Cincinnati, Ohio, is the largest city on the Ohio River; the second largest river in the Mississippi River basin. Located at the convergence of three states—Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana—Cincinnati has historically served as a gateway between North and South; East and West. Its proximity to Kentucky lends the city a bit of the relaxed lifestyle of the old American South. The Jordan River mentioned in so many African-American spirituals of centuries past was actually a code name for the Ohio River, and to escaping slaves fleeing to the North, Cincinnati was the Promised Land.
There is a strong choral tradition in Cincinnati. The city is home to the oldest continuous choral festival in America. The Cincinnati Camerata, founded in 1992 by Christian Miller, continues this tradition of choral excellence: we sing music covering a broad range of styles, and every member of the ensemble is dedicated to the highest performance standards, regardless of musical style.
The Cincinnati Camerata was founded in 1992 by director Christian Miller as the Chris Miller Chorale. The ensemble quickly established an enviable reputation in the musical life of the city. But as the ensemble matured into an established, respected member of the Cincinnati arts community, the members and Chris himself felt that the name should reflect the ensemble’s ties with that community. The group was re-christened the Cincinnati Camerata to emphasize the organization’s links to the musical life of Cincinnati.
A camerata in Renaissance Italy was a group small enough to perform in a room (as, indeed, all chamber music implies performance by a group small enough to play in a room smaller than a modern concert hall). The camerata were not originally limited to musicians: any group of scholars, amateur musicians, or witty conversationalists assembled for some common interest was a camerata. The Florentine Camerata actively advocated the development of new musical forms and thus had a significant influence on the evolution of Renaissance musical style. Eventually, the word evolved to refer to musicians only, and encompassed groups somewhat larger than would fit comfortably in today’s average living room (although they still no doubt would have been right at home in the drawing rooms of certain Florentine nobility).
A camerata today refers to a musical group, instrumental or choral, of virtually any size. The Cincinnati Camerata consists of 20 outstanding singers, two superb accompanists, and a formidable director. The Cincinnati Camerata performs works from a broad spectrum of styles, from the Renaissance to the avant-garde; from the most sacred works of the church to the most profane bawdy songs and catches of the past four centuries. “From black tie to Birkenstocks” is how one sage described the group’s repertoire, and that phrase continues to be an apt description of the ensemble’s musical style. Every member of the ensemble is dedicated to the highest performance standards, regardless of musical style.