Cleveland may be the home of Rock n Roll but there is definitely a lively classical music scene here as well. Case in point, in the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood, CityMusic Cleveland held one of their free concerts at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church on Thursday, May 12th, 2016 at 7:30 P.M. As Zachary Lewis’ wrote in his review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 16th, the all-volunteer chamber orchestra, under the direction of conductor Avner Dorman, played two works by Felix Mendelssohn and a violin concerto (A minor, with award-winning violinist Tessa Clark as soloist) beautifully. The musicians were full of enthusiasm as they played and it was infectious. They really enjoyed performing and the audience replied in kind with standing ovations.
The group has been earned a well deserved spot in the collection of musical ensembles Cleveland has to offer. Founded in 2004, it has performed 275 concerts, including one at Lincoln Center. Symphony Magazine did an article on CityMusic Cleveland, and the national attention it has been acquiring continues. According to Eugenia Strauss, Executive Director of the ensemble, one of CityMusic’s purposes for its’ existence is to have an economic impact on the communities they perform in. “We have to be invited into the communities and talk to the leadership.” The synergy created by such relationships has led to positive economic growth in the communities they’ve performed in.
In the case of North Shore Collinwood, it seems that local resident Nan Kennedy has been after them for years to come to this lakefront Cleveland neighborhood. Ms. Strauss loves what she sees here and says that this place is a “community on the upswing”. Their first concert, as part of their March series, proved to be an enormous hit with the locals and they plan to come back and perform on October 29th.
While it does get funding from such sources as Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, it seems from the donor list in the program that a large portion of its money comes from private individuals who just like what it’s doing. “We were told it was a miracle that City Music Cleveland exists after 12 years,” Mrs. Strauss added.
Located at East 152nd St. and Lake Shore Boulevard, St. Jerome’s has joined the list of other houses of worship in NE Ohio to be venues for ensembles from Apollo’s Fire performances at Trinity Cathedral to the Cleveland Orchestra’s At Home residency last year at St. Stanislas Church in Slavic Village (which also hosts City Music Cleveland). Of course, the Collinwood area is not alien to hosting such concerts. Even the Cleveland Orchestra paid a visit to this lake shore neighborhood last year when they gave a “Fairy Tale” concert at Memorial School on April 3, 2014. However, CityMusic’s decision to perform at St. Jerome’s as part of their regular schedule is major commitment; something very much appreciated by the locals. To quote Ronald Strauss, Eugenia’s husband and the orchestra’s president, it’s mission is “to make classical music accessible to everyone with no economic or geographic barriers. It has managed to succeed in this on so many levels.
Photographs taken by James Valentino