CCM presents THEY WERE YOU. Photo by Adam Zeek.

World Premiere of CCM’s “They Were You” Gets Rave Reviews

CCM presents THEY WERE YOU. Photos by Adam Zeek.

CCM presents THEY WERE YOU. Photo by Adam Zeek.

Critics praised CCM’s world premiere of They Were You, a musical revue of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt songs, which ran Oct. 5-9 in the Cohen Family Studio Theater. Devised and directed by Aubrey Berg, the Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre at CCM, They Were You featured musical arrangements by CCM faculty member Stephen Goers and choreography by alumna Katie Johannigman (BFA Musical Theatre, 2012).

In his review for The Sappy Critic, Kirk Sheppard called CCM’s They Were You “a magical night of theater.” He praised Berg’s direction, the “excellent” cast, Johannigman’s “fun, logical” choreography and Goers’ “beyond beautiful” musical arrangements. 

“There’s no need to single out any one of the six outrageously gifted young artists in the cast,” said Rafael de Acha in his review of the production on Rafael’s Music Notes. “Let me merely give you their names and entreat you to make mental note of them, with the assurance that, sooner than you think, you will be hearing these names: Gabe Wrobel, Emily Fink, Stavros Koumbaros, Aria Brasswell, Karl Amundsen and Michelle Coben.”

CCM presents THEY WERE YOU. Photo by Adam Zeek.

CCM presents THEY WERE YOU. Photo by Adam Zeek.

Teddy Gumbleton of the League of Cincinnati Theatres wrote that each of the six student performers sang “like a dream, navigating the lush harmonies and infusing each song with the necessary depth and wit. Together they work flawlessly as an ensemble, infusing the rich music with tremendous character.”

In a review for Talkin’ Broadway, Scott Cain said CCM’s Jones and Schmidt revue “revealed a thoughtful, varied and pleasant journey through pair’s exemplary work, and showcased some fine performances and design.” Cain praised the production’s “beautiful, night-sky mural” backdrop designed by CCM faculty member Thomas Umfrid. He also proposed that They Were You “will hopefully be licensed and made available for other theater companies to perform.”

CCM’s 2016-17 season continues with a production of Broadway hit, A Chorus Line, Oct. 20-30 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets are on sale now.

They Were You photos by Adam Zeek,

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Richard Hess taught a Viewpoints Training master calss in Estonia.

Acting Department Chair Visits Estonia To Teach Viewpoints Training Master Classes

Richard Hess traveled to Estonia to teach two Viewpoints Training master classes

Richard Hess at the Tartu Uus Teater.

CCM Professor of Acting and Department Chair Richard Hess recently traveled to Northern Europe to teach Viewpoints Training master classes to professional actors working in two Estonian theaters — Theatrum and Tartu Uus Teater.

Hess has shared Viewpoints Training master classes across the U.S. and internationally for the past 20 years. Initially developed for dancers in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie, Viewpoints Training was then adapted for actors by director Anne Bogart and the SITI Company. It focuses on improvisational movement techniques that brake down two dominant issues performers deal with — time and space — into nine categories or “viewpoints”: tempo, duration, kinesthetic response, repetition, shape, spatial relationship, architecture, floor pattern and gesture.

Hess engaged the Estonian actors in a series of improvisational movement exercises where unified group action was the desired goal. “What you create with another actor is always more interesting than what you can create alone,” Hess said. “Needing and being needed are core principles of good acting.”

In the final exercise of the master class, Hess instructed the actors to pair up and — without speaking or planning — support a portion of their partner’s body weight to create a new shape that they couldn’t create alone. Hess first told them to support 50 percent of their partner’s weight, then directed everyone to support the entire weight of one person. “This requires actors to give generously and to be supportive in undeniable ways,” he said.

In the final Viewpoints exercise, Hess told the actors "all hands must support the entire weight of Karl Edgar."

