Tag Archives: events

Fridays@7 Kick the Weekend Off Right with the Cleveland Orchestra

Severance Hall transforms for the Fridays@7 series - the perfect way to unwind at the end of the work week

When I was in college and prone to going out to all hours of the night, I’d look forward to Friday like many students because it meant the weekend (and its subsequent parties) had arrived. Of course, how I kicked off the weekend back then was a lot different than how I like to start it now.  From Polka Happy Hour to a movie at The Capitol, there are plenty of better ways to jumpstart the weekend besides my former gallivanting. And now there’s a new addition to my slate of options: the Fridays@7 series at the Cleveland Orchestra

With an early start time, the Fridays@7 series provides a full evening of music and pre- and post-concert celebrations. The doors to Severance Hall open up at 5pm for a pre-party of drinks, food and entertainment.  Then at 7, the Orchestra presents a concert without intermission, and an afterparty of artists selected by percussionist Jamey Haddad rounds out the unique evening. In addition to being an entertaining way to escape the stresses of the work week, the Fridays@7 series provides much more than an evening’s worth of geographically and stylistically diverse music.

Cleveland's Passport Project performs during the Fridays@7 pre-concert party

This past Friday was the opening concert in the 2010-2011 Fridays@7 series. Scott and I headed over to Severance Hall after a long week of work, happy to get our weekend started a little early. As we walked into Severance’s lobby, we were welcomed by the drum beats of Cleveland’s own Passport Project who kicked off the evening with the pre-party. Passport Project is a local world music and dance ensemble  who strives to build community and encourage diversity by designing lectures, interactive performances and concerts.  Besides the beats they provided, an aspect of their concert I enjoyed was encouraging guests to introduce themselves to at least 2 people they didn’t know.  While I sometimes shy away from networking exercises, it was a relaxed enough environment where this flowed very comfortably. It also helped that the bar was open, where guests could purchase libations and light food before the main event.

As 7 o’clock arrived, the crowd moved into the main hall of Severance.  As Conductor Franz Welser-Most took the stage, you could already tell this would be different than some of the other concerts I had been to.  Instead of the traditional suit and tails, Welser-Most and each musician were dressed in semi-formal black. The concert itself featured a dual performance –  Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu’s Dream/Window and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (often referred to as Eroica/The Heroic). 

Even the Cleveland Orchestra loosens their ties for the Fridays@7 series - not donning the traditional suit and tails.

The two pieces the Orchestra performed definitely had their share of differences in style. Takemitsu’s Dream/Window was a modern interpretation of the Japanese Buddhist garden Saiho-ji as if being viewed in a dream and through a window. The overlapping harmonies and sometimes twisting, incoherent manner of the music had a unique and haunting effect as the piece mirrored the different perspectives of the garden.  Beethoven’s Eroica – composed in the early 1800s – took some of its inspiration from Beethoven’s admiration of Napoleon as a heroic leader.

However, although Eroica is more traditional than the modern 1985 Dream/Window, it wasn’t originally as well-received as it is today.  In addition to the original inspiration of Napoleon, there was also a deeply personal exploration in the basis of the piece as it was written around the time Beethoven publicly acknowledged his deafness. Instead of allowing the knowledge of his deafness to debilitate him, it is said his work on Eroica could have saved his life. The end result was 4 movements of dynamic, tumultuous and sometimes irreverent sound that shed new significance with each listen. Subsequently, the decision to perform Dream/Window and Eroica with their different styles, but similar impact, was a very deft one on the part of the Orchestra.

After the Orchestra, Nation Beat performed to a packed house in Severance Hall's Grand Foyer

In addition to a night of challenging music, the concert was yet another opportunity to observe how the Orchestra’s performances are a level of art completely separate from the pieces themselves. This was the first time I haven’t sat in the lower level of Severance.  While I enjoy being close because it establishes an almost personal connection with the musicians, sitting in the upstairs Dress Circle allowed us to see how the entire ‘machine’ flows together.  As Welser-Most led the musicians, you could see the instant reverberations of his movements spread from the strings back to the timpani and percussion sections. From the great restraint he exhibited in tiny flicks of his hands, to dramatic gestures or gentle, sweeping motions, the musicians played as if they were a perfect extension of Welser-Most. It reminded me of why I could see the Cleveland Orchestra perform almost anything and still be amazed simply by the beauty of them playing.

