RE:BEL Meet Constantine Caravassilis

By Louisa Shepherd

Color. Soul. Spirit. These three words reflect the compositional style of Greek-Canadian composer, conductor, and pianist Constantine Caravassilis who joins concert:nova this Sunday at Rhinegeist Brewery for RE:BEL, a concert and “anti-gala” that is sure to be anything but conventional.

DSC_3486-EditConstantine Caravassilis has been described as one of Canada’s most prolific and highly gifted emerging composers and his music is hailed as “Timeless,” “Visionary,” and “Astonishingly Powerful” by critics and audiences alike. Music has always played an integral role in his life and his musical roots have come to play a very important role in his development as a composer.

Caravassilis grew up on the Island of Samos in Greece in a family deeply involved in the musical arts. “My mother plays the piano, and my father and brother play a number of fretted instruments including the guitar, the tzouras and the bouzouki,” says Constantine. He has always had a preference toward the arts and it was apparent from a young age that there was something special about him.

“One day, when I was perhaps 3 or so, the second program of the National Broadcasting Network was on. They were broadcasting an orchestra (I think from Vienna), and a middle aged pianist was playing a Mozart piano concerto. If you know about the classical concerto form, you will know that the same thing happens twice, at least in the first movement. Well, by the second time around, I was at the piano and playing exactly what the pianist was playing, only adding some bass notes to fill the space up a little.”

“At school I was always the front person in any musical activity and was given a number of instruments to learn within days,” Constantine remembers. “This included the mandolin, the guitar and several traditional Greek instruments. The first lessons I had were in violin, but was never a violin performer,” he continues.” “Turning my left hand sideways and upwards felt very unnatural and uncomfortable to me, plus, I always thought I could do way more with the piano.”

Interestingly enough Constantine is also a synaesthete, which basically means he sees shapes and colors and even experiences tastes and smells when listening to certain instruments or pitches. His first experiment with synaesthetic composing was a work for 3 solo cellos and a cello orchestra called Concerto for Synaesthetes. “I wrote a piece starting with a gesture on which I had a particular synaesthetic reaction to, and then I continued from bar 1 all the way to the double bar line making sure that in no instance within the piece I lose the exact shape and colors that I saw. It’s astonishing that the piece is the most comprehensible and most deeply felt work that I have ever written.”

Constantine moved to Toronto at age 17 to further his studies in music. He attended the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto on full scholarship, studying composition, piano and conducting as a pupil of the some of the country’s finest artists. Canada has been his home ever since. But even so, the musical roots established in his early years have followed him along. “I consider my Hellenic background to be one of many influences but not all of what I write is connected to my Greek roots,” says Constantine. “My sound is not something that can be described as an assortment of influences, and this is simply because I am a composer of emotionally-based and feeling-provoking music. Rather than being influenced by one specific thing and then writing music that resembles it, I prefer to let any and all influences simmer on the backburner of my subconscious mind, and use my intuition when in the process of creating a new work.”

Concert goers will have a chance to hear Constantine’s dynamic and emotionally provocative music first hand at the world première of Proses Lyriques, a composition commissioned by c:n especially for RE:BEL featuring male soprano Michael Maniaci.

“I met Michael Maniaci while he was working at the Opera Atelier in Toronto and was astounded at his unique ability as a singer as well as his great technical prowess,” Constantine remembers. “At the time, I had just been awarded the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music, for another song cycle called ‘Sappho de Mytilene’, which was also set in French. Michael and I wanted to find an opportunity to work together, and so concert:nova stepped in to make this happen with this commission.

Caravassilis’ Proses Lyriques is unique in that it shares a title with a work of Claude Debussy (Debussy’s Proses Lyriques will be performed earlier in the concert) “Although I know the music of Debussy (and can conduct a couple of his major orchestral works by memory), I never came across Proses Lyriques. We therefore decided that I would chose fragments of Debussy’s Proses and set them to music creating a brand new set of songs, but I decided not to listen to Debussy at all, until the piece has been premiered. I did this intentionally, for I did not want to be influenced by the melodies that are set to the words by Debussy, and I am pretty sure the music sound nothing like it.”