In the final Viewpoints exercise, Hess told the actors “all hands must support the entire weight of Karl Edgar.”

“The Estonian actors were so powerful and focused,” Hess added. “There is an obvious muscular quality to their work and it was gratifying to see them embrace the master class with enthusiasm and bravery. Estonian theatre is extremely impressive.”

The actors traveled from theaters across Estonia to participate in Hess’ Viewpoints Training master class, he said. They gathered in Uus Teater in Tartu, Estonia and Theatrum, which is headed by playwright and director Andri Luup in Tallinn, Estonia. Luup, who is known for writing and directing the film “Kinnunen,” arranged for Hess to offer the master classes.

“The work was simply on the nose,” said participant Karl Edgar Tammi, a professional actor from the Teater Must Kast in Tartu. “I was introduced to a set of great exercises, improvisation, stage presence and awareness, creativity, working with partners, space and, of course, music. It was colorful, refreshing and inspiring. I will practice and try and mix it into the current theatre scape of Estonia!”

As chair of CCM’s Acting Department for the past 22 years, Hess has taught actors who work throughout the world on stage, television and film. He is no stranger to traveling internationally in the name of theatre. In 2011, Hess brought eight CCM Acting students and alumni to Kenya as part of the Dadaab Theatre Project. He returned to Kenya in 2014 as a Fulbright Scholar and spent a semester teaching and conducting research at Kenyatta University’s Department of Theatre Arts and Film Technology. In 2015, Hess brought six students and one faculty member from Kenyatta University to CCM so they could participate in the 48-Hour Film Festival.

Look for a Village News post later this week about Hess’ upcoming production of Middletown, running in Cohen Family Studio Theatre Oct. 20-22 as part of CCM’s Studio Acting Series. Admission is free but reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Oct. 17.

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CCM Professor Emeritus Oscar Kosarin.

In Memoriam: Emeritus Faculty Member Oscar Kosarin

CCM Professor Emeritus Oscar Kosarin.

CCM Professor Emeritus Oscar Kosarin.

We are saddened to report the passing of Professor Emeritus Oscar Kosarin, who served as Associate Professor of Musical Theatre at CCM from 1971 through 1985. Kosarin passed away on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the age of 98. He is survived by his wife, Dianne, daughter, Carli, and sons Kim and Oscar.

Initially taught piano by his mother, Kosarin also studied harmony and counterpoint with Boris Levenson, studied composition with Anis Fuleihan and Isadore Freed, and attended Leon Barzin’s conducting classes.

Kosarin began playing piano professionally at the age of 19, first performing with dance bands in night clubs before making the move to Broadway, where he also gained experience as a conductor, arranger and vocal coach. On Broadway, he conducted musicals such as Happy Time with Robert Goulet, Oh, Captain with Tony Randall, Fade Out, Fade In with Carol Burnett and Mr. Wonderful with Sammy Davis, Jr.

Kosarin was named to CCM’s faculty in the fall of 1971 as part of the expansion of the school’s still-nascent musical theatre degree program. Kosarin inaugurated his time at CCM by conducting productions of Bye, Bye Birdie, Brigadoon and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum during the 1971-72 season. He cited Sweeney Todd, West Side Story and Sugar as three of his favorite musicals from his 14-year tenure at CCM.

Kosarin retired from CCM in the spring of 1985. During a farewell banquet held in his honor, CCM Drama Professor Diane Kvapil observed:

“He’s much loved by the students. He teaches them what’s special about them and how to use it. His colleagues will miss him because we worked well together.”

At the time of his retirement, Kosarin referred to his decision to teach at CCM as the smartest move he ever made, commenting:

“I had a great advantage in that [the students] were a group of people who really wanted to study. We had a wonderful relationship.”