The evening was perfectly bookended by Nation Beat, a fusion group of Brazilian and southern U.S. styles.  As we made our way from our seats to the Grand Foyer, you could hear the afterparty had already begun.  Although Nation Beat heralds from New York, their music is a mix of Brazilian maracatu drumming, New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues. They provided an energizing performance where all of these styles flowed together seamlessly and guests had a chance to get up and dance.  Connecting the performance back to Cleveland, Nation Beat brought up musicians and singers from the Cleveland Institute of Music to join in on a piece they had practiced earlier that day when Nation Beat visited CIM.

Nation Beat invited students from the Cleveland Institute of Music to perform with them

The Fridays@7 series continues throughout the year with The Heroic Mahler on Dec. 3, A Hero’s Life on Jan. 14, Romantic Rachmaninoff on April 1, and Eighth Blackbird on May 27. This season not only features invigorating performances of musically diverse pieces, but also includes a Cleveland premiere and a conductor’s Cleveland Orchestra debut.

The entire Fridays@7 series is included as a subscription, or you can purchase individual tickets if there are a couple concerts in particular you’re interested in.  Personally, I’m very excited for the May 27 performance, which will feature Welser-Most as conductor and Joshua Smith on flute in Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Higdon’s concerto.  It’s a much more enjoyable way to unwind than my revelries in years past.

 

Fridays@7 411:

Great Lakes Theater Festival Returns with a Vengeance

     

In the Great Lakes Theater Festival's production of Othello, a deadly plan is hatched between the gullible Roderigo (actor, Eduardo Placer, left) and the manipulative Iago (actor, David Anthony Smith, right). Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

 

This past Saturday, Great Lakes Theater Festival opened its 49th season with Shakespeare’s psychological thriller Othello.  Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to the return of GLTF since the Spring Rep’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Bat Boy; my first Shakespearean tragedy at GLTF did not disappoint.     

This intense tale of jealousy and revenge is considered one of the greatest dramas of all time. Although I’ve read the play before, this was the first time I had seen a production of it. Director Risa Brainin did an excellent job as she strived to unravel the reasons behind the villainous Iago’s duplicity and Othello’s inexplicable belief in his lies.    

Although the E 14th Streetscape construction is underway around the Hanna Theatre, there are no changes to how you enter the theaters or where you may park.

 

Although Othello may be the title character, I found that it was Iago who drove the GLTF production. Actor David Anthony Smith returned to the Hanna stage after last year’s comedic turn as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while the villain of Othello was a stark contrast to the bumbling Mechanical, Smith’s standout performance was compelling in its treachery. Iago’s actions may have been deplorable, but Smith’s characterization showed a glimmer of relatable humanity. Behind the jealousy, he exhibited the pride and paranoia that everyone has fallen prey to at some time.  Smith even elicited a few laughs from the audience, especially as he played off of Eduardo Pacer’s Roderigo who was both privy to Iago’s manipulations but also a victim of them.    

Another performance that stood out to me was Aled Davies’ portrayal of Desdemona’s father, Brabantino. Although he was only featured in a few of the early scenes, the anger, sadness, and betrayal Davies beautifully portrayed after Desdemona’s elopement plants the earliest seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind, which Iago later exploits.    

From the technical side of the production, I enjoyed the minimalistic and utilitarian nature of Russel Metheny’s set. The bi-level frame that the majority of the play’s action takes place in had a fittingly militaristic touch and effectively reflected the cage that Iago and Othello’s jealousies entrap them in. Composer Michael Keck’s dynamic soundtrack also did a stunning job of echoing the powerful emotions behind Iago’s deception and intrigue.    

A view of the Othello set from our seats in the banquette section. If you arrive early to Othello, you can watch the crew set the stage and the actors' fight call.

 

With the success of the individual players, applause needs to also be given to Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee. It’s under his guidance that productions such as Othello thrive and the GLTF theatre company continues to grow.  Unlike one-off touring productions, you have the opportunity with a well-established theatre company to see the actors’ and production staff’s progression from season to season.    

Last season was when I was first introduced to GLTF so I was thrilled to come back and see how actors from last year returned to undertake drastically different roles. By successfully balancing the experience of veteran GLTF members (such as Smith who’s now in his 8th season) with the fresh insights of new additions (such as David Alan Anderson who made his GLTF debut as Othello and Pacer who’s only in his second season), the Great Lakes Theatre Festival will continue to provide exciting theatrical experiences for the city of Cleveland.     

Grab a drink from the Hanna Theatre bar or a snack from their concession stand. The cupcakes are delicious and the cheese and crackers box a great value.

