One City: Making Connections Through a Shared Humanity
by Chris Pinelo and Diana Maria Lara
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is iconic and continues to inspire. Musicologist Nicholas Cook writes, “Of all the works in the mainstream repertory of Western music, the Ninth Symphony seems the most like a construction of mirrors, reflecting and refracting the values, hopes, and fears of those who seek to understand and explain it.”
Beethoven’s final symphony has special meaning around the world, transcending physical and cultural borders, and for CSO Composer-in-Residence Jonathan Bailey Holland, it is a “benchmark for the genre of orchestral music.”
The CSO, May Festival Chorus and members of the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir will perform the world premiere of Ode, Holland’s three-movement choral and orchestral response to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, as part of the Orchestra’s One City program, conducted by CSO Music Director Louis Langrée on November 9 and 10.
“To respond to Beethoven and his masterwork today, in our current climate, proved as much a philosophical challenge as an artistic one,” says Holland. “My work Ode focuses on certain moments of the Ninth Symphony that resonate with me personally, while also dialoguing with various moments within Beethoven’s work, some of which are fleeting or surprising, and yet hold deeper meaning than might appear on the surface.”
Many scholars, musicians and music fans around the world believe Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is a statement of freedom amid political oppression and a declaration of shared humanity. For Holland, there are parallels between the struggles for freedom in Europe during Beethoven’s era and issues around prejudicial injustice and equal rights in the United States today. Life experiences shape the perspective of the artist.
“I am African-American and I am a composer, and if that means something to someone that’s great. If none of that means anything, but somebody still gets something from the music, that’s great as well,” says Holland.
The CSO introduced the One City, One Symphony initiative in 2012 when Langrée was the Music Director Designate. “The idea was to bring the community together for an in-depth exploration of a symphony, and in that inaugural One City, One Symphony, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony inspired a robust community dialogue around shared humanity, not only through the concerts, but also through curated neighborhood listening parties that sparked great conversations,” says CSO Director of Education and Community Engagement Ahmad Mayes.
The initiative has evolved through the years and, for 2018, the renamed One City comes full circle with the return of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
“Music brings us together,” says CSO President Jonathan Martin. “These November 9 and 10 One City performances are providing a springboard for engagement between our musicians and members of the community who don’t typically attend our performances. We are grateful to Melodic Connections, Santa Maria Community Services, City Gospel Mission and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for their help in connecting our musicians with a variety of communities in Cincinnati, all with different life experiences.”
This is key for Holland, who believes artists must respond to what’s happening in the world around them—“either to reflect it, or to comment on it, or to make it more present.”
2018 ONE CITY
Melodic Connections provides music therapy and music-based opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. Its staff of board-certified music therapists, music educators and musicians is dedicated to using the power of music to build community and to opening minds and changing perspectives through active music-making. This organization strives to bring groups together through music to form lasting relationships within the community, including engaging people with disabilities as leaders, participants and employees. The CSO has partnered with Melodic Connections since 2015.
One City Collaboration:
Expanding on Melodic Connections’ “Common Time” program, CSO musicians will guide attendees in hands-on music making activities. Common Time is for students, parents, musicians and music lovers alike. All ages and abilities are welcome.
Santa Maria Community Services (SMCS)
SMCS is a catalyst and advocate for Cincinnati’s Greater Price Hill families to attain their educational, financial and health goals. The organization provides more than 4,000 individuals with educational tools and resources to build strong families, promote healthy lifestyles, and foster neighborhood revitalization.
One City Collaboration:
The CSO is curating activities for children receiving care during adult English as a Second Language classes. Activities will include an interactive Music Lab where children are invited to handle instruments, attend educational chamber performances, and receive additional music instruction.
City Gospel Mission
City Gospel Mission helps the homeless and hurting break the cycle of poverty and despair…one life at a time. This organization engages, equips and empowers those in need with the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical skills and resources to achieve long-term life transformation and self-sufficiency. The CSO presented a performance at City Gospel Mission featuring Classical Roots Artist-in-Residence Kelly Hall-Tompkins with members of the Orchestra earlier this year.
One City Collaboration:
CSO musicians will perform for and with individuals struggling with poverty in the community, bringing meaningful and uplifting musical experiences for those most in need