Matthew Swanson of the May Festival Chorus will guide you through the music of May Festival at these free public events in the community.

Listen In! It's All a Dream
SAT APR 22 1:30 PM
St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center
328 W McMillan St, 45219
Presenter: Matthew Swanson
With comment by Dr. Jeffrey Zalar, Conway Chair in Catholic Studies at UC
Learn how composer Edward Elgar interpreted and enhanced John Henry Newman’s poem, The Dream of Gerontius. Hear live musical excerpts by members of the May Festival Chorus and special guests. Mix and mingle at a post-talk reception.
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Listen In! Mirth and Myth
MON APR 24 7:30 PM
Glendale First Presbyterian Church
155 E Fountain Ave, 45246
Presenter: Matthew Swanson
Enjoy this introduction to Cincinnati’s choral festival with Matthew Swanson and get a sneak preview of this season’s repertoire. Hear live music provided by chamber musicians. Mix and mingle at a post-talk reception.
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Listen In! Bach to Basics
MON MAY 1 7:30 PM
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
100 Miami Ave, 45174
Presenter: Matthew Swanson
Guest Speaker: Douglas Easterling, Musicologist
Learn about why J.S. Bach composed his B Minor Mass and why it is important to music history. Enjoy live musical examples performed by chamber musicians and mix and mingle with musicians at a post-talk reception.
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These events are free and open to the public. No reservation required.


With change comes opportunity; in the 144th year of the May Festival, audiences will experience a re-imagined, collaborative Festival that will awe and inspire at the Taft Theatre. This season will be the first under an exciting new leadership model, and the repertoire reflects that. This year’s team consists of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, Creative Partner Gerard McBurney, and longtime Director of Choruses Robert Porco. The new structure allows for the creative process to have a fresh vantage point, and in its inaugural year the transition is proving successful. 

The 2017 May Festival is focused around the brain-child of this year’s creative team: The Dream Project. May Festival Community Engagement Coordinator and Assistant Conductor of the Youth Chorus, Matthew Swanson, says “These programs are largely unrelated, with the exception of one connection: they are about dreams. These pieces will give the audience the opportunity to consider what dreams are while also giving the performers the chance to decode and interpret dreams.” Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a reflection on the line between dreams and reality. This rendition includes actors, spoken word, and visual enhancements that complement and enhance the drama of Shakespeare’s play. Swanson describes Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius as “a mediation on the end of life and the soul’s journey after death. It’s a metaphorical mindscape of a dream.” This piece, adapted from a poem by the Cardinal John Henry Newman, is arguably Elgar’s greatest work. It’s an epic exploration of the meaning of life; at times achingly moving and then intensely searing. Both pieces, though vastly different from each other, will bring a mystique and sense of curiosity to the audience that pairs masterfully with the intention of the May Festival: to provide an exceptionally inspiring musical experience.

You can learn more about the history of the May Festival, the 2017 season and The Dream Project by attending a community conversation with Matthew Swanson. On April 22 at 1:30pm, Swanson will present Listen In! It’s All a Dream- a talk based around the inspiration behind The Dream Project with a focus on Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. This presentation will take place at the University of Cincinnati’s St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center. In “Listen in! Mirth and Mystery”, you can hear all about May Festival traditions and learn some context for this year’s musical selections on April 24 at 7:30pm at Glendale’s First Presbyterian Church. On May 1, learn about the importance of Bach’s music in “Listen In! Bach to Basics”, taking place at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. All talks will feature live music and the opportunity to mix and mingle at a post-talk reception.