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May Festival Announces 2020 Season

May Festival Announces 2020 Season

The Cincinnati May Festival announced program details and artists for the 2020 Festival with nine performances taking place between May 21 and 31, 2020 at Cincinnati Music Hall as well as other locations, and an additional performance on April 5, 2020 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky. Joining the Festival's artistic leadership team of Principal Conductor Juanjo Mena and Director of Choruses Robert Porco is 2020 Artistic Partner John Adams.

Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer making his May Festival conducting debut with his own El Niño. Additional Festival debuts include guest conductor Ryan Bancroft and a special appearance by Philadelphia's St. Thomas Gospel Choir. The annual May Festival features the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and is programmed to inspire audiences with fresh collaborations while also drawing on the Festival's rich tradition. The 2020 Festival focuses on music and themes originating in the Americas, and includes works by nine living composers. It also celebrates Beethoven's 250th birthday with expressions of freedom in the Music Hall opener.

"Musical worlds have come together in the Americas, and it's only fitting that the Western Hemisphere's longest running choral festival explores the origins, traditions and new sounds representing this diverse soundscape," said Mena. "Through ten concerts and nine unique programs, audiences will experience a variety of styles and genres-all elevated by the human voice."


Sunday, April 5 at 8 pm May Festival at the Basilica Director of Choruses Robert Porco and Associate Director of Choruses Matthew Swanson lead a testament to the power of American sacred music spanning everything from traditional American hymns to a brand-new commission at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky.

The May Festival Chorus and May Festival Youth Chorus perform works in this beautiful space by Howard Hanson, John Williams, Dominick Argento, Randall Thompson, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Charles Ives, Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, Jeffrey Van, Cara Haxo, Bobby McFerrin, Virgil Thomson and Howard Helvey.

"The Basilica is a stunning place to experience choral music - especially sacred music," said Porco. "Presenting music in this space is a beloved annual tradition, and we look forward to a special evening that includes works by five living composers."


Friday, May 22 at 8 pm Beethoven's Ninth The May Festival joins in the worldwide 250th celebration of Beethoven's birth with Juanjo Mena leading the May Festival forces in excerpts from Fidelio (overture and two choruses) and arguably the world's most famous piece for orchestra and chorus, the composer's Symphony No. 9. Soprano Lauren Michelle returns to the May Festival stage with the CSO and May Festival Chorus, along with soloists Tamara Mumford (mezzo-soprano), Kang Wang (tenor) Ryan McKinny (bass-baritone).

"Fidelio and the Ninth Symphony share messages of freedom and joy, and it is only fitting we close the main stage opening night performance with Beethoven's finale from the Ninth Symphony, the beloved "Ode to Joy," said Mena. "Nestled between these Beethoven masterpieces, we are pleased to further grow the canon of music for chorus and orchestra with an exciting new American piece."

Between the two Beethoven works is a world premiere co-commission for chorus and orchestra by acclaimed American composer Jessie Montgomery, the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. The Washington Post has described her work as "turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life."

Saturday, May 23 at 8 pm John Adams Conducts El Niño Composer, conductor, and creative thinker-John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. On May 23 at Music Hall, Adams conducts the May Festival Chorus, CSO and more in El Niño, his well-known interpretation of the Nativity story inspired by Handel's Messiah. The work blends Spanish poetry with a biblical and apocryphal narrative, and is described by the composer as "my way of trying to understand what is meant by miracle."

"John Adams will bring a unique perspective and wealth of knowledge and experience to the 2020 Festival," said Mena. "We look forward to his presence at the Festival, experiencing his extraordinary music, and his artistry on the conducting podium in Cincinnati this May."

Joining Adams, the May Festival Chorus and the CSO for El Niño are soprano Mikaela Bennett, mezzo-soprano Josefina Maldonado, baritone Elliot Madore, a trio of countertenors with Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Nathan Medley, and the May Festival Youth Chorus.

Friday, May 29, 8 pm America's Sound [North] America's contributions to the world of music are vast. Ryan Bancroft, winner of the 2018 Malko Competition for Young Conductors, makes his May Festival debut with a revelous program of American life. This is what the Festival is known for--familiar names like Stravinsky and Copland meet inspired new works by living composers Adolphus Hailstork and Derrick Spiva, who's Prisms, Cycles, Leaps is "enormous fun to listen to" (Los Angeles Times).

