The Cincinnati May Festival is an annual choral festival held during two weekends in May in Cincinnati, Ohio. The festival’s roots go back to the 1840s, when Saengerfests were held in our city, bringing together many of the local choruses and the many English and German singing societies throughout the area to perform large choral works.
After the Civil War, those gatherings became a choral festival that was held every other year with a visiting orchestra from New York and later from Chicago. The first May Festival took place in 1873.
Today the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra plays for the May Festival, but it is interesting to note that the May Festival and its large community chorus is older than the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and that Cincinnati’s Music Hall was built to accommodate the May Festival. Today, the May Festival is an annual event.
The all-volunteer May Festival Chorus (MFC) has been under the direction of Robert Porco since 1989. The MFC performs regularly with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, singing at Music Hall as well as Riverbend Music Center. The MFC has garnered critical acclaim for their high level of performance.
Brother Bob Lucero, O.F.M., Production Manager at St. Anthony Messenger, has been singing tenor for 40 of the 138 years that the May Festival Chorus has been performing. Bob is one of two of the longest-serving members of this world-renowned choral group. Alto singer, Sally Vickery Harper, is the other chorus member who completes 40 years in 2011.
In tune with their 40-year anniversary, Bob and Sally were interviewed recently by Janelle Gelfand, music and arts critic for The Cincinnati Enquirer. And at last Tuesday’s rehearsal, Stacey Doose, the video editor for Cincinnati.com, “wired” Bob for about the first hour of that rehearsal as various still photos and video footage was taken.
Bob jokingly says that with all this fuss and attention, “I am beginning to feel like I am being released on parole after completing 40 years of community service!”
Over those 40 years, Bob has performed three different times at Carnegie Hall in New York, as well as taken part in the Dubrovnik Festival in then Yugoslavia. On occasion, he has been invited to sing with the University Singers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, under the direction of his friend, Michael Slon, who teaches at UVA.
Bravo, Bob, and happy anniversary!
Photos used with permission.