums will be arranged for the full Orchestra for his Pops debut.

Holiday Pops
Starring Laura Benanti and featuring Denzal Sinclaire

8 p.m. Friday, December 8
2 p.m. Saturday, December 9
8 p.m. Saturday, December 9
2 p.m. Sunday, December 10
Mr. Russell continues one of Cincinnati's most beloved holiday traditions at Music Hall. Holiday Pops features an array of singers, chorus members and dancers performing traditional favorites and introducing new holiday classics. Headlining this year's program is Tony Award-winning singer and actress Laura Benanti, known for her work on Broadway and television including She Loves Me, The Sound of Music LIVE, and Into the Woods. Also joining the Pops on this program is jazz vocalist Denzal Sinclaire, known for his joyful, expressive performances in the style of Nat King Cole. Holiday Pops will also feature choir members from the Classical Roots Community Choir and dancers from the Studio for Dance.

1812 Overture and More
8 p.m. Saturday, January 20, 2018
2 p.m. Sunday, January 21, 2018
The world's greatest composers have been writing crowd-pleasers for hundreds of years. The program features works like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Respighi's Pines of Rome and Ravel's Bolero, showing off the sonic power of the Pops. Under the direction of Mr. Russell, this program of popular classics showcases the Orchestra front and center.

An Evening with Audra McDonald
7 p.m. Sunday, February 25, 2018
Singer, actress and six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald makes her debut with the Pops in a program full of her signature songs. Her lyric soprano voice and remarkable stage presence has earned her acclaim in her roles in Ragtime, Porgy and Bess and A Raisin in the Sun. Her accolades span opera, Broadway and television and her exceptional, multi-faceted talent will shine with the Pops. Leading Broadway conductor Andy Einhorn also makes his Pops debut for this performance.

Cirque de la Symphonie
With vocalists Nicole Parker and Michael Preacely

8 p.m. Friday, March 9, 2018
8 p.m. Saturday, March 10, 2018
2 p.m. Sunday, March 11, 2018
With high-flying acrobatics and impressive aerialists, contortionists, jugglers and more, Cirque de la Symphonie has thrilled audiences across the country and now brings the magic of the contemporary circus to Music Hall and the Pops stage. The Cirque de la Symphonie program is now a wildly popular concert with orchestras around the country, but was first developed with the Cincinnati Pops under the direction of Pops Founder Erich Kunzel. The performance features orchestral classical masterpieces and contemporary popular favorites, all choreographed with the beauty and drama of the performers. These performances will tell musical stories of heroes and villains, aided by vocalists Nicole Parker and Michael Preacely, under the direction of conductor Stuart Chafetz.

Grace Potter
7 p.m. Sunday, April 8, 2018
From her role as the lead figure in the rock band Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, to her enormously successful solo career, Grace Potter's powerful bluesy vocals and arresting, vivacious stage presence have made her a regular on concert and festival stages around the world. Known for songs such as "Stars," "Paris (Ooh La La)" and "Nothing But The Water," as well as her collaborations with artists such as Kenny Chesney and The Flaming Lips, singer-songwriter Grace Potter brings her blend of rock, folk, blues and pop to Music Hall, making this all-new orchestra performance an electrifying addition to the Pops season.

West Side Story: Film with Live Orchestra 8 p.m. Friday, April 27, 2018
8 p.m. Saturday, April 28, 2018
2 p.m. Sunday, April 29, 2018
The Pops season closes as Mr. Russell conducts Leonard Bernstein's timeless score to one of Hollywood and Broadway's most beloved love stories. West Side Story has captivated audiences for generations, depicting a Romeo and Juliet tragedy set among the Sharks and the Jets of 1960s New York City. The film will be projected over the Orchestra, bringing to life the songs ingrained into the culture such as "Somewhere," "America," "I Feel Pretty," and "Maria." These performances are part of the worldwide Bernstein Centennial celebration. They are also part of a city-wide celebration that includes the CSO, Ballet and May Festival. Photo: West Side Story © 1961 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Inc. All rights reserved.

Other 2017-2018 Pops Concerts:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Concert
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29
7:00 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30

The Cincinnati Pops will perform Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Concert as part of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series. The concert will feature the live orchestra performing, to picture, every note from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Audiences will be able to relive the magic of the film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen while hearing the orchestra perform John Williams' unforgettable score.

Tickets for these performances are available for subscribers beginning on Feb. 24, 2017. Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning June 1, 2017.

Lollipops Family Concerts
The Pops will again present a three-concert series of Lollipops Family Concerts scheduled for Saturday mornings at Music Hall. These concerts, geared towards children ages 2-9 and their families, serve as an opportunity to introduce young people to the joys of orchestral music. Pre-concert activities are fun and instructional preludes to the concert and include arts and crafts, demonstrations, photo booths, and the ever-popular "instrument playground."