Philadelphia's St. Thomas Gospel Choir joins the May Festival Chorus, May Festival Community Chorus, and tenor Joshua Stewart on a program that features Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Adolphus Hailstork's I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, Copland's Old American Songs and "The Promise of Living" from The Tender Land.

Saturday, May 30 America's Sound [South] Juanjo Mena leads the May Festival forces in an extraordinary collage of Latin American color with some May Festival firsts including Estevez' cinematic Cantata Criolla, Villa-Lobos' Choros No. 3 "Pica-Pau" and Choros No. 10: Rasga o Coração, and Ginastera's Suite from "Panambi." Soloists are tenor Santiago Ballerini and baritone Elliot Madore.

May FestivALL SING: Community Singing Day Sunday, May 24, 10 am - 8 pm Join us at Music Hall and Memorial Hall for a full day of singing, and more. Hundreds of singers will appear in more than 60 performances. Ensembles and soloists of all kinds will perform, showcasing the vibrant singing culture of Cincinnati. There will also be family-friendly activities, a youth choir festival, yoga, vocal health workshops, and special guest appearances and collaborations.

Admission is paid. Space for yoga is limited.


Thursday, May 21, at 7:30pm May Festival Cabaret Wilks Studio inside Music Hall Guest vocalist Mikaela Bennett, a "radiant, stylish soprano," (New York Times) sings in intimacy and candlelight when Wilks Studio inside Music Hall becomes a lavish cabaret. Take a seat among bistro tables and see the star, joined by the Cincinnati Pops Poptet, sing hits from Broadway and jazz before taking the stage for John Adams' miraculous El Niño on May 23rd. Get your tickets for this up-close-and- personal revue before they're gone.

Wednesday, May 27 at 8 pm St. Thomas Gospel Choir of Philadelphia Allen Temple AME Church One of America's finest gospel choirs brings their electric, soulful style to the Queen City. This spirited performance will have you on your feet and leave you filled with a joyful noise. Waltier Blocker conducts the choir at Allen Temple AME Church.

Thursday, May 28 at 8 pm + Sunday, May 31 at 2 pm John Adams: I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre Art reflects shocking life. Using a Broadway style, John Adams' I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky tells the stories of seven characters-each battling an inner demon-whose lives are thrown into chaos by the devastating 1994 Northridge, California earthquake. In the face of tragedy, love and hope survive. Performance will be directed by Ashley Tata and conducted by Grant Gershon at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theatre.

This semi-staged production contains adult subject matter not intended for all audiences.



Season tickets and individual tickets available now.

Subscribers get seating priority through the renewal deadline of DEC 1, 2019.

Create YOUR May Festival Experience. There are many ways to enjoy this season's May Festival. We make it easy!

• Festival Fan: 1 ticket to all 9 performances. Our biggest fans get our biggest discount of 25% off regular prices. Unable to attend all 9? Donate any unused tickets back to us before the concert to share the music with students and local human service organizations.

a?? For Renewals: Upgrade to this package, keep your same seats or

priority seating for any changes, if renewed by DEC 1 a?? Seating priority a?? Free unlimited exchanges

• Choose Your Own Experience: The more you buy, the more you save!

a?? Seating priority over Festival Pass holders and single ticket

buyers a?? 2-3 concerts: 10% off a?? 4-5 concerts: 15% off a?? 6-8 concerts: 20% off a?? 3+ concert holders get free unlimited exchanges. Prices

guaranteed through the DEC 1 renewal deadline.

• Festival Pass - Buy now, choose later: Know you want to attend, but can't decide on your concerts/dates yet? Buy a 6-voucher Festival Pass for the discounted price of $147 and choose your concerts later. Use in any combination for any concert in the series! Redeem up to the day of the performance, as availability allows.

a?? Ultimate flexibility a?? Best price of the season a?? Best available seating in C-price seating or below

Call the May Festival Box Office at 513.381.3300 (M-F 10-5 pm; Sat 10-2 pm), visit us online at or come in person to the Music Hall Box Office at 1241 Elm Street 45202.

Parking: Parking will be available to all ticket buyers starting October 21.

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