What to Expect At The May Festival Music

5 Unique Cincinnati ConcertsTips To Enjoying May Festival Music

Want to enjoy a one-of-a-kind musical experience that’ll leave you with a feeling unlike anything else in Cincinnati? The May Festival, which kicks off on Friday, May 10, features five unique concerts performed by the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra over the next two weekends.

The event dates back to its founding in 1873, which makes it the oldest continuous choral festival in the Western Hemisphere. The transformative experience of attending the May Festival is responsible for Its longevity and popularity. Here are some tips to enjoying the music, via Cincinatti.com:

1st Night

Composer: Alexander Zemlinsky (1872 – 1942)

  • Psalm 13 – Written in 1935, as Zemlinsky had fled Germany to escape the Nazis. Features anguished melodies and dark orchestration, reflective of the turmoil he experienced.
  • Psalm 23 – “The Lord is My Shepherd,” features soaring melodies, colorful orchestra with cymbals, glockenspiel, celesta and a pair of harps.

Composer: Mozart (1756 – 1791)

  • Requiem Mass in D Minor (K. 626) – Soloists performed Mozart’s unfinished Requiem at his bedside the day before he died. His Requiem was finished by his students. The May Festival is using the edition by Mozart’s student, Franz Xaver Sussmayr. Listen for “Tuba mirum” which features a solo trombone representing the trumpet of the Last Judgement.

2nd Night

Composer: Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976), in observance of his centennial.

  • War Requiem: The May Festival Chorus last performed this in Carnegie Hall in 2001 one month after 9/11. Written in response to the two world wars, the music in Britten’s Requiem is beautiful, moving and unsettling as it mourns the casualties of war. Brass fanfares and crashing drums symbolize battlefields and the apocalypse.

Britten created this piece by weaving texts of the Latin Requiem Mass with anti-war poems by English poet and soldier Wilfred Owen, who died in World War I.

3rd Night

Cathedral Basilica Concert
This program is shorter and more intimate, featuring joyful hymns of praise by the May Festival Youth Chorus and contemplative a cappella music by the May Festival Chamber Choir.

4th Night, (May 18)

Composer: Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

  • Oedipus Rex: An opera-oratorio to the well-known Greek tragedy. Two acts; semi-staged by Ed Stern and narrated by Joneal Joplin, roles performed by soloists. Stravinsky’s neo-classical style of music is dramatic and spare, which will be contrasted by music from French Impressionists Ravel and Debussy.

5th Night (May 18)

Composers: Verdi and Wagner (in observance of their bicentennials)

The May Festival Chorus will perform famous choruses from Verdi’s operas, including “Va pensiero” and “Aida”’s Triumphal Scene.

Highlights from the Wagner operas include the Bridal Chorus from “Lohengrin”, the finale from “Die Meistersinger, “Die Walkure,” and “Magic Fire Music.”

Enhance your May Festival experience and make it even more special by hiring a Cincinnati limo to take you to the event. Whether you’re with a date, family or friends, a chauffeured vehicle ensures your safety, comfort and style.

The May Festival will take place at 1241 Elm Street in Cincinnati. It’s produced by the non-profit Cincinnati Musical Festival Association and managed by the staff of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.