Mission: To Seek and Share Inspiration


Taft Theatre Updates


Announcing new improvements to the Taft Theatre


As the CSO and Pops prepares for the 2016-17 season at the Taft Theatre—the Orchestra's "Home Away From Home" while Music Hall undergoes renovation—it has invested approximately $500,000 in additional improvements to the auditorium and other public spaces to the Theatre. Many of these enhancements respond directly from feedback from you, valued patrons of the Orchestra, to make your experience at the Taft Theatre second to none.

These updates include two additional ADA compliant restrooms off the main lobby, a second set of doors to the inner auditorium entrances to protect the auditorium from outside noise, new front exterior entry doors to reduce sound coming from the street, additional railings and augmented house lighting for enhanced safety, a repositioned box office for better customer support, more wayfinding signage, new benches throughout the lobby spaces and a new ramp connecting the Taft Theatre to the Masonic Center next door to better assist individuals with mobility issues. Additionally, the custom-built acoustic shell and ceilings that debuted at the Theatre for a CSO performance in January 2016 will be re-installed for all Orchestra rehearsals and performances throughout the 2016-17 season. 

The Orchestra is immensely grateful to the following donors who made these important enhancements possible: Anonymous (2), Sue Friedlander, Trish Bryan, Patti Heldman, Dennis Dern, John McCann, Phillip Long, Dee Dee West, Carol Hake, Tony Alper, John and Farah Palmer, Patricia Kisker Endowment, The State of Ohio.

These improvements come on top of the $3 million Taft Theatre restoration and renovation in 2011, which included all-new, larger seats, tripled capacity in the women’s restrooms, doubled capacity in the men’s restrooms, many cosmetic improvements, and a new state-of-the-art, and an ecofriendly central air conditioning system. 

The musicians, conductors and staff of the CSO and Pops look forward to sharing this beautifully updated venue with audiences throughout the 2016-17 season.


Summer 2016 Update


Onward to the Taft!

Fish-eye view of the stage at the Taft Theatre.

As you may have heard, Music Hall is currently undergoing its first major renovation in over 40 years. The building’s mechanical systems are in need of repair, and patrons may have noticed that Music Hall faces some challenges in regards to accessibility, patron comfort and convenience. We look forward to addressing these challenges, including increasing restroom capacity, adding leg room and wider seats in Spring Auditorium, and making the entire building physically accessible.

Music Hall completely closed on June 1, and the Hall will re-open in the fall of 2017. The CSO and Pops 2016-17 seasons and the May Festival 2017 season will take place at the historic Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati. The Taft Theatre, which opened in 1928, is an Art Deco gem that originally served as the home of many Broadway and vaudeville shows. The Taft also housed the “Mayfair Theatre," which aired German-language movies for Cincinnati's growing German population until World War II.

In the fall of 2017, the Cincinnati Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet and May Festival will all return to the newly renovated Music Hall. Patrons will be able to stand in that gorgeous Grand Foyer on that historic red slate floor and see the beautiful, original detail of the ceiling's plaster rosettes. Springer Auditorium will look better than ever; the painted fresco and chandelier will remain prominently in the center of the coffered ceiling, and all of that room's exquisite architectural detail will remain.

The Orchestra has called Music Hall home for decades, and we are delighted ti preserve the beloved building for generatiosn to come. In the meantime, we look forward to inspiring audiences at the beautiful Taft Theatre throughout the 2016-17 season.

—Erica Minton, Director of Marketing, Special Projects

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall or email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org.


May 2016 Update


Taft Theatre: Box Office Location

Box office at Taft Theatre, Photo by AJ Waltz

When the CSO and Pops perform at the Taft Theatre, September 2016 through May 2017, how will the box office setup change?

Beginning on June 1, 2016, the Cincinnati Symphony/Pops/May Festival box office will relocateto the Taft Theatre. Walk-up ticket sales will be available at that location and the box office hours will remain the same: Monday–Friday 11am–3pm, with additional availability on the day of shows. The box office phone number will remain the same: 513.381.3300.Phone Hours are M-F 10am-5pm and SAT 10am-2pm.

NEW: Two 10-minute parking meters have been added on 5th Street, immediately in front of the Taft Theatre, for your convenience!

The Taft Theatre and its box office are conveniently located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. While you’re purchasing your tickets, be sure to leave extra time to explore Fountain Square and Smale Park; stroll along the newly developed riverbank with its swings, garden and carousel; make a dinner reservation for Sotto, Metropole or Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse; visit the Taft Museum of Art or the Contemporary Arts Center—the choices are endless.

