Martin Gross
  • Martin Gross
  • Jim Buchmann
  • Todd Campbell
  • Mark Goldberg
The Wichita Eagle
The Cincinnati Post
Saturday, Sep. 06, 2003
Everyone German at this gig

Music Hall became one big beer hall (minus the beer) Friday night as members of the Cincinnati Pops audience linked arms, swayed links und rechts and sang along with the Sonnenschein Express to help open the Pops’ 2003-04 season.

Conductor Erich Kunzel was in rare form – and lederhosen for the second half of the concert – and Gemütlichkeit flowed through the aisles. The stage was decked out with German flags and black, red and yellow balloons in tribute to the city’s historic German background.

"Oktoberfest Cincinnati Pops" was one of the happiest Pops openers in years and incidentally, right in season with Oktoberfests taking place on both sides of the river this month.

It was an occasion for all things German. There was Johann Strauss’ "Radetzky March" - usually the final number on a Viennese program, but Kunzel started the show "backwards" to get the traditional clapping going. There were waltzes from Lehar’s "Merry Widow" and "Pizzicato Polka," a precision number the Pops recorded in a remarkable one take on an early Strauss album, said Kunzel. He even threw in some airy German philosophizing about things that "never end" before leaving the podium with the Pops vamping away on Johann Strauss Jr.’s "Perpetual Motion."

The first half finale brought Cincinnati German heritage groups the Kolping Sängerchor, Jack Frost Accordion Band and Donauschwaben Schuhplattlers to the stage for a sing-along of German folk and drinking songs. The men of the Schuhplattlers demonstrated some fancy shoe slapping – both feet off the ground – and everyone raised their thumbs (in lieu of beer steins) in a hearty "Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’Suffa."

Sonnenschein Express ("Sunshine Express"), the six-member German band from Disney World’s EPCOT Center, was the centerpiece of the show. There was yodeling by Martin Gross – and a yodeling contest among three members of the crowd to give the show a reality touch – an alphorn duet and "Edelweiss" performed on the musical saw by Mark Goldberg who obligingly sawed a plank in half to demonstrate the tool’s business end. Gross and Todd Campbell demonstrated the alphorns, 12-foot long horns used to communicate in the Alps, to awesome effect.

Goldberg performed nimbly on the Holzgelächter ("wooden laughter"), an Alpine xylophone resembling a wooden window blind. Cowbells stood in for handbells in a virtuoso set combined with some fancy plattlen (lederhosen slapping) and the Sonnenscheiners added some jazzy clarinet and accordion flourishes to Martin’s yodeling.

The final number: What else? "Lustiger Wandersmann" ("The Happy Wanderer"). The standing ovation was instantaneous and there were two encores.

The Cincinnati Post