The work is scored for male soprano, flute, clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello and piano. It’s a song cycle which uses a set and subsets of colors, moods and atmospheres that best depict the text. “I can‘t exactly tell you that this is ethnic, jazz, classical, new, old, minimalist, neo-tonal, or otherwise,” says Constantine. “I simply can‘t place it. It’s just the text, but in music, and it’s musically recited by someone with an accent. A musical accent, that is!”

rhinegeistConstantine Caravassilis will be traveling to Cincinnati and joining concert:nova April 6th for RE:BEL and the première of his new work Proses Lyriques. Not only will RE:BEL serve up an unforgettable musical experience, concert:nova will also be hosting a scrumptious Rhinegeist-infused 3-course dinner dreamed up by Jeff Thomas, and a creative re:bel cocktail and Rhinegeist beer. For more information about RE:BEL and how to snag a ticket to the dinner and performance visit


RE:MEMBER Moments of Peace in War

By Louisa Shepherd

Concert:nova is packing up and headed over the river to the Carnegie in Northern Kentucky to present it’s first show of the new year! RE:MEMBER is a moving and emotional tribute to the events of World War One that took place one hundred years ago. And in true c:n fashion, the show features collaborations with the students of MYCincinnati, narrator Naomi Lewin, and dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet.

RE:MEMBER centers around Maurice Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin but also features works by Debussy, Bartok, and Webern to name a few. “Each of these musical works was written during or close to the war years, 1914-1918, and tells a story of war: whether it affected each composer broadly or more specifically through the loss of a loved one,” says Ixi Chen, Artistic Director of concert:nova. “I am especially drawn to French composer Maurice Ravel, who said, ‘The dead are sad enough in their eternal silence,’ and wrote Tombeau de Couperin as a celebratory tribute to those friends he lost on the front. Each movement of the work is a portrait of a lost friend,” says Ixi.

imageIn their performance of Ravel’s commemorative work, the musicians of concert:nova will be joined by several dancers of the Cincinnati Ballet. “Pairing live dancers with musicians on stage is such a cool concept,” says James Gilmer, one of the four dancers collaborating on the production. “We feed off of each other’s energy and I love being able to produce a unique piece of art together in a small intimate space.”

RE:MEMBER will take place at the Carnegie in Covington, KY which is about 1/4 the size of the dancer’s home stage at the Aronoff Center. “Working in a smaller space has its challenges,” James remarks. “The flooring is different so we have to monitor the choreography and limit the jumping, but I’m excited to see how we can use the space and I’m really looking forward to meeting the musicians and getting familiar with their art form. This will be something completely different than the work we do at the Ballet.”

The show kicks off at 8pm with a performance of Mozart’s Dies Irae performed in conjunction with the students of MYCincinnati followed by the full program outlined below. For concert details and ticketing information for RE:MEMBER click HERE! Be sure to join the conversation by following concert:nova on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll see you at the Carnegie on February 6th!


Syrinx (1913)
Sonata for Flute Viola and Harp 3. Finale
Webern Op. 11 Three Little Pieces for Violincello and Piano (1914)
  Sehr bewegt
  Äußerst ruhig
Kodaly Duo for Violin and Cello
Trench Songs
Irving Berlin
3rd selection

String Quartet No. 2 (1915-1917)
II. Allegro molto capriccioso
Stravinsky Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914)

Ravel Three Songs for Mixed Chorus trans. for Voice and Piano

*Le Tombeau de Couperin (trans. flute, viola, harp)
I.               Prelude: Vif
III.            Forlane: Allegretto
V.              Menuet: allegro moderato
IV.            Rigaudon: Assez vif

CULTU:RE Music of Two Cities

By: Louisa Shepherd

Summer is winding down, and the fall arts season has officially begun! The concert:nova staff and musicians have been working, planning, and practicing hard to bring you an exciting new season that is power packed with more amazing music and collaborative concerts than ever before. Artistic Director, Ixi Chen, formally announced concert:nova’s seventh season just last week and the city is already buzzing with excitement and anticipation for what’s in store.

cn-Brass-Quintet-300x187First up, concert:nova presents CULTU:RE Music of Two Cities this Wednesday, October 2nd, at Old Saint Mary’s Church in Cincinnati’s historic Over-The-Rhine neighborhood. This concert celebrates the city’s strong German heritage through a collaboration with the Sister City Alliance. If you had fun at last weekend’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, this concert will be right up your alley. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this will be an evening of the stereotypical OOM-PAH-PAH German brass band. Instead, the concert:nova brass teams up with Harmonic Brass Munich, a world renown brass quintet on tour in the U.S this fall.

