The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO)’s Classical Roots returns to historic Cincinnati Music Hall on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. following the iconic hall’s extensive $143 million renovation. An unwritten portion of Music Hall’s rich and diverse history will be explored and celebrated in this year’s highly anticipated, one-night-only performance conducted by John Morris Russell with the theme, “Under One Roof.”
“Music Hall has been a vibrant gathering place for Cincinnati since it was built in 1878, but much of its story is untold” said Mr. Russell. “Though the history of Springer Auditorium is well documented, most Cincinnatians are unaware that some of the most prominent African-American musicians of the 20th century performed in Music Hall’s South Hall, known for two generations as the Greystone Club. At the same time, Music Hall’s North Hall was used for years as an athletic arena and served as a venue for many great African-American athletes. This year’s Classical Roots program, ‘Under One Roof’ celebrates the history and artistry of Black artists and audiences that helped secure Music Hall as one of our country’s most important cultural destinations.”
Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price made groundbreaking performances in Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium, and the Greystone Club in Music Hall, hosted such legendary artists as Billie Holliday, Cab Callaway, Sarah Vaughan, Fats Domino, and Duke Ellington, among many others. Heavyweight Champion Ezzard Charles even boxed in the North Hall Arena. “These are all giants of American cultural history and represent an important and vital part of the Music Hall story,” said Mr. Russell.
Classical Roots is an annual Cincinnati tradition that celebrates African American musical heritage and brings together friends and neighbors for a shared concert experience.
“The history of the African-American community here has often been relegated to the margins of our city’s narrative – like the two halls, north and south of Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium,” said Mr. Russell. “And yet, when we really look deeply and sincerely into history the story becomes far richer and more nuanced. There is beauty, courage and eloquence in the Music Hall story that is only truly revealed when we understand we are all under one roof.”
This year’s concert captures the original spirit of Classical Roots by shining a spotlight on Greater Cincinnati’s rich musical heritage including the great artists who performed at the Greystone Club. Selections this year will include music by iconic African-American composers such as Eubie Blake and James Reese Europe. The program will also recognize Marion Anderson, the first African-American to perform on stage at Music Hall’s Spring Auditorium.
The Classical Roots Community Mass Choir, which is comprised of over 150 volunteer singers representing dozens of area churches and prepared by director William Henry Caldwell with local music ministers, returns as a staple for the annual concert. This celebrated ensemble will honor African-American icons who performed in Music Hall’s Ballroom and Springer Auditorium including Duke Ellington, William L. Dawson, and Rev. James Cleveland. The choir will also perform selections from Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess.
Classical Roots also features the CSYO Nouveau Chamber Players, a celebrated string ensemble comprised of talented African-American and Latino student musicians, as well seven CSO/CCM Diversity Fellows, who will perform together on stage for the first time since Music Hall’s grand reopening in October. The CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a groundbreaking, nationally recognized program in which these string players work on graduate degrees at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music while receiving specialized training with CSO musicians and performance opportunities with the full Orchestra.
Additional guest artists will be named on a later date and the Classical Roots concert will be American Sign Language interpreted.
Tickets for Classical Roots start at $25 for full view seating and are $10 for limited view. Tickets can be purchased by visiting or calling the CSO Box Office at (513) 381-3300 or visiting www.cincinnatisymphony.org/classicalroots.