P.S. Live on the east side of town? Tickets for Riverbend shows are available starting June 1 at the Riverbend box office! Hours: Monday–Friday 11am–6pm, Saturday 10am–2pm, with additional availability on the day of shows.

—Erica Minton, Director of Marketing, Special Projects

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall or email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org.


Update for April 2016


Taft Theatre: "Mayfair Hall"

Construction of Taft Theatre lobby, 1928.

When at the Taft Theatre, you may hear staff refer to the “Mayfair” hallway, the eastern-most corridor of the Theatre. Where does that term come from?

First, we step backwards. In the early 1930s, the Taft Theatre also housed the “UFA Theatre”—a movie house that aired foreign films, to satisfy the booming German population in Cincinnati at the time. (UFA = Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft, a German film studio—the equivalent of MGM at the time.) The underground level of the Taft, which we now call the “Ballroom” level, served as a Ratskeller (tavern) for these performances.

So why the change from UFA to Mayfair? This was due to WWII and its wave of anti-German sentiment. The Theatre ceased screening German films and focused instead on more patriotic fare and American-made movies, rebranding to Mayfair Hall. The space where the Mayfair used to be still exists as a meeting space—and in the memories of some of the Taft’s staff, who still refer to the east hallway as the Mayfair.

The Taft Theatre itself has long been the home of a wide array of acts, including vaudeville performances and theatrical tours—in fact, the Taft housed
Broadway in Cincinnati before the organization moved to the Aronoff. Today the Taft continues to be a versatile home for Cincinnati Children’s Theatre, contemporary rock bands and comedy acts, and—soon!—the Cincinnati Symphony, Cincinnati Pops and May Festival.

—Erica Minton, Director of Marketing, Special Projects

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall or email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org.


Update for March 2016


Taft Theatre: Did You Know?

Construction of Taft Theatre lobby, 1928.

The Taft Theatre has had a fascinating 88-year history. Here are a few things you might not know about this gem:

• The Taft Theatre was considered “one of the largest and best equipped stages in the Midwest” when it opened in 1928.
• The Theatre’s namesake, Charles Phelps Taft, was a lawyer and Congressman, and the younger brother of U.S. President William Howard Taft. Charles Phelps Taft was married to Anna Sinton—the couple’s home and artwork collection became Cincinnati’s beautiful Taft Museum of Art.
• Charles Phelps Taft was also a 33rd-degree Mason—the highest achievable degree, suggesting major contributions to society and Masonry. (While the CSO manages the Taft Theatre, the neighboring Masonic Center owns it!)
• If you explore the building, you can find at least three different instances of lion imagery. Movie company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) paid to install these lions back when the Taft housed movies. Hint: look carefully at light fixtures in the lobby.
• The Taft Theatre never had air conditioning until its 2011 renovation! One summer performance of Fiddler on the Roof became so hot that actors went on to perform in Louisville wearing joke t-shirts saying, “I fiddled in Cincinnati while the Taft burned.”

—Erica Minton, Director of Marketing, Special Projects

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall or email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org.


Update for February 2016


History of the Taft Theatre: Great Performers

Are you curious about the big names that have graced the Taft Theatre stage in its 90+ year history? So was I! As the CSO administration prepares for the Taft season, I was able to pay a visit to the Cincinnati Historical Society archives to unearth programs and information about the legendary performers in the early days of this historic gem.

The Taft Theatre opened in 1928 with a concert featuring Ignacy Jan Paderewski. (This respected conductor famously left the stage in a huff when patrons did not return from intermission quickly enough.) In the 1930s, violin greats Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler performed at the Taft, as did famed vocalist Marian Anderson. The one-and-only George Gershwin took the stage for a piano recital. Katharine Hepburn treaded the boards with The Philadelphia Story—the Taft was home to many Broadway productions in its early days, including performances by Sophie Tucker, Henry Fonda, Burl Ives, Carol Channing, Yul Brynner and more. The 1940s would see performances by jazz legend Duke Ellington, as well as celebrated pianists Vladimir Horowitz , Sergei Rachmaninoff and Claudio Arrau.

—Erica Minton, Director of Marketing, Special Projects


Updates for January 2016


Acoustics at the Taft Theatre

Fanfare Cincinnati recently asked Pops Conductor John Morris Russell for his thoughts on the acoustics at the Taft Theatre; you may remember from last month’s article that JMR conducted many Home for the Holidays concerts in the historic Taft auditorium (and before the 2011 renovations!).

