Cincinnati Could Pageant, a 150-year choral custom, returns to Music Corridor

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CINCINNATI – On Friday, for the first time in 14 months, the Music Hall hosted a choir performance with spectators in the same room.

The Cincinnati May Festival had been uninterrupted for decades before COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel it in 2020. Assistant choir director Matthew Swanson said he and the cast are overjoyed to return in 2021 – albeit with smaller audiences, masks for singers, and performances streamed online for the unvaccinated or fearful music lovers.

“It’s just a joy to make music together, especially choral and vocal music, with others and with the Cincinnati audiences we love,” said Swanson. “Not just being here on stage in the Music Hall, but being here on stage and looking at the audience. This is an unmatched experience and part of what makes performing live a joint venture.”

With five performances over two weekends, the organizers hope to give viewers the opportunity to watch in person without having to worry about large crowds.

But even if they want to stay home and watch TV, choir director Robert Porco is happy that the festival has returned.

“In a way, it’s even more special because I’ve been here for over 30 years and there was a May festival for every year I’ve been here,” he said. “I know that we are one of the few great choirs in America that actually sing in front of an audience. I think it’s a brave move, but I agreed because I was convinced it was safe.”