words & photography | MATT STEFFEN

Music is best experienced live and in person. There is no substitute for a packed club, stacks of speakers pushing your hair back as you belt out the chorus to your favorite song with your favorite band. There’s also nothing like sitting in a small room with a handful of attentive people, listening to every toe tap, guitar string squawk, and throat clearing of a musician capable of commanding such a space. With ever growing lists of house concerts, studio performances, and small room shows, Cincinnati has come to embrace the listening room.

Neighbor to the grand Music Hall on Elm Street, Memorial Hall is perhaps the quintessential space for intimate appreciation of music. After a recent $11 million restoration led by The Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society and completed with 3CDC and Hamilton County, the century-old Beaux-Arts theater, with twin ballrooms, has kept all of its turn-of-the-century charm while sneaking in some modern comfort such as climate control, a backstage area, expanded seats to accommodate our expanding behinds, and most importantly, an audiovisual system with all the contemporary bells and whistles.

To take full advantage of this newly polished space, The Cincinnati Memorial Hall Society created the Longworth-Anderson Series—a contemporary music series defying constraints of genre, bringing diverse, internationally acclaimed, Grammy Award-level talent to this beautiful room. Currently in its second season, performers have included Rosanne Cash, Richard Thompson, Marty Stuart, and Los Lobos. Upcoming performances by Stephen Marley and The Lone Bellow are also sure to fill the 556-seat theater.

The Society makes an evening of it. As if the architecture and music were not enough, patrons are encouraged to come early for socializing over small bites and cocktails from Cincinnati’s hottest chefs and mixologists, closing the night with deserts at the post-concert reception.

The Longworth-Anderson Series is pulling out all the stops. It is not the norm to see such celebrated musicians in a room of this size and refinement. One would expect to travel or pay dearly to witness such artistic genius from such proximity. If music is your thing, by all means, continue to squeeze into the steam filled clubs and dance and scream your heart out. But be sure to save a little bit of your hearing and treat yourself to a night at Memorial Hall. It’s a whole different experience.


The Longworth-Anderson Series continues with performances by reggae royalty Stephen Marley on October 30th and The Lone Bellow with special guest Robert Ellis on November 28th.  Tickets are still available.