 

Othello runs until October 31st along with the second half of GLTF’s Fall Rep — Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Although the main event of each evening is the onstage performance, the GLTF has again expanded its popular Experience Enhancement Series with a full offering of pre and post show activities.    

As in previous seasons, the Hanna opens 90 minutes before curtain so that audience members can watch the crew set the stage and the actors’ combat calls. Post-show activities for the 2010-2011 season include Salon Thursdays, Happy Hour Fridays, Ice Cream Social Sundays, and their new ‘Nightcap Night’ music series on non-opening-night Saturdays.     

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing An Ideal Husband towards the end of October. Scott’s parents, who are fans of Wilde, will be visiting Cleveland so it’ll be a great opportunity to introduce them to the Great Lakes Theater Festival as well.     

     

Great Lakes Theatre Festival 411:    

The Fall Repertory    

The Hanna Theatre    

   

IngenuityFest 2010 Bridging Art, Technology and Cleveland

In addition to the art and tech exhibits, IngenuityFest 2010 also gave access to the tunnels and pipeworks under the Detroit Superior Bridge.

With the opening night of Othello and the Botanical Garden’s RIPE Festival, there’s a lot to write about this weekend. Regardless, though, I wanted to quickly post about my visit to IngenuityFest on Saturday afternoon. 

This weekend, IngenuityFest returned for its yearly celebration of art and technology in Cleveland. The last time I attended was two years ago down on Euclid Ave. during the first annual TikiCon.  This year, the Festival’s venue was the subway level of the Detroit Superior Bridge.  Connecting both the east and west sides of the city, Ingenuity’s exhibits and performances were held all along the bridge, the old subway tunnels and in the pipeworks. The mission of IngenuityFest is to expose audiences to educational, immersive, and sometimes challenging works of art and tech from Northeast Ohio performers and artists, high tech and engineering firms, and local schools including Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Institute of Art and CSU. As in years past, it provided a unique experience that engaged attendees as both spectators and participants. 

With a 22-page guide to the artists and exhibits, there is definitely a lot to check out at the Festival. However, I’ll have to settle with listing my top 3 things from IngenuityFest 2010. These were not just my favorites, but also encompassed the Festival’s cross-section of performance, visual arts, technology and interactive offerings.

"Bridging" by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre

 “Bridging” by Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre:  Scott and I started our day by attending the premiere of “Bridging,” a beautiful performance by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels (the first physically integrated dance company in the country) and Inlet Dance Theatre (internationally recognized for its modern dance performances). With an electronic score by local composer Jeremy Allen and innovative choreography that employed wheelchairs and segways, “Bridging” focused on the benefits of exchanging different points of view in a community. The choice of the Detroit Superior Bridge as the venue also served as a powerful metaphor for the collaboration between East and West sides and all members of the community that is needed if the city is to grow.     

Mural of the Cleveland skyline as part of the Cleveland West Art League's Line of Sight project

Line of Sight – The Bridge Span Mural Project: When it came to visual artwork, my favorite examples came from the murals that lined the span of the Detroit Superior bridge. Along the bridge span, members from the Cleveland West Art League have been painting murals on the plywood planks. Some murals were stylized renderings of the Cleveland skyline or commentary on social, economic and ecological problems in the city; other murals were non-Cleveland-related graphic designs and paintings. Either way, the murals are a unique way to beautify the walkway. When you walk along the bridge span, you’ll also have the opportunity to get up close to IngenuityFest’s signature installation: the man-made, sixty-foot-long Lifeline Waterfall. 

Dr. Sketch's Doodle Bar allowed guests to draw and write on any surface of the room

Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar: One of the unique ways IngenuityFest promoted audience interaction was through Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar. With white walls, white couches, white tables and pedestals, the Cleveland chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School provided a clean space and markers for attendees to sketch, write or doodle whatever they wanted. With nearby bars and djs, it was also a place where people could go to just hang out. The best part is that you didn’t have to be an artist to participate. Even Clue Into Cleveland left its mark along with a quick sketch of the bridge’s arches.   

Clue Into Cleveland left its mark on one of the benches at Dr. Sketchy's

 Some exhibits such as the Mural Project and Sketch Bar are ongoing installations throughout the weekend, other events are scheduled plays, concerts and operas. IngenuityFest continues today from 12-5pm. The schedule for Sunday’s events can be downloaded off of the website along with a map of the Festival. Also, admission is free, so it’s an inexpensive and easy way to experience the innovation going on in Cleveland. 

