Ancient Sounds of the Season
As the artistic director for the CATACOUSTIC CONSORT, Annalisa Pappano is like Mission: Impossible's Jim Phelps. Her mission, which she has chosen to accept since 2000, is to assemble the best possible collection of Classical musicians to perform the unusual programs she envisions. Of course, Phelps had the easier job. He never had to match someone skilled in 17th-century swordplay with an authentic blade or track down a marksman whose weapon of choice was a single-shot musket.
In effect, that's exactly what Pappano does. Catacoustic's stated goal is to make period Classical music on period instruments, which means Pappano is faced with the task of finding not only the player but also the correct thing to be played. That can be a tricky endeavor.
"People who do specialized things know other people who do specialized things, so we kind of know each other," says Pappano of her vintage instrument network. "When we get together, we talk about other people who are fabulous or who are not fabulous and so you have your own little community. The more concerts I do, the more contacts I make. It's an interesting journey."
The third performance in Catacoustic's seventh season will appeal to a holiday state of mind as the group presents Music of the Season: A Catacoustic Christmas this Saturday and Sunday. A good deal of the program, consisting of seasonal Renaissance music from Germany, Italy and England, will be familiar to people as themes rather than actual works.
"It's not like 'Jingle Bells,' " Pappano says. "People might recognize some of the tunes. When you tell people 'Renaissance music,' they're like, 'What's that?' but a lot of the Christmas season tunes have been carried down. So there will be things that people will recognize -- like 'Nun komm der Heiden Heiland' and 'In dulci Jubilo' -- and some things that they won't. It's kind of nice to have something that's a little bit different at this time of year."
Catacoustic's program will be anchored by Pappano's instrument of renown -- the viola da gamba -- played by world-renowned violists and featuring a glorious blending of strings, vocals and an early ancestor of the trombone called a sackbut.
"Who gets to ever hear a sackbut in their life, let alone a viola da gamba?" Pappano astutely asks.
Catacoustic's Saturday concert takes place at the Annunciation Catholic Church (3547 Clifton Ave., Clifton) at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday's performance will be held at Glendale Town Hall (80 East Sharon Ave.) at 3:00 p.m. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here and here.) -- BRIAN BAKER
The University of Cincinnati basketball program is in a sad state. Sure, Bob Huggins' mess of a departure was expected to have a big impact. But this big? UC lost to another mediocre mid-major Saturday night, which raises many questions heading into CROSSTOWN SHOOTOUT at the Cintas Center on Wednesday night. Like how bad will Xavier kick their ass? To be fair, the 'Cats lost high-profile Texas transfer Mike Williams and veteran guard Jamual Warren to injury (Warren is back; Williams is out for the year). Add to that a host of newcomers, and growing pains are expected. Yet the old Bearcat fire seems a long-ago trait. Conversely, following an unexpected loss at Miami of Ohio, the 21st-ranked Muskies have won six in a row, none by less than 13 points. That includes a spanking of then-No. 8 Indiana and a 90-49 dismantling of Belmont, a team that beat UC at home in the season opener. Manhattan transfer C.J. Anderson leads six Muskie players in double figures; UC has only two, led by streaky sophomore Deonta Vaughn. What does all this mean? Not much. The underdog often gets the better of the match-up, including a surprising 10-point UC victory last year. That said, a Bearcat upset would be a minor miracle. As usual, it's sold out. ESPN2 will televise the 7 p.m. tip-off. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- JASON GARGANO
WEDNESDAY 12/12 - SUNDAY 12/16
Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is known for presenting new works, but for the holidays they take a slightly different approach, presenting a locally written "fractured fairytale" with a moral, told with music and good humor.
For a decade, these shows have been the creative product of playwright Joe McDonough and composer David Kisor, and perhaps the best among them has been their initial collaboration, THE FROG PRINCESS, first presented in 1997. ETC revived it in 2002, and it's the offering again for 2007. So it's not exactly a premiere -- but ETC Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers likes to tinker with these productions and improve them, so in many ways, it's brand new. Besides, kids who loved it 10 years ago (or even five years ago) have given way to another generation of young theatergoers. Anna Kate Bockneck makes her ETC debut in the title role; her prince is played by Charlie Clark, who's new to ETC but has been a regular with Know Theatre and New Stage Collective, twice nominated for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award as best actor. Collect a kid or two and check this one out, starting Wednesday and continuing through Jan. 6. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- RICK PENDER
WEDNESDAY 12/12 - SATURDAY 12/15
Five exhibitions featuring work from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries close this weekend at the MIAMI UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM. Of Poems, Of Legends is a most impressive exhibition, including 25 Persian and Mughal paintings from the ninth-16th centuries. The Silk Route -- a trade path that carried cultural traces from Asia to Africa to Western Europe -- influenced the masters who created these intricate paintings. So, while Persia was a Muslim country, and the arts there proved it, the area was also a cultural crossroads; it is doubtless that "Buddhist and Christian art would have existed side-by-side with Islamic works, and cross-pollination inevitably took place," according to curators at the Museum. The Mughal population painted largely Hindu subjects. But not all the art included in Of Poems, Of Legends has religious tones. In fact, part of the show only includes secular work. Other exhibitions closing Saturday at Miami are: Tanks, Helicopters, Guns and Grenades: Afghan War Rugs 1980s-2007, Jewels of Central Asia, Magic Carpet Ride (rugs, cushions, burkhas, harem tent hangings, a kaftan and more from the museum's permanent collections) and Selections: From Turkey to Pakistan (ceramics, metalwork, jewelry and glasswork from the museum's own collection). (Get gallery hours and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- LAURA JAMES
