Monday, August 16, 2021

Classical Roots 20th Anniversary

This has been an action packed season for me. Not that I'm complaining, but I have been working on exciting personal and board projects for Music Hall-that's right, I am now a board member of the Friends of Music Hall! 

In the past year, Music Hall has suffered some trials and tribulations as with any arts organization. Reduced capacity with both attendees and orchestra members have forced us all to get creative. We satisfied our appetites with live stream and limited capacity in person performances at Music Hall.

I was feeling under the weather for much of this past week, but finally, I mustered up the strength to attend the Classical Roots 20th Anniversary Concert at Music Hall yesterday for the first time in over a year, and my second Classical Roots performance in twenty years!

Classical Roots was founded in 2001 at a time of civil and racial unrest. John Morris Russell, CSO Associate Conductor at the time and CSO staff members Kathy Jorgensen-Finley to put on the very first Classical Roots Spiritual Heights Concert at Lincoln Height Baptist Church in the neighborhood of Lincoln Heights (There is a cool connect between this community and one of the songs performed in the concert that I will mention later).

Classical Roots is a melting pot of rhythms, incorporating classical, spiritual, gospel, funk, R&B, and soul in each performance.

What sets this tradition apart from other symphony performances that it takes the symphony to various African-American churches throughout Cincinnati for all to worship and enjoy! 

Typically, the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir features 150 choir members, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pianist Michelle Cann, Classical Roots Community Mass Choir members Robert Lomax, Ciara Harper, Noel Walton, Kimberly Stewart, and Tia Toles, and narrator William Henry Caldwell, resident conductor of the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir, performed for the ninety minute presentation, which for me, was special.

The afternoon kicked off of the National Negro Anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" with the audience. Next, the Symphony Orchestra really got things started with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Danse negre, Op. 35 No. 4

Next, members of the Nouveau Program took us back to our childhood with "Kumbaya".

One highlight of this performance is Harper's delivery of Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" Born just  blocks south of  Music Hall on Perry Street, Smith, the "Queen of the Blues" was the first Black female artist to do an authentic blues recording with "Crazy Blues" and made her Music Hall debut on April 14, 1921.

Fast forward to the second half of the presentation, John Morris Russell and the Symphony Orchestra kicked it up three notches with "It's Your Thing" by none other than Cincinnati's own the Isley Brother's-that's right, The Isley Brothers grew up here in Cincinnati in the suburb of Lincoln Heights! 

The tune that really resounded with me was Duke Ellington's "Caravan". On September 9,1931, Ellington and his orchestra, along with Ivie Anderson, debuted at the Greystone Ballroom at Music Hall. P.S. and BTW, "El Rey de Timbal", Tito Puente would record a version of this tune.

The only non musician represented in Sunday's performance was World Heavyweight Champion, "The Cincinnati Cobra" Ezzard Charles with the Theme from Rocky ("Gonna Fly Now") with members of the Cincinnati Youth Boxing Program front and center. This is so special as this past July marked the 100th anniversary of Charles' birth-learn more about Charles here!

Finally, JMR showed his love for the Godfather of Soul James Brown with I Got You (I Feel Good) in a style only JMR can pull off! Sound familiar? This tune was also featured in American Originals: The Cincinnati Sound, concert series previously presented at Music Hall.

This performance has really made my weekend, and now, I feel more empowered to take on the week! This was the perfect blend of tradition and innovation that can never be topped!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Happy Birthday, Cincy Cobra!

Happy Hump Day! Wednesday is a day that some of us dread, but others look at it as being the halfway mark to the weekend. Either way, it's a day that doesn't get a lot of love, but today is no ordinary Wednesday. We're going to show our love and pay homage to a Cincinnati icon and favorite son--it's the 100th birthday of the Ezzard "The Cincinnati Cobra" Charles! 

Ezzard Mack Charles was born July 7, 1921 in a three room house on 109 Church Street in Lawrenceville, Georgia. As an eight year old, he was known as "Snooky" Charles. A very interesting experience occurred to him when he went after Billy Montgomery, who was white and six year old son of Lawrenceville Mayor Grover Montgomery. No one knows exactly who won that first fight, but the people in the northern Georgia town did remember "Snooky" as the best fighter in that town as well as an equally good sandlot football player. At the time, Mayor Montgomery convinced his son that he should challenge someone his own age & size, as Charles was larger than Billy. Billy told his dad "I wouldn't hurt him, Daddy". The two boys would fight regularly over the next couple of years, and with other boys and in 1931, Charles' parents Alberta Johnson Charles and William Charles and his grandmother moved to the  Queen City in the West End neighborhood.. A few years later, Charles' great-grandmother, 90 year old former slave Bell Russell, joined them (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6-26-49).