In addition to his appointment at CCM, Kosarin also taught and directed musical theatre workshops at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts and coached opera and musical comedy privately. He composed the ballet music for A Tree Grows in BrooklynPal Joey, Hazel Flagg and Canterbury Tales. He also composed music for films, including Virginia—Pursuit of Happiness, which won first prize at the Virgin Islands International Film Festival in 1975. In 1983, Prentice Hall published his book The Singing Actor: How to Be a Success in Musical Theatre and Night Clubs.

CCM’s upcoming production of A Chorus Line will be dedicated to the loving memory of Professor Kosarin. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time.

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Romeo and Juliet preview photography by Mark Lyons.

Q&A with DAAP Student Hope Rice, Dramaturg for CCM’s “Romeo and Juliet”

This week, CCM opens the Fall 2016 Mainstage Season with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For this production, the creative team includes a collaboration with a senior art history major from UC’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP). Hope Rice teams up with the Romeo and Juliet crew to bring the show together as its “dramaturg.”

But what exactly is a dramaturg? And how is the role used for Romeo and Juliet? CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies reached out to Rice to find out more about her role in the production.

Rice’s interest in theatre was sparked after she took a few classes with CCM assistant professor of acting, Brant Russell — who also directs the upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet. She was then invited to join CCM’s TRANSMIGRATION in 2015 and is now pursuing an independent study in dramaturgy with Christine Mok, assistant professor of drama and performance in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

It’s always exciting to cast students from multiple departments in CCM productions. As a DAAP student, however, your involvement is unique. What was your experience like when you were previously cast in CCM’s TRANSMIGRATION?
I got to work with seven CCM Acting students in writing and performing our play. I became intimately acquainted with the logistics of writing a short play, the rehearsal and technical process and the performance. I had a small role with no speaking lines (at my request) because I originally wanted to be involved from a writing and directing position. My favorite experience from TRANSMIGRATION was getting to know the members of my team and creating a play that was meaningful to all of us. I also learned how collaboration and accountability are an intrinsic part of the process of getting the play from script to stage.

What is your role as dramaturg for Romeo and Juliet?
There are a lot of different ways to describe dramaturgy. Not just in this production, but in all shows, dramaturgs help to support the director’s vision by making sure that all elements that make up the play are coherent. Dramaturgs act as an outside eye to see connections between the script, actors and audience. So in the rehearsal process, dramaturgs observe acting, blocking, set design, sounds, etc. and take notes. We then meet with the director after rehearsals and discuss our thoughts. Dramaturgs support the concept of the play and help the director find elements to refine and enhance that vision.

How has your degree and experience in DAAP helped you in this role?
I am a senior in the art history program in DAAP with a focus in film studies. The art history program has taught me how to take apart an art work and analyze its pieces within the whole, while also considering its social, political and economic context and consequences. Dramaturging a play uses some of the same types of critical thinking.

What have you learned from working on Romeo and Juliet?
Besides TRANSMIGRATION, I have not seen a play develop from start to finish, so I have learned what that process is like from Romeo and Juliet. Specifically, I’ve been able to see how all the elements of a play — directing, acting, sound, light, design, dramaturgy, etc. — all collaborate and work to produce the show. Most importantly, I’ve learned that theatre would not be possible without collaboration. The CCM Acting program has a close community within and outside the theatre, and I’ve been able to see how that contributes to the magic of CCM productions.

Hope Rice will join CCM again in the spring for the annual TRANSMIGRATION festival. Catch a performance of CCM’s Romeo and Juliet this weekend to see her contribution as dramaturg reflected on stage.

Romeo and Juliet opens on Wednesday, Sept. 28 (preview) and runs through Sunday, Oct. 2 at CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

Performance Times
• 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 (preview)
• 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29
• 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30
• 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1
• 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2

Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets to Romeo and Juliet are $27-31 for adults, $17-20 for non-UC students and $15-18 for UC students with a valid ID. Tickets to the Sept. 28 preview performance are just $15.

Student rush tickets will be sold one hour before each performance to non-UC students for $12 or $15, based on availability. UC students can receive one free student rush ticket with a valid ID, based on availability.