IngenuityFest 411:   

 

Halloweekends at Cedar Point – Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

Snoopy at Cedar Point's Halloweekends (photo from halloweekends.com)

 

September through December is hands down my favorite time of year in Cleveland.  The air is brisk, crisp, and still bearable; there’s usually not too much snow; and the changing of the leaves reflected off the always-beautiful lake is an amazing site. If that weren’t enough, it’s also when my trifecta of favorite holidays occurs: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  These three holidays have it all, and Halloween is a great way to kick it off.  

If you want to get in the Halloween mood a little early, Cedar Point’s Halloweekends starts tonight. It runs every Friday-Sunday until October 31st, but I usually like visiting early on because it’s less crowded than it is at the height of Halloween madness. 

During Halloweekends, Cedar Point is transformed into an over-the-top version of that neighbor’s house who really likes spending money on decorations. Because we have season passes, Scott and I like going just to see how they decorated the park.  However, if you’re looking for something besides decorations, Halloweekends also hosts 4 haunted houses, 5 walk-through scare zones, and a lot of family-friendly entertainment. 

Scott's mom poses with the headless horseman outside the Cedar Point arcade.

 

Haunted Houses: Returning to Cedar Point this season are the Club Blood, Happy Jack’s Toy Factory and G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted houses; new this year is Dr. D. Mented’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Everyone’s haunted house preferences are different – I personally enjoy experiences that are more about getting startled and laughing at my reaction than I do getting legitimately frightened. Last year’s walk through the Toy Factory lived up to those expectations – it definitely played into my fairly laughable fear of clowns. And seeing how they designed the inside of the Eerie Estate Haunted House to look like an old haunted mansion has also impressed me in years past. However, word of warning about the haunted houses is that they’re only open in the evenings and the crowds line up fast.  If you’re not a huge fan of waiting (i.e. me), I recommend limiting yourself to one haunted house, getting in line a little before they open and then enjoying the rest of the park. 

Grandmom and Ghouls outside the Eerie Estate Haunted House

 

Scare Zones: As an alternative to the haunted houses, Cedar Point also has 5 scare zones scattered throughout the park — Fright Zone, Cornstalkers, Fear Faire, Carnevil and Terror Island. These are outside areas where some of the park’s pathways have been transformed into walk-through frightfests. From previous experience, I find the quality of the scare zone depends on who is working at that time. There have been instances where I’ve walked through Carnevil – a circus themed scare zone – and it’s been really good.  The people dressed up as clowns and ringmasters were really in character.  However, there have been other times where you can tell some of the more annoying park patrons have gotten on their nerves throughout the evening and they’re not as into it.  My personal favorite scare zone is Terror Island. It’s located on a part of the park not normally accessible during the regular season. Cedar Point sets up a floating gangway over the river the ferryboat sails to the island next to Millennium Force. There, pirates lurk in the shadows and loud cannon explosions come out of nowhere to scare you. 

A monster in the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade (photo from halloweekends.com)

 

Family-Friendly: Since Cedar Point is an amusement park at heart, they also provide a number of activities appropriate for children.  Family-friendly fare includes the Magic House on Boo Hill funhouse; the kid-sized Hay Bale Maze; and the Peanuts Halloween Show and Kids Costume Contest. There’s also the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade that takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm. Halloween-themed floats, performers and not-so-scary surprises make their way through the Main Midway, Top Thrill Dragster Midway and Gemini Midway so it’s easy to grab a spot to watch and enjoy.  Learn a lesson from me, though: last year, Scott and I got caught walking from Gemini to Raptor when the parade was going on so we unintentionally ended up following the parade through the entire park.  Unless you want the addictingly catchy theme song stuck in your head for hours, don’t do this. 

Although the haunted houses, scare zones and shows are reason enough for me to return each year, I’m most excited that my favorite event from last year’s Halloweekends is back: Boeckling’s Banquet. With Boeckling’s Banquet, Cedar Point caters a fine dining experience in a unique environment — the hallowed halls of G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted house. Last year, Scott and I got lobster tail and filet mignon and we were fairly impressed. It honestly surprised me because I hadn’t expected to enjoy something besides typical amusement park food at any park. This year’s menu includes a choice of crab legs; lobster tail and petite filet; or shrimp, scallop & lobster Alfredo, plus traditional sides like salad, twice-baked potato, asparagus spears, rolls, glass of wine or beer, Pepsi beverages and a special dessert. Last year’s skull-themed dessert was incredible and even if they serve the same thing again I’ll enjoy it.  