He graduated Woodward High School, where Ted Berry, Cincinnati's first African American mayor, also graduated. Berry would become Charles' manager and legal guardian while Charles was still in high school.

On June 5, 1940, Charles had one of his first major face off against Akron, Ohio native Frankie Williams and knocked him out in seven of the scheduled eight rounds. Charles was paid $25 for that match.

Charles was the world heavyweight champion from 1949-1951, winning 95 bouts, losing 25, and one draw. In 1939, he was named National Golden Glove Champion in 160 weight class (List of US National Golden Gloves Champions | List National Golden Gloves Champions (

Financial difficulty meant that Charles felt that he had to continue boxing for much longer than what would be recommended these days, and as a result, he lost 13 of his final 23 bouts. During his career, Charles had a strong taste for expensive clothing, and he even wanted a new car every year, which made it difficult for him to hold on to his assets.

The final five years of his life, with the exception of hospital visits from his wife and three children, was spent isolated at a Chicago hospital due to Lou Gehrig's disease. His best friend and assistant, Robert Christmas, hid behind another friend and snuck in to the hospital while a nurse was wheeling Charles down the hall. Though he was incapacitated, Charles wanted to be informed about his friends.

Christmas would recall that Charles would fight Joe Lewis to defend his friend's honor. Charles met Louis while he was in the army. "Ezz knew that he could beat Louis then, but he always avoided him  because of the admiration he had" (Cincinnati Enquirer, May 29, 1975).

Sadly, Charles passed away from the disease on May 28, 1975 in Chicago and was buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. The following year, Lincoln Park Drive was renamed Ezzard Charles Drive.

As of May this year, BoxRec ranks Charles as the second greatest boxer of all time, behind Floyd Mayweather. 

Now, for sites significant to Charles:

Ezzard Charles Drive. Faintly in the background is Union Terminal, 

West facade of Music Hsll, where Charles fought over 20 bouts in Music Hall Sports Arena.

The future home of Alcove. Charles trained & fought here. A photo and punching bag remain.

The Emanuel Center, where Charles trained and boxed.

Artworks mural

Laurel Park, the future site of the world's first interactive sculpture of Charles.

Charles was both a fighter and a giver. A nursery center in Chicago was named in his honor as he was looked upon as a role model and mentor for the youth.

Charles has left an impact on both athletes and non athletes everywhere. Throughout his life and even in death, he has taught us that no matter the trials and tribulations, we can all knock out the stumbling blocks of life and rise above the ignorance and hate in our lives. For that, I am forever grateful.

Happy Birthday, Cincinnati Cobra!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

It's So Esoteric!

It's the weekend! My week wasn't too bad, but still, I could use a pick me up just because. Partly cloudy and 81 degrees in Walnut Hills; who could ask for anything more! 

I have been itching to get to this city's first ever minority owned brewery, Esoteric Brewing. This is located inside the former Paramount Building, which is rich in history as Walnut Hills itself, so to make this experience enjoyable, let's talk history.

Located on Peebles Corner on East McMillan, the building was designed by architect Edward J Schulte and it was designed for Mrs. Helen V. B. Wurlitzer, widow of Howard Wurlitzer,  and leased office space once it was completed. This also housed the Paramount Theatre. The sleek, modern commercial building was advantageously located at a streetcar junction in Cincinnati's second busiest business district. The corner building and its sphere-topped cylindrical spire (now gone) shared the name of the nearby theatre, likely to attract the multitude of motorists and streetcar riders passing by each day. In addition, the building housed churches City Temple and New Thought Temple and a menswear shop. Seating 1100 people, The theatre showed films for twenty-nine years before closing on May 2, 1961 due to new quality film shortage and TV competition at the time.


Paramount Building    

Guenther's ghost sign, a former haberdashery

Esoteric Brewing's logo, the lotus, is a flower that is considered the most sacred flower in Asian cultures. The Vietnamese and Indian cultures associate it with gods and goddesses. 