Customizable subscription packages are also available for CCM’s 2016-17 Mainstage Series.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at

Parking and Directions

Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit for more information on parking rates.

For detailed maps and directions, please visit Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.

For directions to CCM Village, visit

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s


Story by CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies

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Know Theatre Co-production “Runaways” Opens CCM’s Studio Series

Students from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music are taking over the stage at the Know Theatre for a free public preview performance of Elizabeth Swados’ Runaways at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Runaways, created in the 1970s, is based on hundreds of interviews with teenagers who had run away from home, from predators or from themselves. It blends musical styles from pop to hip-hop, jazz to reggae, while asking why children can’t remain children.

CCM Musical Theatre students in "Runaways", co-produced by the Know Theatre.

CCM Musical Theatre students in “Runaways”, co-produced by the Know Theatre.

Co-produced by CCM and Know Theatre, Runaways is directed and choreographed by CCM Professor Vince DeGeorge with musical direction from first-year Masters of Music student, Luke Flood. The cast is made entirely of CCM Musical Theatre students and the stage management team is comprised of students from CCM’s Theatre Design and Production Department. It will run at the Know Theatre Wednesday, Sept.21-Sunday, Sept. 25.

The Know Theatre and CCM have worked to co-produce multiple productions that give students opportunities to perform on a professional stage and showcase their talents outside of the CCM campus community. This partnership began shortly after CCM alumnus Andrew Hungerford (MFA Lighting Design and Technology, 2005) became the Producing Artistic Director at the Know.

“I am continually amazed at how invested the students are in this very unique musical,” DeGeorge said of the Runaways cast. “Every rehearsal these young actors are challenging themselves to physically, psychologically and emotionally live through the songs and monologues of this show – telling stories that, for the most part, may be very far away from their own personal experiences.”

“The challenging and life-affirming work that is being done in this show is testament to the genius of Elizabeth Swados and the courage of the students that we have here at CCM.”

To prepare for their performances, students have received additional training from Maria Fernanda Del Real, a junior in CCM’s Acting Department who is working as the Spanish-language coach for the production. Additionally, Elizabeth Jean-Baptise, an assistant professor in field service at UC, has taught sign language to student Kyle Pollack, who plays a deaf character named Hubble in the musical.

“Learning the ins and outs of a deaf character has strengthened my understanding of the text, the use of my body in space, my relationships with others in the show, and the way I view, accept and understand others in daily life,” Pollack said. “Runaways has continued to challenge me as an actor and instill even more love for our craft with each day.”

Student Tyler Sodoma added: “Runaways was written almost 40 years ago and contains social issues and material that are still such a huge part of society today. The fact that this work of art still speaks to us young adults and audience members today proves how brilliant the writing is.  I am so excited to open this production and bring it to Cincinnati, especially in the heart of downtown, OTR.  The Know Theatre is the perfect venue for this intimate and extremely personal show.”

CCM's Studio Series opens with Elizabeth Swados' RUNAWAYS, co-produced with Know Theatre of Cincinnati.

CCM’s Studio Series opens with Elizabeth Swados’ RUNAWAYS, co-produced with Know Theatre of Cincinnati.

Runaways will run at the Know Theatre, located at 1120 Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine, with performances at 8 p.m. on Sept. 21-24. The musical has additional performances at 3 p.m. on Sept. 24-25 and a final 7:30 p.m. show on Sept. 25. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and are available on Know Theatre’s website,

Runaways Creative Team:
Vince DeGeorge, director
Luke Flood, music director*
k. Jenny Jones, fight director
Foster Johns, dialect coach
Maria Fernanda Del Real, Spanish-language coach*
Elizabeth Jean-Baptiste, ASL coach
Jenny Mollet, assistant director/choreographer*
Scott Slucher, production stage manager*
Courtney Hickenlooper, assistant stage manager*
Kate Pozner, production assistant*
Kat Miller, props master/coordinator
* CCM Student