Throughout the meal, guests are served by Cedar Point staff dressed as haunted caretakers, maids, and butlers. It’s tongue in cheek, but still a lot of fun. In addition to providing excellent entertainment, they also provided very gracious service.   The Banquet takes place every Friday at 5:30 pm. and Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. (before the Haunted House opens).  For more information or to make reservations, call 419.627.2242. 

Scott and I at last year's Boeckling Banquet

 

On top of all of the Halloween festivities, the majority of Cedar Point’s rides are still open. If you’re a fan of Millennium Force, nothing quite compares to tearing down the first hill at night during Halloweekends. The lights, fog and sounds from Terror Island envelope you as you hit the bottom of the drop – it’s thrilling! 

During Halloweekends, you may have to contend with a few overly excitable (read: loud and pushy) guests.  However, it’s no more than you’d have to bear with at other haunted houses. Try to overlook it (which I’ll admit is sometimes hard for me), because Halloweekends is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. 

Halloweekends 411: 

Halloweekends Tickets, Hours and Attractions
Cedar Point – Roller Coaster Capital of the World
Cedar Point on Facebook
@cedarpoint

Making Connections in Cleveland – A Look at Sparx City Hop

Tower City - the centerpiece of the Cleveland skyline

 UPDATE: The 2011 Sparx City Hop takes place on Sept. 10, 2011. More info about the 2011 neighborhood hop can be found on Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s website. Read on for a review of last year’s Sparx City Hop.

Saturday was the Sparx City Hop. As I mentioned last week, I headed down there for September’s Sketch Crawl but ended up staying the whole day. Now, despite the fact that I like exploring the city,  I’m really not a huge fan of crowds. While I figured the 25,000+ expected attendees would be somewhat spread out throughout the two trolley routes and 10 neighborhoods, I was surprised at the fact that I didn’t have to fight through a horde.  There was only one time when I felt frustrated by a crushingly packed trolley.             

It wasn’t just the high level of efficiency from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance that surprised me, it was also discovering some of the out-of-the-way places the trolley stopped at.  While there were places on the ‘Hop’ that were familiar sites (Tower City, Westside Market, Playhouse Square), there were other sites that I wasn’t aware of:             

Old Bank Vault door in Downtown Cleveland building

City Arcades: During the Sketch Crawl, we made a short stop near Tower City in an old bank arcade that was closed for the day. Because it was empty, it gave us the opportunity to really examine the building’s beautiful interior. The reliefs on the ceiling, the old bank vault door – another amazing example of the hidden architecture found throughout Downtown’s buildings.            

Tremont History Project: The west-bound trolley stopped in Lincoln Park where the Tremont History Project staged a living Civil War reenactment. It was a two-day event that commemorated the encampment and U.S. General Hospital located in Tremont during the Civil War. The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Hale Farm re-enactors and the 5th Michigan Regiment Band performed drills, period music and firing demonstrations.            

Art installation in Asian Town Center

Asian Town Center: While the west-bound route stopped at West Side Market, the east-bound route stopped at the Asian Town Center. The Center opened in April at the corner of Superior Avenue and East 38th street. It’s another example of repurposing an older building which was used originally for manufacturing as a mixed-use retail center. The Asia Food Company – the largest Asian supermarket in the area – makes up the majority of the center. It carries a full line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Laos, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian groceries. Although we just left with some snacks and aloe juice, Scott and I are heading back the next time we want peking duck. In addition to the market, there were other stores and art galleries. If you want to check it out, this Saturday is the 2010 Mooncake Festival – a free event with cultural performances and food.            

Josaphat Arts Hall: I’d say the place that surprised me the most was the Josaphat Arts Hall. One of the things I love about Cleveland are the number of art galleries. The space for this gallery, though, is unique. Located in in the old St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, which closed in 1998, Josaphat Arts Hall houses the Convivium33 Gallery, several art business studios, and a main event hall. Private classes, workshops and lectures are offered including stained glass, painting, web design, and glass fusion.            

It was definitely a day well spent where I got to clue into other parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. The fact that it was free didn’t hurt at all.             

