Cincinnati Music Hall holds appeal as both tourist destination and hometown landmark. The massive red brick building with its distinctive turrets and gables looms large from a historic perch on Elm Street. For more than a century, the regal structure has been home to classical music events that are somehow both stylish and comfortable.
Cincinnati is culture. Cincinnati is grit. Cincinnati is her arts, her sports, her riverfront, her skyline. Cincinnati is a visitor’s playground. Cincinnati is my home. As one of my last Cincinnati treats I experienced LumenoCity, the extravaganza of sound and light presented by the Cincinnati Pops and Symphony Orchestra to welcome Louis Langrée as music director.
Nestled into the once run-down Washington Park, now revitalized to family-friendly hospitality, and set before historic Music Hall, LumenoCity presented a program of visual and aural wonder. To be in a sea of lawn chairs, blankets, and park benches on a perfect August summer evening was to be a citizen of a city that is unlike any other city anywhere—at least those I’ve been fortunate to visit. New York, Chicago, London, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich—not one could surpass this magnificent setting or presentation this evening.
The Cincinnati Pops and John Morris Russell, with his delightful cornball schtick, opened the first half of the program. They entertained us with crowd-pleasing Broadway tunes enhanced by the May Festival Chorus, the Cincinnati Ballet, and folks from the Cincinnati Opera, accompanied by the Pops. The second half of the evening belonged to the gracious Maestro Langrée and the CSO. Dazzling lights and images were projected in time to the music on Music Hall’s façade. This high-tech display told stories through pieces by Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Copland (“Simple Gifts” was my personal favorite that night), Beethoven, and Ravel, all performed with the musical excellence typical of the CSO. I especially loved the way the creators of the evening incorporated the rose window in the center of the building and the way they seemed to make Cincinnati Music Hall bow at the end of the evening.
Through it all, I celebrated that Cincinnati is being visibly restored as the gem it has always been at its core. More importantly, I was reminded of the limitless gift of creativity God has bestowed on people. Add the opportunity to relax with 20,000 of my fellow Cincinnatians, to hear them enjoy one another’s a company, to note their joy and gratitude as they watched and listened, to share the evening with special friends, to chat briefly at intermission with other dear friends in the orchestra and chorus, to learn later that many other friends were in the huge crowd, and to know they had experienced the same pleasure we had—all this was to be part of a community that is knit together in the heart.
I will miss Cincinnati. Events like LumenoCity that bring out the best in her citizens remind me of why I embrace her so passionately. Deeply emotional loyalty soaks over me as I drive through her neighborhoods; embrace her architecture; promote the first-rate public magnet schools our children attended; cheer our Redlegs at GABP; eat a Skyline Chili three-way, Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip cone, or Bonbonerie apricot scone; visit her public libraries; see Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival; buy produce and flowers at Findlay Market; walk at the new Smale Riverfront Park. I was not born here, but Cincinnati is my hometown. And when I return to visit, I will always be breathless in anticipation of the adventure that awaits me as her magnificent skyline appears from the Northern Kentucky I-75 crest of the hill.