Runaways Cast:
Delaney Guyer
Ciara Harris
Marissa Hecker
Kendall McCarthy
Emily Ashton Meredith
Jenny Mollet
Gabriela Rodrigues
Emily Royer
Shauna Topian
Amanda Valenzuela
Bryce Baxter
Dylan Dougal
Zach Erhardt
Louis Griffin
Tyler Jent
Jordan Miller
Dylan Mulvaney
Kyle Pollak
Tyler Sodoma
Alex Stone
Donelvan Thigpen
Zack Triska

The KNOW Staff:
Andrew Hungerford, Producing Artistic Director
Tamara Winters, Associate Artistic Director
Emily James, Resident Stage Manager
Nick Koehlke, Technical Director
Alice Flanders, Managing Director
Sarah Beth Hall, Production and Design Associate

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Cohen Studio

Professor Aik Khai Pung Gives Inside Look into Polish Festival Experience

With more than 700 audience members in attendance, the Sept. 9 opening concert of CCM’s Polish Festival was a great success! Far from being over, the Polish Festival events continue on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. with a performance by CCM’s preeminent modern music ensemble, Cafè MoMus, in Cohen Family Studio Theater.

Led by CCM Assistant Professor of Music Aik Khai Pung, the Cafè MoMus concert features an evening of exciting new sounds, including a world premiere by Artur Słotwiński and a grand finale performance of the first movement of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Sextet (2000). Audience members can meet with Słotwiński and Café MoMus after the performance for coffee and conversation.

Also as part of the Polish Festival, Professor Pung will direct the CCM Concert Orchestra in a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Górecki’s breathtaking Symphony of Sad Songs on Saturday, September 17 at 8 p.m. in Corbett Auditorium.

CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Pung about his experience participating in the Polish Festival so far.

Why is it important that CCM produce a festival of concerts and lectures devoted to Polish music?
Most of our students spend about two to four years at CCM. All teachers will try to squeeze in as much materials to the students as possible during this short amount of time. These materials are important of course, but not necessarily connected. When we learn a piece of music, it is crucial that we know the background and be able to connect it with visual arts, cultures and related artists, etc. By producing such a festival, the students get an opportunity to learn about a specific topic in depth.

Hopefully this will influence and inspire them to discover more about the music they will play in the future, rather than merely playing all the right notes and rhythms. For this Polish festival, we have living scholars, artists, soloists and composers all gathered here at CCM to help our students understand more about Polish music, which is extremely valuable.

How did you pick the repertoire for the Concert Orchestra’s Sept. 17 performance? What can you tell me about your decision to pair Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Górecki’s Symphony No. 3?
For the piano concerto, it is an opportunity for a piano student to play with a real orchestra. This year we have eight participants who competed to be featured in the concert. Piano students practice in a tiny room most of the time and rarely have a chance to play with an orchestra so it is important for us to create these types of opportunities. Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 is gorgeous and very much appropriate for training a young orchestra, especially the string section. The work requires over 50 minutes of playing with a very disciplined bow. We all know that playing slow bow exercises is essential, but how many of us really practice that daily? By programming Górecki’s Symphony, we kind of force the young string players to play beautifully and with a well-controlled bow.

In addition to directing the CCM Concert Orchestra, you also direct Café MoMus, CCM’s modern music ensemble. What can you tell me about the unique experience that MoMus will bring to this festival?
Exploring new sound is fun and exciting. I enjoy working with living composers and exploring the world of sound with them. For this festival, Café MoMus is presenting three Polish composers from different generations and backgrounds. Although all three of them were born in Poland, Krzysztof Penderecki became the professor at Yale School of Music around the mid-1970s and Bettina Skrzypczhak spent a lot of time in Switzerland and some time in Germany. Artur Słotwiński has remained in Poland for most of his life. They received different influences of cultures, which affects their compositional styles.

