Last fall, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra put on its first Happy Hour Concert at the Ohio Theatre downtown. Welcoming all with free admission and even free appetizers, the CSO offered up some wonderful, mid-week concerts with the goal of bringing in new concert-goers right after work or who might not otherwise be able to enjoy a concert over the weekend.
Kudos to CSO marketing because these concerts are a fantastic idea for which they deserve nothing but praise. Not only do they present it in a far more informal setting, but they also get to introduce amazing music to a whole new audience. It brings in all kind of people to those dressed up for a fancy night out to people with baggy pants and ball caps. Oh yeah – and everything in between as well!
I heard that they were expecting 3-400 people at the first concert and ended up welcoming nearly 1,200! WOW! I’m sure the second concert had just as many because the best seats filled up quickly! Putting on any concert – especially a free one – isn’t easy. And I’m sure it certainly doesn’t come cheap which is why it’s so important to get the community involved. Fortunately, the CSO is on top of that. And, though more are always welcome, there are people and businesses out there doing exactly that: getting involved.
Enter Watershed Distillery.
Watershed Distillery is a locally owned and operated distillery of world-class spirits right here in Columbus. Located in Grandview (Columbus’ best neighborhood), it was founded in 2010 by owners Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo who liked the concept of locally owned and produced spirits. With that in mind, they put their heads together to make that a reality. Seven years later, they have Watershed Distillery – home to Vodka, Bourbon and two kinds of Gin.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dave Rigo between tours to talk about Watershed Distillery and its support of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Here’s our conversation.
How did you end up supporting the Happy Hour Concerts? The CSO contacted us about happy hour concerts. It’s the right thing to do – to support the arts. We have an upscale brand and in our minds, we think that’s a good fit for the CSO.
Why support the Symphony? I personally think that with a 2 & 3-year old, there are so many things – whether its music or painting – that…it just is part of a cultural thing you have to have in order to balance out with everything else in the world. It makes you a better, well-rounded person. There’s so much that is a distraction (e.g. Smart phones) it’s nice to see someone more creative than me, to see what they’re able to produce. We can sit back and relax to forget about the world we live in sometimes.
Did you attend concerts prior to the Happy Hour Concerts? Oh yeah.
What are your thoughts on the success of these concerts? Wow! We’d like to take some of the credit, but we didn’t think we’d have so many people. We obviously love the exposure to a totally different customer base that we sometimes don’t get in front of, so it’s a win-win. In talking to the CSO, they said they’d like to start appealing to a younger demographic. We’re a younger brand and we already appeal to the young professional.
Is this something you’ll continue into next season? Yeah – I think so! We’ve got one more left this year. If they ask us to be a part of it again, we’ll definitely do it.
So who’s your favorite composer? No idea! I like going, but, by no means am I able to answer that question! I could listen to anything – such a wide range of music. Country, rap, rock and everything in between! With young kids, I’ve been listening to a lot of Frozen lately! Rock / Grunge in high school to Country in college because the truck I had for my landscaping job would only get one station and that was country!
Take a tour
Prior to the first Happy Hour concert, I’d never heard of Watershed before, despite the fact that I live walking distance from their distillery! That’s OK – I’m pretty much a teetotaler, so that’s not too surprising. That said, I was interested in learning more about them. Fortunately that was made easy because they offer tours! For $10, you can take a tour and learn all about the process as well as sample each of the four spirits they make. Either Greg or Dave will talk about the distilling process, show you around, answer any questions you may have and then treat you to a tasting at the end. While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two. I took my tour before Christmas, so I know they make great gifts!
The next Happy Hour concert is this Wednesday, March 26 at the Ohio theatre at 6:30 pm. (Bar opens at 5:30 pm!). Look for Greg and Dave while you’re there!
Watershed Distillery products can be found in 700 bars and restaurants all over Ohio as well as in six other states! To learn more about Watershed Distillery and their world-class spirits, please visit their website and like them on Facebook. To read the rest of my interview with Dave as well as a Cliff’s Notes version of distilling (and more pictures!), check out my post Grandview: Watershed Distillery on my blog, Itinerant Knitter.