     

Free Lolly the Trolley service helped connect 10 of the Downtown neighborhoods

 Sparx City Hop also helped me better understand some of the problems with the city.  Riding from stop to stop, I got to see these pockets of activity across all of the neighborhoods.  However, oftentimes there was a lack of commotion in between. Even walking a couple of blocks from E4th (the main hub for the day’s trolley rides) to our car at E9th, there was a quick dropoff in foot traffic.  Without as much to connect the sections, it’s easy to become confined in a comfort zone. I recognize it in myself constantly.  Although I’ve gotten better at exploring outside of my comfort zone since starting this blog, attending the Sparx City Hop demonstrated that there’s still a lot I haven’t seen yet.            

There’s a lot of work the city can do to fill the gaps between the pockets of activity. In the long-term, we need to provide support and development in the areas of inactivity so that we can create a bridge between those areas that have more bustle. With Cleveland State University’s Urban Affairs program – one of the top 10 in the country – we’re producing people each year who can help those already working on it.  Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also working on Storefront Renovation and Business Assistance programs.            

An artist at Sparx City Hop promotiong this upcoming weekend's Art Museum Chalk Festival

In the short-term, we have to support programs like the Sparx City Hop and Take a Hike. By providing free or low-cost transportation throughout the city and initiatives that encourage the community to get out and experience those neighborhoods less traveled, more people will hopefully be as pleasantly surprised as I was by some of the hidden treasures in Downtown.

Sparx City Hop Promoting Awareness of Arts in Downtown Cleveland

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Sparx City Hop is a free event that will connect attendees to Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. (images from downtowncleveland.org)

 

Earlier today, I wrote about this Friday’s Shore Cultural Collective Concert in downtown Euclid.  Tonight, I wanted to focus on another arts-related event this weekend – the 2010 Sparx City Hop

On Saturday from 11am – 11pm, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance will host the Sparx City Hop festival throughout downtown Cleveland and its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s free (which is always a winning quality for me) with the goal of raising awareness of the visual, culinary and performing arts in Cleveland’s most central neighborhoods. 

The Sparx City Hop started 8 years ago and attendance at previous Hops has ranged from 25,000 – 30,000 people so be prepared for a crowd. Fortunately, it will be spread out across two trolley routes that will connect over 70 galleries & artist studios, 100+ restaurants, several markets and dozens of specialty retail shops. 

Lolly the Trolley puts the ‘Hop’ in the event’s name by providing free trolley service through the neighborhoods of Downtown  plus the districts that connect directly to Downtown (Tremont, Ohio City, MidTown, AsiaTown and St. Clair Superior). 

In addition to visiting galleries and studios, mini-art festivals will include:  

  • City Artists at Work Open Studios (11am – 7pm) — a variety of hands-on arts demonstrations throughout the District.
  • The Tower City Art Fair (11am – 7pm) and Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Artists (2pm – 4pm) — Prospect Ave between W.2nd and w.3rd (behind Tower City) will be shut down for the Tower City Street Fair which will feature these two events.
  • Downtown Photo Challenge Show at Old Stone Church (11am – 7pm) — the top 20 entries to this year’s Downtown Photo Challenge will be shown inside the historic Old Stone Church’s permanent gallery space.
  • Asian Town Center Art Fest (11am – 7pm) — local artists’ work will be on display, as well as performances by stiltwalkers, six local bands and the grand opening of Asian Town Center’s new indoor sculpture garden. From 7:00pm – 11:00 pm, the Asian Town Center will also host an Urban Art Show.

Other activities during Sparx City Hop will link participants to sidewalk concerts, tours of the Terminal Tower observation deck, the Sparx Classic Car Show, Susan G. Komen Northeast Ohio Race for the Cure, a Civil War Living History Encampment in Lincoln Park, and a variety of merchant and restaurant specials. (A full list of the 2010 Participants is available for download.) 

The East (Blue) and West (Red) trolley routes for Sparx City Hop. The hub for both trolley routes is E.4th Street and Prospect.

 

New to this year’s festival is the Sparx City Hop Passport. Although Saturday’s event is only one day, the goal of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Passport program is to continue cultivating an increased interest in Downtown and its neighborhoods throughout the rest of the year.  The Passport – which is free and can be picked up at any of the trolley stops on Saturday – includes special offers to local restaurants and shops in Midtown, Campus District, Ohio City, Tremont, PlayhouseSquare and the Historic Gateway and Historic Warehouse Districts. The specials will start on Saturday and continue until August 31st, 2011. 