Instead of programming all works of well-known composers, the goal of Café MoMus is to discover young talents as well. I find Artur Słotwiński’s works energetic, well-crafted and effective. The student musicians have enjoyed playing it, but of course there are some tricky passages. Słotwiński will be here to coach us himself for the world premiere of his Piano Quintet. Bettina Skrzypczhak’s Mirrors is one of the most difficult pieces I have ever conducted — not only the complexity of construction, but also the philosophical idea behind each poem. I would say the music matches the texts and poems 100%, as if you could see the words in the music. Penderecki of course is very well-known and the Sextet is one of his few chamber works. Some scholars consider this to be one of his finest works. This is a very unique pairing and I hope it will create some sort of chemistry.


The Polish Festival runs Sept. 9-Oct. 2 throughout the CCM Village. You can learn more about the festival’s future events below or by visiting

8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13
• Orchestra Series •
Café MoMus
Aik Khai Pung, music director
As part of the Polish Festival, Café MoMus will present works of Polish composers from three different generations: Krzysztof Penderecki, Bettina Skrzypczak and Artur Słotwiński. Join us for coffee and conversation with Artur Słotwiński and the musicians after the performance.
Location: Cohen Family Studio Theater
Admission: FREE

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
• Orchestra Series •
CCM Concert Orchestra
Aik Khai Pung, music director and conductor
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1
Featuring the winner of the CCM Piano Competition
GÓRECKI: Symphony No. 3 (“Symphony of Sad Songs”)
Featuring the winner of the CCM Voice Competition
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18
• Jazz Series •
CCM Jazz Orchestra and Faculty Jazztet
Featuring guest artist Wlodek Pawlik, piano
Scott Belck, conductor
Join us as we celebrate the stunning music and musicians of Poland and feature Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer Wlodek Pawlik as he performs his original compositions and arrangements.
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2
• Orchestra & Choral Series •
CCM Philharmonia, CCM Chamber Choir and Xavier University Concert Choir
Featuring faculty artist Daniel Weeks, tenor
Mark Gibson, music director and conductor
MONIUSZKO: Overture to Halka
PENDERECKI: Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
SKROWACZEWSKI: English Horn Concerto
SZYMANOWSKI: Symphony No. 3 in B-flat Major, Op. 27 (“Song of the Night”)
Featuring Daniel Weeks, soloist
Location: Corbett Auditorium
Tickets: $15 general, $10 non-UC students, UC students FREE.

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Mark Gibson conducts the CCM Philharmonia at Moveable Feast.

Discussing CCM’s Polish Festival with Professor Mark Gibson

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is proud to present an interdisciplinary collection of concerts in the month-long Polish Festival running Sept. 9 through Oct. 2.


The coat of arms of Poland.

Through a series of classical and jazz concerts, lectures and a special art installation, CCM’s Polish Festival celebrates the wealth of extraordinary music and creative expression of one of the world’s great cultures.

The festival’s opening concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, with a performance by the CCM Philharmonia in Corbett Auditorium. CCM Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Gibson will lead the Philharmonia in a concert featuring the world premiere of American Dreams by alumnus Piotr Szewczyk (BM Violin, 2000; MM Violin and Composition, 2003). The program will also include Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra. Naumburg Gold Medalist and CCM faculty artist Soyeon Kate Lee will join the Philharmonia for a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Follow this link to the Polish Festival Schedule to view all of the events:

CCM graduate student Charlotte Kies sat down with Polish Festival Artistic Director Mark Gibson to learn more about the creation and inspiration behind the event.

What originally inspired you to create the Polish Festival?
The initial inspiration came through discussion with Polish friends on the wealth of extraordinary music from Poland, especially in the last century. I jokingly suggested that the only reason we don’t perform more of it is because the names are unfamiliar and daunting. After overcoming that minor stumbling block, the music on the other side – masterworks by Lutosławski, Szymanowski, Skrowaczewski, Penderecki and more – immediately rose to the level of challenge and quest.