UPDATE: As of August 7, 2013 – I’ve been advised by the CAPA tour office that one additional tour date has been added thanks to an enthusiastic response to this past weekend’s article in the Columbus dispatch about the Ohio Theatre’s very own Clark Wilson! August 17th is all booked, but August 24th is now available for folks still interested in taking a tour. Click here to learn more and to sign up – reservations are definitely required! (Trust me – it’s worth it!)
Earlier this summer, I learned about Ohio Theatre tours that were being offered, so I signed up for one this past Saturday. Along with about 150 other people, I spent about an hour learning about the history and architecture of this beautiful theatre. After the tour itself, we were treated to a performance of the resident organist, Clark Wilson. While the docents gave us a tour of the theatre and Mr. Wilson gave us a tour of the “Mighty Morton” organ which was the original organ installed in the Ohio Theatre back in 1928!
Built in the late 1920s and officially opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1928, the Ohio Theatre was originally built to be a combination house which means that it was built for both the silent movies and vaudeville performances. Because of that, we were told that the Ohio Theatre theatre therefore has both dressing rooms in the back and an orchestra pit in front. Though we didn’t see anything we couldn’t normally see on a performance night (except for the lounge area of the men’s restroom), we did get to see everything with far fewer people around and had free rein with our cameras, so that was nice!
Built in a Spanish baroque style, it was designed by the same architect, Thomas Lamb, who build Madison Square Garden in New York city as well as our own Palace Theatre here in Columbus.
1 : a college or university teacher or lecturer
2 : a person who leads guided tours especially through a museum or art gallery
Breaking into about six tour groups, we each had a docent who guided us around the seating and lobby areas of the theatre itself. in the picture below is our docent. I feel bad, I missed her name, so if anyone seeing this knows her, would you please tell her I thought she was absolutely great? She knew so much about the theatre and at one point, told us she could probably go on and on for hours. I don’t know about the others, but for my part, I could have listened for hours!
I mentioned earlier that this was originally going to show silent films – the Ohio Theatre has the orchestra pit for the Orchestra and also a great pipe organ to help set the mood in the silent pictures. Of course, the Jazz Singer then came out…not so many silent pictures after that, I suppose! She did mention that she thought it was a little bit funny to put so much detail in something like the ceilings and such for a theatre that was going to be dark most of the time. She definitely raised a good point. That’s OK – I’m fine walking into a gorgeous theatre like this!
Our docent told us about how the Spanish style of architecture reflects the Spanish love of gold. Heck – they brought enough of it back from the New World, so it worked its way into the architecture as well. Look at the detail above in this picture of the Mezzanine lobby area. Gorgeous!
Have you ever taken a tour of the Ohio Theatre? What did you think? Someday, I’d love to get a behind the scenes / backstage tour as well. In the meantime, I took lots more pictures, so I’ll post more of them a little bit at a time. I also managed to get a little video of Mr. Wilson playing the Mighty Morton organ, too. Can’t wait to share that!
P.S. There’s one more tour available on August 17. I didn’t get my first choice date (I asked at the last minute though) so I’m not sure if it’s booked up yet. Here’s the link which has the Email address to which you can sign up as reservations are required. Shoot them an Email – Anna in the office there is super helpful and will be glad to help you out! HMB Aug 7, 2013 update: August 17 is booked, but August 24th has been added!
The last time I went to a concert, it was to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra with my dad. It was at least 3-4 years back and I’m sure it had something by Mozart on the program. (Or J.S. Bach, since that’s Dad’s favorite)
Since then, hard times have kept me from going to more. C’est la vie, hein? And while I love my favorite Grandview coffee shops, I occasionally want a little something more on the weekends, something not just work-related.
So, with good music in mind, I decided to forgo vanity for a while in exchange for season tickets. Thanks to not entering a salon for what seemed like ages (yeah, yeah, yeah – I’m a girl, ok?!), I now get to hear some fabulous music by great composers like Rossini, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Mozart and by a bunch more I’ve not even heard of, such as Rébel, Glinka, Berg, and Paulus.