Frequently tied to spirituality, it has a unique cycle of life, death, & rebirth, and that's what Esoteric Brewery represents in our community. The moment I stepped in, I felt a sense of zen. What sets this apart from other breweries is that this is known as a brewery lounge, which helps make it appealing to women and people of color. The building itself was constructed in the 1930s, so this gives off an Art Deco vibe. As I looked around, paintings of iconic actors, jazz musicians, and aviators adorn the lounge. Some of the artwork is reminiscent of those from the Works Progress Administration, as you will see Cincinnati's iconic buildings built during that era.

Josephine Baker

Bessie Coleman, first African American woman & first Native American to hold a pilots license

Ray Charles (P.S. & BTW, he did perform nine times in the Greystone Ballroom at Music Hall 

View from the mezzanine level

In addition, Esoteric has back patio seating for patrons, often teaming up with food trucks and holding concerts series on weekends. Yesterday, Taste of Belgium food truck happened to be there

Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Karma brew, which has fruity and citrus notes, which I like.

Apologies for the appearance; forgot this had the lotus logo before I drank it.

Though I'm a rare beer drinker, I really felt the vibe here. I felt so comfortable that I could easily make this my second home. Esoteric Brewing is truly an agent of change, and Cincinnati is much richer for it.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Juneteenth is Here!


It has finally happened! Juneteenth is now a FEDERAL HOLIDAY! For anyone who is not familiar, Juneteenth celebrates the fact that the Union soldiers informed the slaves that they have been set free on this day in 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

Of course, I'm not able to travel to Galveston to truly celebrate, but right here in Cincinnati is even better. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate this occasion than to head to Findlay Market for the Juneteenth at Findlay Market food tasting event.

Before I get to the food, I just need to put it out there that many of today's featured entrepreneurs and foodtrepreneurs got their start at Findlay Kitchen, Findlay Market's non-profit food business incubator. With 76% of program participants being women-, minority,- and immigrant-owned businesses, this 8,000 square foot community kitchen provides access to commercial grade equipment and storage, resources such as classes, resources for funding and business insurance, and coaching, and help putting together a business plan. The kitchen can also be used for special events. The kitchen was funded by the Ralph V. & Carol Haile Foundation/US Bank, which is the same foundation that has funded Carol Ann's Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park.

Now, I know that you're salivating, so now, let's get to the food!

West African rice w/plantain, Afromeals

Cajun Fries w/Remoulade sauce, Dat's Ole School Cookin'

Miracle Mac & Cheese, Herban Vegans

Vegan Citrus Green Tea Mini Cupcake, A "Mother's Touch" Cakes

Cookies n' Cream Red Velvet Cheesecake Stuffed Cookie, Sweet Mae's Cookie Co.

Red Peas & Rice, Flavors of the Isle

Linen bars & candle, Chocolate Potion

Yes, we have a new federal holiday, and yes, it's another day off from work but lest not forget the blood, sweat, and tears that our ancestors shed to get to freedom. They sacrificed for us so that we can celebrate and enjoy the comforts that we have today. Lest not forget; for the seeds that we plant today will be reaped by our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Meet Me in OTR


Hello, Cincinnati Massive! Wow, It's been like five months since my most recent post! Still recovering from a knee injury, but day by day, I'm getting stronger and more confident! The wet weather and slight pain did not stop me from stepping out on faith today, so I couldn't think of a better way to spend today than to take the Meet Me in OTR Tour. In collaboration with the Friends of Music Hall-of which I am a board member-and Cincinnati Food Tours, the three hour experience covered Music Hall, Washington Park, lunch at Sacred Beast, a streetcar trip, and Findlay Market.

This one of a kind experience kicked off with the hour long Music Hall Outdoor Building Tour, led by Friends of Music Hall Program Guide Susan Lett.  Opened in 1878, Music Hall is composed of three buildings: the center building, the North building, and South building.

Music Hall was designed by Hannaford and Sons in the High Victorian Gothic style. Samuel Hannaford also designed next door neighbor Memorial Hall and Cincinnati City Hall, among others buildings.

The center building contains Springer Auditorium, named after Reuben Springer, a major contributor to the construction of Music Hall. Introduced to the arts by his wife Jane Kilgour, Springer believed that Cincinnati should have a permanent public space for music, cultural events, expositions, and more. Supporters wanted to name the building Springer Hall, but being the humble human being that he was, Springer decided against it, and therefore, it was named Music Hall instead. Music Hall underwent its most recent renovations in 2016 and reopened in the autumn of 2017. 

