This past weekend was the kind of weekend that makes me proud to live in Cincinnati. It can be easy for Cincinnati natives who look around at the wider world to feel that their modest sized city with a national reputation for conservative policies is missing out on all the fun that other cities are having. But this weekend saw the end of two big musical events, The Bunbury Festival and the World Choir Games, both of which put Cincinnati on the national and even international stage.
The vision of Midpoint Music Festival co-founder Bill Donabedian, Bunbury was the first multi-day alternative music festival of its kind for Cincinnati and by all accounts it went off fairly well, as this article by Soapbox Media attests. Unfortunately I was not able to make the festival myself, so I had to report here using friend and fellow Lakota alumni Amanda Perkins. On the bands Amanda reports,
“The music was amazing. I didn’t see a bad show the whole weekend. There were two major highlights for me. One, finally seeing The Seedy Seeds in Cincinnati. They did a really great job of engaging the audience and just being real people up there doing their thing. Highlight number two was seeing Gaslight Anthem. Those boys from Jersey are amazing live. You can just tell they really love what they’re doing.”
But like every first-year show, there were areas for improvement. Some people have complained that the musical line up lacked continuity. There was also concern about the lay out and lack of bike racks. Amanda was one attendee who found that the large distances between stages combined with the near record heat made it difficult for her to enjoy the festival fully.
“Logistically I think the Bunbury planners did a decent job but, there are some kinks to work out for next year. In my opinion, there were too many stages spread out too far. We made the decision to skip some of the smaller bands because we didn’t want to walk the distance in the heat to get to the smaller stages. Also, they need to work on timing the sets so people can get to and from stages without missing the beginning or end of a set trying to get to another one. That part was rather frustrating.”
But I have to give full props to Bunbury for helping their audience deal with the weather. They offered an air-conditioned tech tent where attendees could recharge their cell phones and get a break from the heat, as well as a filling station offering free water. These things are by no means standard at music festivals. Amanda and I are both hoping that the festival makes it back for year two in 2013.
As much as the Bunbury Festival is closer to my own musical tastes, the really big music news from July had to be the World Choir Games. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not realize just what a big deal this was for Cincinnati until I heard a story about it on NPR. The Olympics of choir music, this international event was started twelve years ago but this is the first time it has ever been held in the United States. I heard so many great stories about the event and I can tell you that even driving through downtown during the week felt special, and I know I am not the only one who felt it. Paulette Meier, a prominent local musician was a participant in several of the choir performances and had nothing but good things to say about the event, especially for the power of music to bring together people across cultural barriers.
“I loved that our interracial, inter-gender MLK Coalition Chorale, which achieved “gold” in the Gospel category, was directed by a white woman and a black man, together. Watching them hug and cry together after our final performance yesterday and then last night holding hands as they ran up to receive the award, in front of a stadium filled with people from around the world, said a lot about our hopes and intentions within the MLK chorale.”
On of the most moving stories of the games came from the participation of UMOJA, the men’s gospel choir of the Warren County Correctional Institute. The judges traveled to the prison to hear the men perform and came away deeply moved. As Paulette pointed out, their participation in the event touched many people, “As thrilled as I was that our MLK Coalition Chorale won “Gold” at the Awards Celebration, what brought me to tears was that UMOJA, the men’s prison chorus led by our director, placed “Gold” as well.” You can watch as the men receive the news that the had won a gold in this video from Channel Nine News.
This award came at an especially important time for UMOJA because Governor Kasich has just announced that all funding for this and similar programs within Ohio’s prions will be cut. I have written Governor Kasich to encourage him to rethink this decision given this very clear example of the good these types of programs can do and I hope that you will consider doing the same.
July was a great month for Cincinnati’s music scene and I hope that we are able to take this momentum and continue to grow our reputation and a world-class city. The best way to do that is for all of us to get out there and participate in these events when we have the chance.