What do you hope students will learn from participating in the Polish Festival concerts?
They are learning that there is so much beyond Chopin, even as we enjoy the rare opportunity to share both Chopin piano concertos with our students and public. Specifically, the Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra takes its place next to, not beneath, its namesake by Bartók. The Szymanowski “Song of the Night” is nothing less than the most colorful Polish Impressionism, inspired by Ravel but uniquely crafted and painted in sound. And Penderecki’s magnum opus, “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” remains one of the most dramatic, powerful evocations of the horrors of war ever committed to paper.

Every score we have programmed, from the legendary opera composer Stanisław Moniuszko to the Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Włodek Pawlik, bears the mark of mastery and import. They all demand to be heard and experienced.

Besides the fact that the composers of the festival are Polish, how did you program all of the music? Could you tell me what led you to pair Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra for your opening concert?
The opening concert of the CCM Philharmonia season has more than once featured a faculty guest artist as a soloist. I had been looking for a chance to work with Soyeon Kate Lee, former Naumburg Competition winner, ever since her arrival at CCM several years ago. The Chopin was the ideal opportunity; when I asked which of the two concertos she preferred to play, she offered the F Minor. The Lutosławski leapt out as among the most celebratory, virtuosic scores I have never conducted, though I have admired it for decades. We perform Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra in November, so the Lutosławski was therefore an easy choice to open the season. The Philharmonia is eating it up!

As for the remainder of the programming, I had the difficult task of choosing between literally dozens of worthy composers and styles. A work such as Górecki’s gorgeous and moving “Symphony of Sad Songs” is by now part of the canon. Along with the Penderecki Threnody, a broad spectrum of Polish music will be performed. Skrowaczewski’s English Horn Concerto was selected to provide a venue to feature another of our superb students. The Szymanowski Third Symphony, the “Song of the Night,” has been on my wish list for at least 20 years. It will be an honor to share it not only with our students and public, but with the Xavier University Choir and tenor soloist CCM faculty artist Daniel Weeks as collaborators on this performance. Ultimately, there were too many scores to choose from and unfortunately we can’t devote an entire year to Polish music. I hope our public might be inspired to explore further by what they hear.

Did you have a strong relationship with the Cincinnati Polish community before planning this festival?
My primary contact with the Polish community in Cincinnati has been through my jazz colleague, Rick VanMatre, who is married to the brilliant Polish visual artist, Anna Socha VanMatre. In fact, she has donated a major art work, a dramatic piece from her “Metamorphosis” series, for display in Corbett Auditorium for the Festival concerts. Through my friendship with the VanMatre’s, I have been introduced to more members of the local community, notably the scientist Piotr Chomczynski and his wife, Dr. Judith Heiny, whose generous sponsorship makes this festival possible. It has been gratifying to see the support from the local community, in particular the Polish-American Society of Greater Cincinnati, led by Emilia Bacca.

Music making is about community after all, the creation of family through sound. Our family just became significantly bigger.

Is the Polish Festival a one-time event, or do you hope to make it into a recurring celebration of Polish music?
For the past 10 years, we have started our orchestral season with a festival dedicated either to a specific composer or a national style. I felt it was time that Polish music be celebrated in a similar fashion, and though I cannot anticipate another festival dedicated to Polish music, I know that we will continue to feature it in our programming. Next year, we are committing major resources to celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, one of my conducting teachers and a major influence on the lives of so many American musicians.

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I promise those who come to our concerts will be delighted with and inspired by the music of Poland, and they will absolutely learn how to pronounce the names of the composers by the end! I encourage one and all to join us for this unique tribute to one of the world’s great musical traditions.


The Polish Festival runs Sept. 9-Oct. 2 throughout the CCM Village. You can learn more about the festival’s opening concert and other events here.

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