Harmonic Brass Munich features trumpeters Hans Zellner and Gergely Lukács, along with Andreas Binder, horn; Thomas Lux, trombone; and Manfred Häberlein on Tuba. This lively bunch came to Cincinnati to present a tour in honor of the German heritage our cities both share, and c:n trumpeter Doug Lindsay jumped at the chance to present a collaborative concert with the ensemble while they were in town.

“About a year ago I was contacted by leadership from the Munich Sister Cities Association asking for ideas concerning a visit from Harmonic Brass during it’s tour to the United States,” Doug says. “Immediately I thought we should make their time in Cincinnati the highlight of their tour.”

hb_largeAlthough this won’t be a typical c:n program, the adventurous repertoire and cross disciplinary exploration make it yet another example of concert:nova’s dedication to presenting some of the finest performances Cincinnati has to offer. “The music will be visceral, thrilling and entertaining,” says Doug Lindsay, ” And it all takes place in the majestic setting of Old Saint Mary’s Church.”

 CULTU:RE Music of Two Cities features classic selections by Bach, Byrd, and Handel, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Audiences will hear everything from popular opera themes, to movie music, to Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. The event is guaranteed to be a hit for the entire family. For a peek at the full program click HERE.

And to end it all in true concert:nova fashion, an after party will be held right down the street at Lavomatic Cafe. Be sure to stop by, chat with the c:n Brass and Harmonic Brass Music, and most importantly–get the inside scoop on what’s in store for the rest of season seven!

For event details and ticketing information click HERE! Hope to see you there!

FOOD + MUSIC FEST ’13: Lavomatic Cafe

By Louisa Shepherd

lavomatic sign We’ve got two concerts down and only one left to go! This Saturday we’ll be featuring an incredible afternoon of good eats and jazz at Lavomatic Cafe in Over-The-Rhine. Lavomatic was the first restaurant to open in the newly renovated Gateway Quarter back in 2008 and is sure to be the perfect spot to close out this year’s Vine St. Food and Music Festival.

“For Lavomatic, an outdoor, rooftop lazy Sunday brunch called out for jazz, so we turned to the best in the city, a jazz trio led by saxophonist Brent Gallaher,” Says Ixi Chen, Artistic Director of concert:nova. “The group also includes Aaron Jacobs on bass and Jim Connerley on keyboard. They’re going to play a set that will raise the roof (if there was one!)” Chen laughs.

With jazz anything goes. Unlike our previous two festival concerts there’s no set program here. Listeners can expect to hear tunes like John Lewis’ Django and Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica, along with jazz favorites like Serenade in Blue and My Old Flame.

The performance is coupled by a Sunday brunch created by Brian Firth of Lavomatic. Join us for the finale of FOOD + MUSIC 2013 by reserving your seat today! Tickets can be purchased HERE.

Saturday June 29th

11:30am-Doors open for drinks and guest seating

12:00pm-Appetizers served

12:15pm-Jazz Performance

1:00pm-Brunch Served

Lavomatic Cafe

1211 Vine St  Cincinnati, OH 45202LavomaticDeck-thumb-400x533


kaze_logoBy Louisa Shepherd

Our FOOD + MUSIC Festival continues this weekend at KaZe sushi bar and beer garden in the heart of OTR. Listeners are in for a musical treat because this afternoon brunch features an intimate performance from Gillian Benet Sella (harp), Randy Bowman (flute), and Joanne Wojtowicz (viola) of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Last year Gillian and Randy sold out our first FOOD + MUSIC Festival concert at La Poste Eatery in Clifton. This year they’re back with an exciting program featuring music from Toru Takemitsu, Michael Fiday, and Claude Debussy. “At Kaze, we uncovered a parallel between the the Japanese and French backgrounds of the chefs and the Japanese influence on French composers in the early 20th century,” says Ixi Chen, Artistic Director of concert:nova. “We chose to play up these influences in programming the music of Claude Debussy, who was a French composer fascinated by the music and visual art of Japan. We will also play the music of Toru Takemitsu, who was one of Japan’s most prolific modern day composers.”