This is my first year attending Sparx City Hop. Thanks again to the DCA’s Sketch Crawl, I’m learning about another opportunity in the city I wasn’t aware of before. For those wanting to produce their own art during Sparx City, the Crawl will meet on Saturday at 11am at the event’s main hub on E4th and Prospect. Unlike the last couple of months, this Sketch Crawl will have the group taking quick impressions of the city as we jump through the districts on the trolley.  Although the Crawl will last until 1pm, I know I plan on sticking around the rest of the day. Hope to see some of you down there. 

Sparx City Hop 411: 

Hosted by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
Twitter: @DowntownCLE, #SparxCityHop
On Facebook: Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Sparx City Hop Event 

2010 Sparx City Hop Participants List
Lolley the Trolley Sparx Routes
Schedule of Sparx Events
Sparx City Hop Passport Program

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)

 

Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest – At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show – As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland – The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)

 

If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet – On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point – Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In – This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog – DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic – The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)

 

Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.

Open Air in Market Square Summer Series Ends This Saturday

West Side Market and Market Square at W25th St. and Lorain Ave. (photo from westsidemarket.org)

This month’s Cleveland Sketch Crawl gathered in Ohio City for the Open Air in Market Square summer series.  As usual, it was another great opportunity to sketch the city’s limitless assortment of interesting architecture and people.  Regardless of whether you come armed with a sketchbook or just want to do some shopping and listen to music, the Open Air festival is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the city.

Open Air in Market Square is Cleveland’s only urban outdoor market. On Saturdays from late May to the end of August, an eclectic array of vendors and performers set up shop in Market Square Park at the corner of West 25th and Lorain Ave (across from West Side Market).

This coming Saturday (August 28, 11am – 5pm) is the last day on the Open Air 2010 Summer Schedule.

When Scott and I went a couple weeks ago, we got to listen to the Hollywood Slim Band. Their jazz and swing covers were a nice soundtrack to the afternoon as people shopped and hung out on the park’s stone benches.  The Market Square vendors who were there were selling Cleveland photography, glass art, handmade crafts, and – my personal weakness – vintage clothing and housewares.

Bike Rack and Patio in front of Great Lakes Brewery (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

I spent most of my time sketching, though.  By far, I don’t compare to the talent of the rest of the group, but it’s still fun to get out, observe and practice drawing. The best part about this month’s Crawl was that there was so much subject matter to choose from.  Some of the Crawl participants gravitated to the musicians, others sketched the West Side Market tower and the surrounding buildings, and a couple of people managed to put pencil to paper to capture the bustle of the produce market. I’ve posted a few of my sketches – one of the bike rack by Great Lakes Brewery and another of a stone column in Market Square.  Each column in the Square is covered in tiles with community members’ own artwork on it – so picking out my favorite tiles to recreate was an hour well-spent.

Sketch of column and tilework in Market Square (Aug. Sketch Crawl, ADHicken)

This Saturday, rockabilly band Lost State of Franklin (11am-2pm), Troupe Shabaana bellydancing (2pm-3pm), and Kristine Jackson‘s acoustic blues (3pm-5pm) will conclude the Open Air in Market Square’s summer season.

If you stop by, plan on doing some food shopping across the street at the West Side Market. Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market is worth a post all its own, but if you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and bring an appetite.  With over 100 local vendors, I’ve never gone wrong in shopping there or left empty-handed.

If you like orzo, stop by Urban Herbs for a selection of different mixes. Pickles and stuffed olives? Rita’s. Cannolis? Theresa’s Bakery (they’ll handfill your cannoli to-order from a large selection of flavors; I recommend oreo, raspberry or peanut butter chocolate). Whatever you’re hankering for, they probably have it.  If you doubt me, here’s a complete list of food vendors and a map so you can find your way around.

Thanks again to the Cleveland Sketch Crawl for giving me an excuse (not that I should need one) to explore the Open Air in Market Square series. For those sketchers, painters and photographers who want to join in September’s Crawl, the group will be attending the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Sparx City Hop.  It’ll be a unique experience drawing the going-ons while hopping through 8 districts via trolley.  Art galleries, studio lofts, warehouses, stores, sidewalk concerts, mini-festivals, art shows, restaurants and bars are part of the event, and the Sketch Crawl group will meet at 11 am at E.4th and Prospect Ave. and go until 1pm.   Best of all – it’s free. (Info on the monthly Sketch Crawl can be found on the Cleveland Sketch Crawl blog.)

