I was fortunate to be able to attend the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival for a third straight year. Christ Church Cathedral has been providing Cincinnati with this wonderful performance for 74 years now. The Boar’s Head Festival is rooted deep in tradition dating back to the 14th century, that is why I love it so. The tradition of the Boar’s Head Festival can be found in my review of the 2012 festival.
This year, I asked the Music Director, Robert Beiring if he could tell me about the cast. One person that stood out was Phil Hagner (pictured as a Beefeater), the longest running cast member with 66 years under his belt! He graciously took a few minutes before the performance to talk to me a bit.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself, personally and professionally.
- I am the quintessential native Cincinnatian of German heritage! All four grandparents were German and lived essentially all their lives in Cincinnati, as did my parents. I was born at Christ Hospital, went to Walnut Hills High and got a BBA and MBA at U.C. As an Army officer, I ran an Officers’ Club in, where else, but Germany! Then I was a purchasing manager at P&G followed by owning, with my wife, a retail store on Hyde Park Square. With our children and grandchildren now out-of-town, we spend most of our retirement doing volunteer work and traveling.
Q. How did you start out performing in the Boar’s Head at only 8 years old?
- My family transferred from St. Phillip’s North side to Christ Church in 1948. The Boar’s Head Festival was 8 years old and candle sprites were needed. My parents volunteered me. These were real candles and the challenge was not to burn the feather sticking in the back of the hat ahead of you. Of course, accidents happened!
Q. What changes have you seen in 65 years in the performances? How do the directors bring their own touch to the performance?
- The professionalism in music, lighting, costumes and make-up has increased incredibly through the years. Parts for women were written into the production beginning in 1973. Now the cast is at least twice that of early days. Bob Beiring has produced/directed for more than half of my tenure, as a theatrical guy, and continues to raise the bar in all areas. Minor Raymond and Gerry Hancock made major revisions to the music (copy-writed) about 45 years ago.
Q. Do you have any kids/grandkids that also take part?
- Our children and a granddaughter have been in the Boar’s Head, but now are out-of-town. Our daughter was the first girl to be in the Boar’s Head disguised as a boy to ride the yule log. Later she was a waite who slid down the rope from the organ loft. Our son who is 6’6″ was a Beefeater one year.
Q. Why have you decided to take part year after year? What has been your favorite part to play?
- I’ve played almost every part, but Beefeater is the best (first in, last out). It’s time consuming, including picking up donated Christmas trees, poinsettias and food and it is a wondrous joy to be involved in it. Our present to the City.
Q. If you were the director, what changes or additions would you try to incorporate into the performance?
- About the only thing we’re missing are the camels for the Three Kings!! It moves along nicely; no dead spots.
Q. What is your favorite part of the performance? Do you have a favorite song?
- Often the raising of our gifts at the climax draws applause, which is thrilling. That, followed by “O Come All Ye Faithful” which I like to sing in harmony, becomes a challenge as the tempo is different from the Beefeaters recessing cadence.
Q. What does it mean to you personally to be able to keep coming back?
- I am blessed that my knees and feet have held up through about 40 years of stomping! I’m in front because I’m shortest and oldest! Five front row “partners” have retired or died. Like the Eveready battery, I wouldn’t know what else to do but keep on stomping through the Holidays. I love seeing peoples’ faces light up as we march by!!
This year we took just our six year old for the first time and he enjoyed it as well. There is always something going on to watch and see, there is never a dull moment. If you have never been to a performance, I would highly recommend that you attend one! You do need to get tickets about 3 weeks before the first performance, but the best part is that the tickets are free! The show is held at Christ Church Cathedral on East Fourth Street.
- Cincinnati 2011 Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival Review – Interview with Bob Beiring, Behind the Scenes, and Pictures
- Cincinnati 2012 Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival Review – Pictures, and more About the Festival