American Originals Vol. 2 Returns To Music Hall Featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Pokey LaFarge, Steep Canyon Rangers

Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is thrilled to reprise its hit program, American Originals, with Volume 2 performances at Music Hall November 10-12 led by Conductor John Morris Russell. American Originals Vol. 2 explores American popular music at the beginning of the 20th century, re-imagined by guest artists Rhiannon Giddens, Pokey LaFarge and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Following up on the Pops’ wildly popular 2015 American Originals concert and recording tribute to Stephen Foster, American Originals: Vol. 2 celebrates the American musical heritage, and this edition specifically explores the advent of jazz. Like the first edition of American Originals, these concerts will be recorded live for an album release on the Orchestra’s Fanfare Cincinnati label, scheduled for fall of 2018 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. It will be the first commercial recording in the recently renovated Music Hall.

“It’s no secret that I am a huge jazz devotee, and have always been fascinated by the early roots of jazz from the dawn of the 20th century,” said Mr. Russell. “In the immediate aftermath of the First World War in 1918, the American popular music scene exploded. Styles we now call jazz, blues, country and bluegrass all had roots in African American musical traditions, that turned mainstream American musical expression on its ear. ‘The Great War’ was the first to utilize large numbers of African American troops, who earned and received in France the respect and dignity of the local populace that few of those soldiers had ever received in the USA. Blues and Ragtime styles performed by soldiers in black regimental bands became all the rage in Europe, and when the fighting was over, American music came home with those soldiers. Emboldened by their active defense of democracy abroad and the admiration of sophisticated European music lovers, African American composers and musicians began a musical revolution on this side of the Atlantic.”

The concert program will include classic songs by Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan, as well as works by African American composers Shelton Brooks, Will Marion Cook, Eubie Blake, W.C. Handy, James P. Johnson and Spencer Williams. These works will be given all new arrangements featuring the aforementioned guest artists. Folk artist Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who was recently awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, headlines the show with personality and stage presence that has 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, known for their work with Steve Martin, also bring their tight harmonies and skillful expression. Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pokey LaFarge, known for his charismatic performances and unique brand of cross-genre musical storytelling, as well as tap dancer Robyn Watson, round out the lineup.

Tickets start at $25 and are now available for all performances online at or at the box office located in the south wing of Music Hall. Call (513) 381-3300 for more information.

The Cincinnati Pops is grateful to the Pops Series Sponsor, PNC. Major underwriting for the Pops is provided by Mrs. Edyth B. Lindner.

The recording of this program is made possible through the generous support of Anne Heldman, John & Suzanne Bossert and Otto Budig.