Corporate Choirs Sing Out for Cincinnati

Employee singing groups from local companies are preparing to face off in in the finale of the fourth-annual CincySings, a celebratory competition managed by ArtsWave.

click to enlarge Christ Hospital’s 98.6 Degrees singers also provide percussion. - Photo: Lisa Wolter
Photo: Lisa Wolter
Christ Hospital’s 98.6 Degrees singers also provide percussion.
Since the 1850s, Cincinnatians have found ways to sing together. Blame it on those German immigrants who flocked here in the mid-19th century — they came from a rich tradition of choral singing and they laid the foundation for the city’s legendary May Festival, the annual choral musical celebration that continues today. Singing expressed civic and cultural pride, and that same spirit has inspired CincySings, a celebratory annual competition now in its fourth year. ArtsWave, the nonprofit planner, promoter and fundraiser for regional arts organizations, manages it.

To heighten awareness of ArtsWave’s annual campaign for funds, local companies assemble employee singing groups to represent them with vocal performances. Some employers, including Procter & Gamble, have internal sing-offs, inviting employees to vote and select a team to represent their company in the final public event, set for 7:30 p.m. on April 19 (next Wednesday) at the Aronoff Center for the Arts’ Procter & Gamble Hall.

At the finale, 10 teams — narrowed from a field of 21 — will present five-minute performances of songs drawn from Pop, Soul, Gospel, Rock & Roll and more. Many of them spice up their moment in the spotlight with costumes, choreography and comedy. This year’s teams represent Macy’s, Cincinnati Insurance Companies, Duke Energy, P&G, The Christ Hospital, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Sibcy Cline, Western & Southern and BB&T Bank. 

It’s the first time for the latter, a super-regional bank new to Greater Cincinnati. “We didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been a lot of fun,” says Virginia Copley, BB&T’s Northern Kentucky private team director. “We have eight associates from across the bank — branch managers, compliance, mortgage and wealth. It’s been a neat way to get to know other people who have a passion outside our jobs.” 

The all-female team, BB & Glee, will perform a medley of ’60s girl-group songs dressed as the Pink Ladies from Grease. Copley says BB&T wants employees to learn, grow and be fulfilled by their work, and adds, “CincySings has certainly accomplished that.”

The Christ Hospital is part of CincySings for the second year. Karen Clenney, human resources professional and the team organizer for the group named 98.6 Degrees, says the dozen singers come from 12 different departments and shifts across the hospital’s health network. It’s an eclectic group of employees from all generations. 

Since forming, the group has performed for other hospital events. But CincySings is a special treat. Asked if they’ll return next year, Clenney enthusiastically says: “Definitely!”

Drew Lachey — an SCPA grad, Broadway veteran and onetime member of late-’90s boy band 98 Degrees — emcees the finals.  “The arts enrich our lives and bring people together,” he says. “Where else can you find someone from legal competing against someone from accounting, competing against someone from sales?” 

Ever the quick wit, he adds, “A lawyer, accountant and salesperson walk into a theater... insert punch line here.”

Four celebrity judges will determine the winners: Local 12 anchor Bob Herzog, Cincinnati Pops conductor John Morris Russell and Jazz musician Kathy Wade are back to evaluate teams’ talent, cohesiveness, showmanship and creativity. The Enquirer’s arts writer Janelle Gelfand, from CincySings’ official media sponsor, joins them this year.

The audience will also get involved, determining a Fan Favorite award. It’s driven by funds raised via live voting during the April 19 event. While the judges tally their votes, members of the audience can select their choice by using a social media platform and contributing $1 per vote.

CincySings is more than just an attention-getting event. It uses the power of the arts — especially Cincinnati’s rich choral history — to create community. The event has a proven positive outcome in its ability to employ the arts in building employee engagement for participating companies. In fact, the program has become a national model that Americans for the Arts encourages other cities to follow.


CINCYSINGS finale will be held April 19 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Tickets/more info: cincinnatiarts.org

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