Center Building, featuring Springer Auditorium

North Building, once used as a Mechanics Hall, Exposition Hall, and sports arena

South Building, once housed the Greystone Ballroom for African Americans and the Topper Ballroom for whites The flower motif above the box office entrance indicates that this was also used as Horticultural/Art Hall.

Following the Outdoor Building Tour, the group headed to Washington Park where Cincinnati Food Tours owner Barb Cooper told of the history of Washington Park. Founded in 1861, the park was originally used as a cemetery for impoverished citizens. Back then, there were complaints of vapors coming from the cemetery, causing major health issues. As a result, the City transferred the remains north to and reinterred in Spring Grove Cemetery. About twenty years ago, citizens were afraid to lay down their roots, let alone open a business, in Over the Rhine due to the presence of homeless people and profound drug activity. National publications then named Over the Rhine as the most dangerous neighborhood in the United States. In 2011, things began to turn around for the better with the renovation of Washington Park. The park reopened in July 2012 for the World Choir Games, with Friendship Concert Performance from a Gifu, Japan (one of Cincinnati's nine sister cities) choir.

Italianate architecture. This architecture originated in 1802 in Great Britain by John Nash. Over the Rhine has about 900 such buildings, making it the largest intact historic district in United States. Typically, these buildings are two to three stories high, low pitched roofs, and overhanging eaves. 

Next, it was off to the Sacred Beast for lunch. Owners Jeremy and Bridget Lieb met at the Maisonette (now Boca) and had lived in Atlanta and New York for years. They had their children, Hanna and Noah, and ultimately moved back to Cincinnati to be near family. Jeremy had worked form Boca, and he decided to open a place of his own. In this pandemic, Sacred Beast has stood the test. 

Sacred Beast is a modern diner/bar where there is "Simple Food, Taken Seriously".  

Double Burger with Cheese, Fries, Dijonnaise, and Passsionfruit Tea-gotta come back for brunch!

Finally, the group took a 25 minute trek on the Cincinnati Bell Connector to Findlay Market. Constructed in 1852, Findlay Market is the oldest continuously operating public market in Ohio.-the only one of nine original public markets! James Findlay was an entrepreneur, congressman, Cincinnati mayor, and a general in the War of 1812. He and wife Jane wanted to open a public market. Sadly, neither James nor Jane lived to see it become reality as they both passed away before the market was constructed. The Findlays bequeathed a piece of land to the City, on the condition that it be used as a public market. Construction began in 1852, but due to contract disputes at the time, the market did not officially open until 1855.

Inside the Market House, Findlay Market houses about 40 regular merchants with about 30 more stationed around the perimeter during warm months.

Market Carpet

    Designed by David Day, the Market Carpet was designed in honor of the market's 150th        anniversary, using mosaic tiles imported from Briare, France.

Findlay Kitchen

Findlay Kitchen is a food incubator. With access to commercial grade equipment, the kitchen is open to anyone who wants to get a start in the restaurant industry, but about 76% are women, minority, and immigrant owned businesses.

Now, good news and bad news. This tour is only available today and April 24, but Barb would be happy to accommodate this as a private tour going forward.

Until next time, be happy, be safe, be well!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Holiday Wurlitzer Concert

Contact: Mindy Rosen
For Immediate Release: November 11, 2020

Mighty Wurlitzer Delivers “Happy Holidays”
Virtually for 2020

For a decade the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ at Cincinnati Music Hall’s Ballroom has offered a heartwarming seasonal concert tradition, Happy Holidays. For 2020, the event returns virtually for friends and family with free streaming offered on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:00 p.m. presented by the Friends of Music Hall. The link will be live through Dec. 26.

World renowned organist Mark Herman has been a Cincinnati favorite, and he’ll be at the keyboard to pull out all the holiday stops with seasonal music. The evening will be hosted by Evans Mirageas, Cincinnati Opera’s Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director and a veteran radio commentator. Further entertainment will be provided by vocalists Thom Dreeze and Jennifer Cherest, Cincinnati Opera regulars, as well as dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy.

Mark Herman is one of America’s busiest and most in-demand theatre organists. He has performed concerts across the U.S. and abroad in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In 2012, he was named Organist of the Year by the American Theatre Organ Society, the youngest person ever to be so honored.

Area residents who have enjoyed Happy Holidays with the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ — as well as those seeking a special holiday experience — can order a FREE virtual link by emailing Mindy Rosen at
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