The First Annual YP SHARES "Not your parents' workplace giving" Holiday Happy Hour fund-raiser mirrors the non-traditional and unconventional characteristics of the latest young professionals group. All-you-can-drink beer and light appetizers at the Lodge Bar (35 E. Seventh St.) from 5-7 p.m. all but guarantee a happy hour worth paying for. In addition to supporting a great cause, YP Shares -- affiliated with Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati -- "strives to engage and inspire the next generation of community supporters to become passionately committed to causes that promote social and economic equity and a healthy environment." It's not gonna be like the office party you're required to attend! Cost: $10 and open to all, but you will be checked for your age. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here; see feature story on YP Shares here.) -- MARGO PIERCE
THURSDAY 12/13 - SUNDAY 12/16
JOE STARR is feeling his age. "Every damned day I'm being reminded as my body falls apart," he chuckles. "Now I have to accept the fact that I'm actually middle-aged, because the average life expectancy of males in this country is 74, and I'm (almost 40). I am right in the middle." Being that he is middle-aged you realize that Starr has been doing stand-up for some time. However, he's never been one for reinventing the wheel. His grandfather was a vaudeville performer, and that heritage isn't lost on Joe. "Older comics," he says, "Even the burlesque comics like Phil Silvers … did not have vulgarity to fall back (on). You had to be either witty or incredibly fast." He cites Milton Berle as an example. "(He) would launch 30 jokes at you, where the average comic would throw maybe five. Now out of the 30 maybe only five were good, but he made up for that with speed." Starr performs at The Funny Bone on the Levee. $15-$17. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- P.F. WILSON
FRIDAY 12/14 - SUNDAY 12/16
Only in Cincinnati would a sports festival include cornhole. The event is included as a charity fund-raiser at the CINCINNATI WINTER SPORTS FESTIVAL at the Duke Energy Center along with the more traditional gymnastics, weightlifting, dance and martial arts. Push yourself in one of four total fitness challenges offered by Lord's Gym or contend in the martial arts battle. If you're feeling less energetic, you can watch cheer squads and dancers compete or the trampoline and tumbling championships, take classes or peruse sports and fitness vendors. The men's gymnastics challenge, hosted by 2004 Olympic silver-medalist Blaine Wilson, serves as a qualifier for state championships and the women's event features more than 2,000 gymnasts from five states. Some events allow for same-day registration if you arrive early. $20 for a weekend pass; $12 a day for adults; $5 for children 6-12 and seniors; free for children 5 and under. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- SUSIE SHUTTS
FRIDAY 12/14 - SUNDAY 12/16
For those who adore Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker score but are in the mood for an alternative storyline, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER might be the ticket. Ballet Theatre Midwest presents a retelling of the celebrated Christmas-themed tale for all ages at St. Xavier High School (600 W. North Bend Road). In this version, Alexander receives a tin soldier for his birthday, and lively adventures ensue -- including him being swallowed by a 23-foot fish! Director Nancy Fountain and Artistic Director/Choreographer Daniel Simmons know their stuff -- both are ballet veterans who have performed and taught at several renowned national and international companies and schools. The pair met during their time at Cincinnati Ballet and formed their own performing academy nearly four years ago. Expect a lavish production with more than 80 local dancers -- from young ones to professional-level performers -- decked out in festive costumes and dancing their hearts out. $18 adults; $15 children and seniors. (Check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- JULIE MULLINS
It's the most wonderful time of the year for fans of Cincinnati band OVER THE RHINE. The group puts on its annual holiday show this Saturday at the Taft Theatre, with Folk songstress Michelle Shocked filling the always-impressive opening-act role (see more on Shocked here). OTR's 2006 holiday-themed release, Snow Angels, is making the rounds again and the group will likely also play lots from the 1996 Christmas album, The Darkest Night of the Year. OTR's Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler had a strong year, releasing the new The Trumpet Child CD as free agents and drawing as much if not more praise and attention as they did when working for a label. Also a part of the tradition is the group's post-show get together the following day; this Sunday, fans will gather at St. Elizabeth's church in Norwood for acoustic tunes, spoken word and lots of interactionand conversation with OTR. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- MIKE BREEN
'Tis the season for shopping. If your taste tends toward the handmade, precious or unique, be sure to find time to peruse the wares at the CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER's Good Design for the Holidays this Saturday. Like a street market in Piccadilly Circus, London or Union Square in NYC -- only with heat -- the CAC provides a plaza of interesting design-minded gifts and seasonal treasures. This week, expect to find a wide variety of local and regional artists minding their booths and tables in the Kaplan Lobby: B.H. Erschell offers lithograph prints and greeting cards; Basset Hound Town Publishing will sell a variety of regionally self-published children's books; Eileen Enabnit presents her handmade jewelry; Dengler Designs turns old record albums and covers into art, clothing and home stuffs; Lian Xin carries original artwork, greeting cards, magnets and postcards. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) -- LAURA JAMES
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