Around Cincinnati won't be around much anymore. WVXU's Sunday night arts and entertainment show ends Aug. 23.
It premiered in August 2005, shortly after Xavier University sold the station to Cincinnati Public Radio.
"From the first week that Cincinnati Public Radio assumed operations of 91.7 WVXU, Around Cincinnati has been a Sunday night staple, bringing one hour of local theatre makers, artists, musicians, authors and storytellers to our listeners," says the station's announcement. "And from the start, Lee Hay has been at the helm as producer and host. She, along with her roster of volunteer contributors, interviewed the famous and up-and-coming, the writers and singers, all with a story to tell."
Among the most memorable interviews, says producer/host Hay, were Stephen Sondheim (by Rick Pender), poet Nikki Giovanni (by Barbara Gray), TV chef Carla Hall from Top Chef and The Chew (by Robyn Carey Allgeyer) and Peter Frampton and Tommy Emmanuel (by Brian O'Donnell).
Hay also recruited writer/bluegrass performer Katie Laur to do interviews and storytelling after WNKU-FM shut down in 2017.
Full disclosure here: I did a couple dozen Around Cincinnati interviews for Lee ranging from TV stars Rob Lowe, Jason Alexander, Sam Straley and The Voice contestant Michael Williams to Groucho Marx impersonator Frank Ferrante; local musicians Joe Mullins and Steve Martin; concert producer Joe Santangelo; Jim Tarbell; Reds organist John Schutte; Rosie Red; and a variety of authors.
In 2005, Hay asked Katie Reider to perform a song for a WVXU Christmas special, starting the 15-year tradition of an Around Cincinnati Christmas. Each year the program opened with a reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Gary Burbank, Peter Frampton, D. Lynn Meyers, Noah Hunt and other local celebrities.
Around Cincinnati has become more complex to produce during the pandemic. Many local arts organizations still face an indeterminate intermission, and with limited access to the WVXU studios, all interviews need to be done remotely. Hay also wants to do more in-depth specials, similar to her award-winning King Records series; Rosemary Clooney profile; and my collaborations with her on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' 1966 Crosley Field concert and 40th anniversary of the 1977 Beverly Hills fire.
"WVXU listeners have learned so much about the local arts scene from Lee Hay and Around Cincinnati's highly committed volunteer contributors," says Chris Phelps, Cincinnati Public Radio vice president of content. "We are grateful for the time and expertise they devoted to the program. The arts are an integral part of Cincinnati’s vitality, life, economy, and community spirit. We look forward to continuing to tell their stories in new ways, within WVXU programming and across our multiple platforms."
August shows will feature favorite interviews from the archives, along with some contributors' bucket-list interviews. "Details about what will take over the Sunday at 7 p.m. time slot, and how 91.7 WVXU will continue its commitment to Cincinnati's arts and cultural community, will be announced soon," says Kevin Reynolds, community relations manager.
"Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked with contributors to the show and shared their sorrow at the end of Around Cincinnati," Hay says. "I’m honored to work with such talented volunteers who are also my friends as are many of the creative artists and organizations in the area we’ve talked with.
"We're most proud of our conversations with the many talented arts organizations and creative poets, writers, sculptors, artists, musicians from right here in our area. Many of these groups and individuals don't have large advertising budgets, so we were happy to invite them into our studio to catch up. So, our hope is that during this pandemic, the arts will find new ways to promote themselves. Cincinnati is very lucky to have such a wonderful arts community."
John Kiesewetter's reporting on this story is independent and has only been edited for style and grammar.