Currently, Randy and Gillian are recording a CD of music for flute and harp and have been performing together for many years. They’ve enjoyed working with violist Joanne Wojtowicz more recently and together they will be performing Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola, and harp and Takemitsu’s And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind. Their program will also feature some of the 9 Haikus by Michel Fiday, professor of composition at Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. “The pieces are originally for flute and piano but I think that some of them would work nicely on the harp with flute,” Gillian says. “The Fiday Haikus remind me of the traditional Japanese flute and koto so playing them on the harp with Western flute should be very interesting.”

Tickets for the Kaze brunch can be purchased HERE. As always, space is limited and sells out quickly! The chefs at KaZe have put together a delicious menu that you will not want to miss. Check it out below…and we’ll see you for brunch on Sunday!

Sunday June 23, 2013

12pm Reception (Niwa-Beer Garden)

Hors d’oeuvres:

Blackened Salmon Battera

Tomago, Red Onion, Daikon Sprouts, Capers, Yuzu Creme

12:45pm concert:nova performance

1:30pm Brunch (Matsuri-Main Dining Room)

Course One:

Nice Kyoto Salad

Seared Big Eye Tuna, Cucumber, Fingerling Potato, Egg, Sugar Snap Pea, Shiso, Vinaigrette

Course Two:

‘Elly Belly’ Benedict: Sunny Side Egg, Crispy Pork Belly, Yeast Bun, Shishito Peppers, Japanese Hollandaise (crispy Tofu can be substituted for Pork Belly)

FOOD + MUSIC FEST ’13: Taste of Belgium

By Louisa Shepherd

229It’s that time of year again! The days are longer, the weather is nice and warm, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky (well, at least for now…) Summer is such a beautiful time in Cincinnati and it’s made even more exciting by our annual FOOD + MUSIC Festival to be held June 17, 23, and 29 in the increasingly popular gateway quarter of Over-the-Rhine. This summer’s festival will take place exclusively on Vine Street and features delicious musical selections inspired by cuisine from Taste of Belgium, KaZe, and Lavomatic Café.

Our first stop on Vine Street is Taste of Belgium, home to the tastiest Belgian Waffles you’ll find in Cincinnati.  The concert:nova brass will be serving up a healthy portion of music written especially for brass quintet. “As an ensemble we are trying to be something different from most brass quintets,” says trumpeter Doug Lindsay. “We want to play music originally for brass. When we do arrangements, we like them to be our own.” The c:n brass quintet features Trumpeters Doug Lindsay and Steve Pride, Hornist Lisa Conway, Trombonist Cristian Ganicenco, and Tubist Carson McTeer.

The program is unique in that it features compositions from a few lesser known composers. “We know about Belgian chocolate, fries, and waffles, but many classical music lovers would be hard pressed to name a single Belgian composer!” laughs Ixi Chen, Artistic Director of concert:nova.

taste-of-belgium“One of the most enjoyable works to perform is The Four Little Pieces by Ludwig Maurer,” says Doug Lindsay. “It’s the earliest known work written for brass and it gives us a chance to play more than just accompaniment as is often the case for brass players in the orchestra.” Another notable work on the program is a setting of the Salve Regina by Belgian Baroque composer Thomas Babou. “Originally written for organ, we thought it would be a nice tip of the hat to the trappist monks that brew such tasty Belgian ales,” Lindsay says. “In it you will hear us perform as you have never heard before!”

The music will be great, but let’s not forget about the fantastic four-course menu created exclusively for this event by Jean-François Flechet, founder of Taste of Belgium. Check out the menu below…are your tastebuds watering yet?


