Concert:nova ends its 2015-16 season on a sweet note with "Bon Appetit!," July 19 at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s culinary auditorium.

The titular piece, "Bon Appetit!," features soprano Ellen Graham singing as Julia Child, while baking a chocolate cake. The remaining four selections all coyly relate to food. 

“So much of appreciating music is opening the sense of hearing, with subtleties and nuances not dissimilar to the appreciation of food,” said Ixi Chen, artistic director of concert:nova. “Taste, style, enjoyment of and relationship to - it’s all tremendously subjective as well as necessary nourishment for our physical and spiritual selves.” 


Soprano Mary Southworth presents Leonard Bernstein's La Bonne Cuisine to open the show, singing of Oxtails and Plum Pudding to whet the appetite. A duo called "Salad Bar," written by local composer Ellen Ruth Harrison, features flutist Randy Bowman and violist Rebe Barnes playing about cucumber salads, tomato salads and more. The "Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine" by Aaron Jay Kernis  is a “hilarious and wacky piece for violin, cello, piano and narrator (the humorous Stacey Woolley),” Chen said.

The second part of the show opens again with a song called "Frim Fram Sauce" sung by Southworth, and then comes what Chen called the “piece de resistance,” Bon Appetit!
This isn’t concert:nova’s first foray into the relationship between food and music. Earlier this season, a collaboration between acclaimed Cincinnati chef Jose Salazar and oboist James Allen Smith featured a special three-course pre-fixe menu served between three sets of music. The first performance of the 2016-17 season, the organization’s 10th, features coffee: composers who loved the brew, what form their obsession took, and the music that came out of it. 

“concert:nova is constantly trying to create an entrance point into classical or chamber music for those who are not classical arts patrons,” said Chen. “Our food collaborations allow us to engage foodies and restaurant patrons who may not know of concert:nova or who may not care much about chamber music. This show actually inspired a collaboration with Artichoke, the housewares store by Findlay Market. We are (co-)hosting a cake demonstration to prepare our patrons for Bon Appetit!”

For those wondering, audience members at Bon Appetit! will be able to taste the cake at the end of the performance.

The organization has embraced a host of interesting and diverse collaborations over the years: performances with local musicians The Mitchells and dance troupe Pones, Inc. are recent examples. Its ongoing strategic partnership with Cincinnati Opera helps; the partnership strengthens concert:nova’s infrastructure, said Chen, which brings an attendant new level of artistic operation and performance. 

“The partnership between Cincinnati Opera and concert:nova is in direct response to the efforts of the business community to find inefficiencies and drive cost out of the arts sector in Cincinnati by encouraging large organizations with well-established infrastructures to support the growth of smaller organizations," Chen said. 

That means we can have our cake and eat it, too.