“One of the coolest things about being a conductor is working with superb orchestras in amazing performance venues all over the world,” said Mr. Russell. “Over time you notice that often when a hall has a smaller stage, and individual orchestra members are physically closer to each other on that stage, the orchestra’s sound is more compact and rhythmically tighter.”

Mr. Russell used the example of the challenge of keeping sections rhythmically together on a large stage when the violins, for instance, could be up to 70 feet from the brass. “When you reduce that distance, when everyone is closer together, an orchestra can perform with a tighter and crisper ensemble, something that is more difficult when everyone is spread out,” he said. “The Taft Theatre has that great sense of intimacy—it’s smaller than Music Hall by about 20 percent. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to experience the kind of nuanced ensemble and tight, rhythmic music-making the Taft will provide.”

Isaac Thompson, the CSO’s Director of Artistic Administration, added, “The same acoustics team that is working on the Music Hall renovations, ‘Akustiks,’ is also being consulted on the acoustical shell that is being custom-built for the CSO’s season in the Taft Theatre.”

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org.


Update for December 2015


Looking Back: Home for the Holidays at Taft Theatre

During Music Hall’s renovation, the 2016-17 season will be many patrons’ first visit to the historic Taft Theatre, but for long-time CSO fans it will mark a nostalgic return to the venue of the beloved Home for the Holidays shows.

The homegrown and wildly creative musical revue ran from 1996 to 2003 at the Taft Theatre while the Cincinnati Ballet performed The Nutcracker at Music Hall. These shows were conducted by John Morris Russell—today the esteemed Pops Conductor, but at the time CSO Associate Conductor. “This was my first big gig!” remembers JMR. Of his experience with the Taft Theatre he adds, “The theatre was a little rough around the edges back then, but now—what a transformation! The beautifully detailed lobby spaces, new seating and exquisite plasterwork in the interior—it’s gorgeous and really inspiring.” He continues, “There’s a palpable electricity when people come together in such an intimate space.”

“At the heart of the production were our troupe of CCM singer-dancers, The Yuletones. We spent an entire weekend auditioning for that first cast. First and foremost they had to SING: tight harmony, jazz, and pop, and we needed a tenor who could hit the high B-flat for the big Mario Lanza number,” recalls Russell. “At the same time they had to be able to tap dance and hula, or do the Russian Trepak in flippers! The casting was crazy—we had to get 12 people who could do everything.” These concerts marked the professional debut for many of our Yuletones, several of whom have gone on to successful musical careers, including Adrienne Danrich, Tiffany Haas, and Marco Panuccio. Betsy Wolfe, who graced the Music Hall stage last season as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, was also a Yuletone singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” at the Taft Theatre.

Home for the Holidays fans may remember Wally Hog Jr., Cindy the Reindeer, Cincinnati’s 12 Daze of Christmas (with the lovable penguin puppets!), Santa Does the Mambo, and the dancing Hippos in “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Many of these unique and energetic treatments—including “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” “O Holy Night,” and “No Place Like Home for the Holidays”—laid the groundwork for JMR’s first Pops recording in 2012, aptly titled Home for the Holidays.

Questions or comments about the Orchestra’s one-season transition to the Taft Theatre? Email updates@cincinnatisymphony.org


Update for November 2015


Looking Back: The Taft Theatre’s 2011 Renovation

While the recent announcement about Music Hall’s upcoming renovation is incredible news worth celebrating, the CSO and Pops have been working toward this milestone for many years. In 2010, in preparation for the Orchestra’s anticipated displacement from Music Hall, the CSO’s subsidiary Music and Event Management Inc. (MEMI) took over the management of the Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati.

In 2011, the Taft Theatre underwent a roughly $3 million renovation to make an already gorgeous and historic theatre a more inviting place for guests of the CSO and Pops. Some of the Taft’s recent improvements include doubling the capacity of the men’s restrooms, tripling the capacity of the women’s restrooms, installing a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly central air conditioning system, and replacing all of the seats to improve seat width and comfort. Cosmetic changes were made as well, to better highlight the turn-of-the-century details abundant in the theatre, including hand-painted murals and a richly detailed arch over the stage.

Were you among the patrons who visited the renovated Taft Theatre at its Grand Re-Opening on Sept 12, 2011? Pops Conductor John Morris Russell led a rousing concert of Hollywood tunes that had audiences on their feet, and guests were invited to tour the upgraded venue. If you missed that concert (and haven’t attended the Taft’s robust lineup of contemporary music concerts, comedy, and performances by Taft resident company The Cincinnati Children’s Theatre) we look forward to introducing you to this downtown jewel box during the Orchestra’s 2016-2017 season.