CHICORY SALAD – Salad of chicory and frisée with a warm walnut oil and bacon dressing. Topped with shredded Gruyère.


ENDIVE AU GRATIN – Blanched endive stuffed with Emmental cheese, ham, béchamel sauce.


FLEMISH PORKCHOP – Cast iron grilled 8 oz sugar glazed pork chop topped with apple juniper berry reduction, served over classic caramelized Brussels sprouts.


TRIO OF BELGIAN WAFFLES, Miniature waffles topped with banana and nutella, strawberry, fresh whipped cream, and powdered sugar.

Program for Taste of Belgium:

Renaissance Dances from The Danserye (1551)……..Tylman Susato

Four Madrigals

   Fyre, Fyre…………………………………….Thomas Morley

Now is the Month of Maying……………Thomas Morley

Though Amaryllis Dance in Green……William Byrd

All Creatures Now Are Merry…………..John Bennet

Salve Regina from Livre d’Orgue…….Thomas Babou

Four Little Pieces……………………………Ludwig Maurer

Maestoso alla Marcha

     Andante con Moto


     Allegro Grazioso

A Carmen Sampler……………….Georges Bizet

stay tuned right here for updates and additional information about concert:nova’s annual FOOD + MUSIC Festival. To purchase tickets visit seating at Taste of Belgium will be limited and spots are selling out fast. Grab you ticket before it’s too late! Be sure to tag, tweet, and join the conversation by following concert:nova on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll see you at ToB June 17th!

Artist Spotlight: Annalisa Pappano

by Louisa Shepherd

If it ain’t Baroque, you’ll wish it was….

concert:nova and the award winning early music ensemble, The Catacoustic Consort, will be presenting their highly anticipated concert A Common Thread in less than two weeks! You may be asking yourself, “Early music? How can early music be innovative, fun, and entertaining?” And if you’re asking yourself these questions, you will no doubt find your answer when you come to see A Common Thread.

I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of chatting with Annalisa Pappano, Founder and Artistic Director of Catacoustic Consort, over coffee and found the very answer to these questions. What makes early music fun and interesting to today’s concert goers? How can music written such a long time ago still be engaging?

anna_2011_4“You have to do something to make the music relevant” says Pappano who fell in love with the viola de gamba as a youngster at Interlochen Fine Arts Camp. “Older music can be appreciated on so many different levels…for its initial beauty, for its artistic technique, its historical and political background, its symbolism…each layer you learn about brings another level of beauty.”

The musicians of Catacoustic make it a point to engage their audiences by teaching listeners about the music they will hear. I think this concert will be particularly accessible to concert-goers for that very reason. concert:nova and Catacoustic play very different genres of music, as you may well know. concert:nova is comprised of instruments that have a very full sound and were meant to fill concert halls, while Catacoustic’s instruments are much softer and were traditionally played in smaller, more intimate settings. “A Common Thread is all about juxtaposing contemporary and early music instruments,” says Pappano. “Learning how to juxtapose these two different sound worlds will be a fun and interesting experience…and our audiences are always looking for new, different experiences.”

This unconventional collaboration between new and old came about very naturally. “I’m good friends with Ixi Chen, founder and Artistic Director of concert:nova.” Annalisa says. “Our ensembles share many of the same audience members and supporters. Ixi and I even have babies who are the same age. We share a deep friendship and were actually sitting right here at Coffee Emporium when the idea for A Common Thread came to life. The whole thing just made sense.”

The “common thread” tying the two sound worlds together is provided by none other than William Shakespeare. “Shakespearean plays contain themes that are universal,” says Pappano. “They’re very easy to relate to.” In addition to works composed by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, A Common Thread will feature a dramatic one-woman interpretation of The Tempest performed by Jennifer Joplin of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

So why is Annalisa exited about A Common Thread? “I get to play the treble viol! I learned that instrument while studying at Interlochen and that experience made me fall in love with music. I felt as though I’d finally found my voice when learning to play these instruments and I’m excited to give that opportunity to the audience.”

A Common Thread will be presented in downtown Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library on March 17 and 18. To learn more about the show and for ticketing information visit As our good friend Shakespeare says “better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Grab your ticket today!