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CSO, Pops Announce 2020 Digital Season, With A Focus On Diversity

Courtesy of Alberto Jones

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops will digitally stream the remainder of the 2020 season. Program details and dates were announced Monday.

The seven "Live From Music Hall" concerts will be free on the orchestra's website, social media, and will be simulcast on large screens at Fountain Square and Washington Park for socially distanced audiences.

"We are living through challenging times, but music has the ability to elevate us, heals us and unite us," says Music Director Louis Langrée in a statement. "We have chosen repertoire this fall that reflects our current sensitivities and sensibilities and we have invited guest artists who are not only great musicians but important voices in our collective consciousness."

Langrée will conduct four concerts and Pops Conductor John Morris Russell will conduct three.

"In reprogramming the fall season," Russell says, "we've done a deep dive into amazing musical wonderments from Hollywood, popular classics and the panoply of American pop that can be performed on a more intimate scale."

The CSO in August unveiled a 10-point diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) action plan to "prioritize the organization's deepening commitment to better representing and serving the entirety of its community." It includes hiring a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

This fall's musical selections were chosen with the orchestra's new DE&I goals in mind, says Jonathan Martin, CEO.

"We can elevate both the quantity and the breadth of programming by musicians of color, composers of color, (and) artists of color, and there's such a wealth of programming out there that needs to be heard and we're going to take advantage of it this fall. We think it's the right time."

You can view the full season lineup at

Putting together a season that necessitate fewer musicians to take the stage at any one time required a special one-year labor agreement with the musicians. The selections were also chosen strategically to work for smaller arrangements of musicians.

Martin reports the CSO "is doing better financially than most American orchestras." Despite the season being free, Martin doesn't see it as giving away the product for free. He expects those watching will be people who care about the organization, have made donations, or told the orchestra to keep preexisting subscription payments, etc.

Secondly, he says, "would this be the time to throw up a password-protected paywall and limit access to classical music at the precise moment where we are trying to be more open and more inclusive to a community that wants and needs it? My opinion is 'no.' This is the time where we need to serve not only our existing community but a much broader community, and the best way to do that is to make it as easy as possible for them to consume us."

The Lineup

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The CSO performs works by Jessie Montgomery, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The Pops celebrates jazz and ragtime classics by Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, James Reese Europe, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Harry Warren & Mack Gordon.

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The CSO performs works by Charles Ives, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Igor Stravinsky.

Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The Pops presents selections celebrating autumn and the Halloween season with selections from popular movies and more.

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The CSO will perform works by Julia Perry, Richard Wagner, and Anthoy Davis.

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The CSO takes on Marianna Martines, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maurice Ravel, and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. - The Pops closes out the season with the annual Home for the Holidays concert featuring seasonal music.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.