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Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot


by Meghan Berneking Isaacs

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Whether it’s puckering up with a lover (or stranger) at midnight, popping bubbly, or watching the ball drop in Times Square, traditions govern us on New Year’s Eve, and those pertaining to music hold fast as the strongest, most unbreakable rituals. Singing “Auld Lang Syne” is almost mandatory, and many people relish fond memories of listening to or watching the Vienna Philharmonic perform on New Year’s Day.

Here at Music Hall, the Orchestra has been performing concerts on New Year’s Eve since at least 1965. These concerts cap off a busy season for the Orchestra after several weeks of performances ranging from Holiday Pops to The Nutcracker with Cincinnati Ballet. The continuation of the holiday season means Music Hall is still bedecked with greenery and lights, providing a festive ambience to match the opulent mood. Despite the less formal, celebratory atmosphere (or perhaps because of it), audiences can’t resist dressing to the nines, making New Year’s Eve at Music Hall “the classiest party in town.”

“I know from great experiences that Music Hall is a magical place to celebrate the coming year with your spouse, significant other, friends and family,” said CSO Vice President of Communications Chris Pinelo. “It’s romantic, refined and a lot of fun.”

New Year’s Eve concerts around the world often provide revelers an opportunity to delight in popular classics (Strauss’ waltzes, anyone?). The CSO has taken advantage of this worldwide tradition by performing beloved works such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the aforementioned Strauss waltzes for New Year’s Eve concerts in years past. More recently, the repertoire for New Year’s Eve with the Cincinnati Pops involves various displays of pops and especially jazz. The leitmotif for each year varies, with recent themes such as “The Big Easy” or “Fly Me to the Moon” hinting at the music itself (favorites from Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, respectively). These concerts often showcase artists new to Music Hall’s stage. For instance, just last year, songstress Morgan James made her Pops debut on New Year’s Eve.

One would be hard-pressed to argue that Music Hall isn’t an icon. Since its construction in 1878, Music Hall has been the center of Cincinnati life and culture. From hosting countless world-class musical performances to presidential rallies, Music Hall represents all that Cincinnati has accomplished and all that is yet to come. How appropriate, therefore, to make it a place for the community to gather and celebrate new beginnings.

For many years the Orchestra hosted a New Year’s Eve Ball to accompany the concert performance. Partygoers (musicians and audiences alike) would continue the merriment in the Music Hall Ballroom for dinner, dancing and a champagne toast at midnight. While no longer an annual tradition, the Ball remains a favorite memory of many Cincinnatians. These days, lively restaurants and bars surround Music Hall, giving concertgoers countless options for their countdown to midnight.

New Year’s Eve is a time for nostalgia as well as reflection. We use the opportunity to look back at the past year in all of its joys and trials. Sometimes we smile and laugh with these memories; sometimes the year was just plain tough. There’s a reason we sing “Auld Lang Syne,” which translates literally to “old long since,” or more colloquially to “days gone by.” The lilting Scottish tune only adds to its wistfulness. But no matter what last year brought with it, New Year’s Eve is always a time of hope—and even more than hope, resolve—that things will be better next year. Music gives voice to this resolution, so when the Orchestra performs on New Year’s Eve and wraps “Auld Lang Syne” in full orchestral splendor, those present start the new year with a keen sense of unity and, therefore, optimism.

This year’s New Year’s Eve concert with the Pops features the return of vocalist Ryan Silverman, who will perform suave “cocktail hour” classics with a healthy dose of New Year’s Eve enchantment with the Orchestra. And yes, there will certainly be a singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”