For the first of these concerts, Polar Express: A Musical Storybook, Mr. Russell and the Pops tell the classic holiday tale through music on Saturday, Nov. 25 featuring original storybook imagery by Chris van Allsburg. On Saturday, Feb. 3, Mozart's Neighborhood, conducted by Mr. Russell, provides an introduction to some of the most famous works by this most beloved of composers. Finally, Lemony Snicket: The Composer is Dead, presented on Saturday, Apr. 28 and conducted by Associate Conductor Keitaro Harada, is a lighthearted musical murder mystery that introduces children to the various instruments of the orchestra.

The Orchestra is grateful to Lollipops Series Sponsor UDF.

New Year's Eve 2017
Known for her work with Postmodern Jukebox, soul singer Morgan James has established a career as one of the most powerhouse vocalists performing today. Equally as dynamic performing personal renditions of popular hits as her own songs, Ms. James will ring in the New Year with Mr. Russell and the Pops with a program celebrating the Great American Songbook.

Classical Roots 2018
The Orchestra's annual celebration of African American musical heritage returns to Music Hall Friday, April 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The Classical Roots Community Mass Choir performs with the CSO, along with exciting guest artists to be announced.


Subscription packages go on sale beginning Friday, February 24, 2017. Subscribers receive priority seating at the best prices, free unlimited ticket exchanges, the option to purchase guaranteed, pre- paid parking, among various other exclusive benefits.

Single tickets for the subscription series go on sale to the general public August 8, 2017. Subscription packages start at $112.50 while single tickets will start at $25 for most concerts, which does not include a 3.5% facility fee, which will ensure a dedicated fund for the ongoing maintenance of Music Hall for future generations.


A remarkable artist with boundless enthusiasm for music- making of all kinds, John Morris Russell is a modern conductor who engages and enthralls audiences with the full breadth of the orchestral experience. Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops since 2011, Mr. Russell's diverse programming and electric stage presence have infused new creativity and energy into one of the world's most iconic pops orchestras.

Consistently winning international praise for his extraordinary music-making and visionary leadership, this Ohio native is also Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina where Mr. Russell's commitment has yielded a new level of artistic excellence, as well as Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

A popular guest conductor throughout the United States and Canada, he also holds the title of Conductor Laureate with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, where he served as Music Director for eleven years.

With the Cincinnati Pops, Mr. Russell regularly leads sold-out performances at Cincinnati's Music Hall and the Orchestra's temporary home at the Taft Theatre during the 2016-17 season. Additionally, he conducts the Pops at the Riverbend Music Center and in concerts throughout the Greater Cincinnati region and on tour. Mr. Russell has collaborated with generations of great performers including the late Ray Charles and Rosemary Clooney, as well as Idina Menzel, Vince Gill, Branford Marsalis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Megan Hilty, Michael McDonald, George Takei, Amy Grant, BrIan Wilson, Katharine McPhee and Marvin Winans.

A sought-after guest conductor across the continent, Mr. Russell's recent engagements include the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the New York Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, among many other ensembles.

The Cincinnati Pops, which also performs as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, is under the direction of John Morris Russell and presents a diverse array of musical styles, all bathed in the world-renowned "Cincinnati Sound." The Pops was officially founded in 1977 with the late Erich Kunzel, and just since 1980, the Orchestra has sold ten million recordings around the globe.

The growing list of celebrated artists who have collaborated with the Pops include Ella Fitzgerald, Frederica von Stade, Doc Severinsen, Henry Mancini, Aretha Franklin, Mel Tormé, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Holliday, Vanessa Williams, Dave Brubeck, The Temptations, John Williams, Idina Menzel, Rosemary Clooney, Mandy Patinkin, George Takei, Arturo Sandoval, Peter Frampton, Boyz II Men, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Pink Martini, Megan Hilty, Rosanne Cash, Jason Alexander and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The Pops tours nationally and internationally, recently performing in Beijing as part of the Opening Festivities of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. In 2005, the Pops completed a historic tour to China and Singapore performing in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The Cincinnati Pops was the first U.S. Pops orchestra to perform in China, and also has appeared to enthusiastic audiences in New York's Carnegie Hall, in Washington D.C., Japan, Taiwan, and most recently across Florida. The Pops will return to Asia in March 2017 for performances in Shanghai, Tainan and Taipei.

An estimated 30 million people have viewed national telecasts of the Cincinnati Pops on PBS, and the Orchestra has more than 100 available recordings, 55 of which have appeared on the Billboard charts, a record unmatched by any other orchestra. The Pops' Copland: Music of America won a Grammy in 1997, and four other Pops recordings have been nominated for Grammy Awards.

In 2012, the Pops released its first recording under John Morris Russell, Home for the Holidays, on the Orchestra's own Fanfare Cincinnati label. Subsequent recordings Superheroes! and Carnival of the Animals reached #8 and #15, respectively, on the Billboard charts. The most recent Pops release, American Originals, received national critical and popular acclaim for its reimagining of the Stephen Foster songbook. In the spring of 2016, the Pops unveiled American Soundscapes, an online video series that features Pops performances captured live that has already reached tens of thousands of viewers around the world.


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