In announcing a series of three free concerts at the churches and one ticketed Pops event at Riverbend, symphony officials acknowledged that they are lending the CSO’s name and prestige to the cause of improving race relations in Cincinnati. “Orchestral music, like all of the arts, has great power,” said John Morris Russell, the symphony’s associate conductor. “It cuts through all levels of class, race, religion, and always comes to celebrate those commonalities that we all have together. This is what this experience is about — to find those commonalities and to find them through music.”
Ministers at the three churches that will host the free concerts — Avondale’s Zion Baptist Church, Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church and Quinn Chapel AME Church in Forest Park — agreed that the arts in general and music in particular have a healing capacity that touches people in ways that political dialogue and other well-intentioned efforts often cannot. Downtown Cincinnati Inc. is taking a head-on approach to battling the perception that visiting downtown is high-risk behavior.
“Whether we realize it or not, the Cincinnati community is a family, and there appears to be some brokenness in the family right now,” the Rev. James Cantrell of Zion Baptist said after a news conference at his church where the concert series, “Classical Roots: Spiritual Heights” was announced. “We can use this as an opportunity to bind the family together in a more Christian spirit and a more loving spirit. If we do that, we will have taken measures toward ending the kind of fragmentation that has our community family broken.”
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Only two years after the April 2001 riots exposed deep racial schisms in Cincinnati, both the ministers and the CSO officials admitted that a series of concerts, no matter how successful, cannot by itself erase the region’s remaining racial problems. The concerts can, however, significantly move the community in the right direction, they stressed. The three free concerts July 22-24 will be followed by a Cincinnati Pops concert July 26 at Riverbend featuring tenors Victor Trent Cook, Rodrick Dixon and Thomas Young, formerly known as the “Three Mo’ Tenors.”