In addition to these concerts, two friends and I are also going to a performance at the Southern Theatre to hear Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Beethoven’s 6th Pastoral symphony. They just hope that I don’t yell out “I! U!” during the Lone Ranger section of the William Tell since that’s what I used to do when I played it with the Pep Band back at all the Indiana basketball games in Bloomington. Yeah. Probably not a good idea.
The beautiful Ohio Theatre, across from the Statehouse in downtown Columbus, has been home to our symphony, or CSO, for over 40 years. The majority of the concerts I see this season will be there. In fact, the CSO is credited with saving the Ohio Theatre itself from demolition because it had once run into such a bad state of disrepair.
Among the locals here in Columbus, it’s no secret that the hard times we’ve experienced the last few years, have been shared by the CSO, but for them, over the last decade. Patronage dropped. The musicians took pay cuts. They had a different conductor for every single performance. There were times that they were probably unsure as to whether or not the CSO would even survive!
In 2010, our symphony brought in a new Music Director, the up and coming Montreal native, Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni. Not only was he a skilled and charismatic conductor, but he was hired with the hope that he would lead the CSO out of the abyss and back to more successful times.
What I’ve dug up and read about him online is pretty darned impressive. Like many of us these days he, too, works more than one job. In addition to starting his second full season as the Music Director of our orchestra here in Columbus, he’s also the newly-appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the world-renowned chamber music ensemble, I Musici de Montréal.
Someday the term “world-renowned” will be used to describe our symphony, too.
It is said that his conducting style is simply incredible, very energetic and animated. One person I spoke to used the word “amazing” to describe him. While the bio page on the CSO website desperately needs to be updated, the I Musici biography page has some good info and calls him “expressive and convincing” among other positive terms. The Handel and Haydn Society calls his style “eloquent yet fiery.” The Seattle Times called his performance of Handel’s Messiah “…edgy and exciting…”.
Aside from conducting, he apparently travels – a lot. As a fellow travel-addict, I can totally appreciate that. Of course, he travels to and from all his numerous guest-conducting gigs, not to mention splitting his time working jobs in two different countries. I’m sure he’s accumulated an absolute ton of airline miles by now! Heck – I think he may have traveled to more US states than I have and I’ve lived in a lot of them!
In the U.S., he’s conducted anywhere from New York to Oregon to Texas to Hawaii (lucky dog!) as well as all over Canada, pretty much hitting every NHL city up there save, perhaps, Ottawa. Smart man. I wonder if he needs an assistant. Let’s go Jackets!
He’s a young director, not yet 40, but it’s not as if he gained the title of Music Director on a whim. Our Maestro is very well-educated. He has three masters degrees from the Montreal Conservatory in theory, conducting and, yes, percussion. In one of the preview videos he makes before each concert, he totally geeks out on all the various percussion instruments used in one of Mahler’s symphonies. In his defense, I know percussionists (my dad included). I’m not sure there’s a single one who wouldn’t also go nuts over a huge hammer. Hmm. Could just be a guy thing.
If you’re not yet impressed, check out this interesting tidbit: he has perfect pitch. Yeah. Perfect pitch. You know, that talent that allows him to tell you that the horns of a Prius, Impala, F150 and Jetta combine to make a G-minor diminished 7th chord*.
All kidding aside though, even musicians within the orchestra have commented that his ear is a huge advantage because he can hear anything from any instrument at any time. They cannot get away with anything which makes them play all the better. He can tell during a rehearsal when something is potentially off and can therefore make the necessary adjustments before the final performance. That, in turn, makes the concert-goer’s experience that much more enjoyable.
While I’ve not yet seen him perform live, my expectations of our symphony now are extremely high. He is said to be able to draw the highest quality of music out of those he directs so I look forward to hearing that in person.
On a final note, no pun intended, I’m going to see the Columbus Symphony Orchestra three times in October and then not again until January. If he’s as good as I’ve heard he is, then November and December are going to make for two very long months!
* No fact-checking done. I have no earthly idea if this is actually true or not!
Sources: In addition to the articles linked above, here are two more from which I sourced some of the details included in this blog post. Enjoy!
Photo credits: Both pictures of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni were from the Facebook pages of I Musici and CSO, respectively. The Ohio Theater picture is my own.