ON A SIDE NOTE: I’ll be taking another short vacation from posting.  Instead of another stretch of radio silence, I figured I’d have a friend of Clue Into Cleveland guest-blog for me.  Elizabeth Grepp – native Clevelander and huge fan of the eastside – will post on Cleveland Heights.  If you also would like an opportunity to wax philosophic on the Cleve, shoot me an email at clueintocleveland@gmail.com.   I’ll be back sometime next week with your (un)regularly scheduled program.

The Cleveland Orchestra and Bruckner's Eighth Symphony

The Cleveland Orchestra musicians prepare for Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 as one of the cameras zoom in for a shot.

 

In my very first blog post, I referenced the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the most iconic symbols of Cleveland. And it’s no wonder. As 52 Weeks of Cleveland recently put it, it’s a diamond dazzling in the blue-collar-rock-and-roll grit that makes this city great, sticking out ‘not like a sore thumb but as the building that is unmistakably Cleveland.’   

However, on the other side of the musical spectrum, there’s another landmark in Cleveland that’s both a must-see and a must-hear — The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall.  Last Wednesday, Scott and I had the chance to attend the Orchestra’s performance of Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony for a series of dvd recordings. The night definitely ranks up there as one of my favorite Cleveland experiences.   

Outside of Severance Hall (photo from clevelandorchestra.com)

 

Severance Hall, the winter home of the Cleveland Orchestra, has been described as ‘a temple to music’ and America’s most beautiful concert hall.  The detailing of the hall’s interior reminds me of a Faberge Egg and the acoustics are world-renowned.  From the day Severance Hall opened in 1931 through its renovations and reopening in 2000, it has helped shape The Cleveland Orchestra into one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world.  In concerts at Severance Hall, each summer as part of Cleveland’s Blossom Festival, in residencies from Miami to Vienna, and on tour around the world, The Cleveland Orchestra sets the standard for artistic excellence, imaginative programming, and community engagement.   

Franz Welser-Möst just completed his eighth year as the Orchestra’s Music Director – a long-term commitment which extends to the Orchestra’s centennial season in 2018.   Under his leadership, The Cleveland Orchestra has not only developed Community Music Initiatives in Cleveland, but has carried the city’s name across the world with ongoing residencies in Miami, at Vienna’s famed Musikverein hall and Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival.  Next year, they’ll also launch a biennial residency at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival, featuring The Cleveland Orchestra in Vienna State Opera productions.   

In addition to making an impact through live performances in Cleveland and abroad, Welser-Möst has promoted the Orchestra’s legacy through a series of DVD and CD recordings.  Last week’s recording of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony was the latest installment in this endeavor.  In total, the Orchestra has recorded four Bruckner symphonies in historic, architecturally significant and acoustically acclaimed concert venues: Symphony No. 5 in Austria’s Abbey of St. Florian, Symphonies No. 7 and 8 in Severance Hall, and Symphony No. 9 in Vienna’s Musikverein. Hailing from the Austrian town of Linz – the same hometown as Bruckner, Welser-Möst developed an early love for the 19th century composer which clearly shows through his astute understanding and beautiful execution of Bruckner’s works.   

Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst (photo from clevelandorchestrablog.com)

 

Bruckner’s works are not always the favorite of musicians – often misunderstood due to the effect his manic need for revisions had on his compositions.  However, Welser-Möst and The Cleveland Orchestra is helping the public rediscover the beauty of these pieces by sharing the discoveries they’ve made themselves while performing. As Welser-Möst explained before the concert, Symphony No. 8 has an interesting backstory that lends itself to a deeper appreciation.  Written between 1884 and 1887, the original composition was initially criticized by Hermann Levi, a court conductor that Bruckner respected. Because of this, Bruckner spent years making substantial cuts and changes which have been considered concessions to others’ expectations and arguably weakened the piece.    

Welser-Möst cited an example of these revisions which can be found in the first movement. Towards the end of the movement, the symphony transitions into a section that represents the ticking down of one’s life.  In the original version, there was a dynamic section that signified a fighting back against the inevitabilty of death.  However, this section ended up being removed in the revised version, with the first movement instead just winding down softly. The original version of Symphony No. 8 remained unperformed until 1954 and was not published until 1972 by Leopold Nowak. It’s the longer – and arguably richer – Nowak version that The Cleveland Orchestra performed for the DVD recording.   

Audience members who arrived early had the opportunity to sit in on a concert preview.  During the preview, Dee Perry of WCPN’s Around Noon interviewed Welser-Möst and William Cosel, the Producer-Director of the DVD recording. This was a very interesting conversation, shedding more light on Bruckner’s personality as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the actual recording.    

Welser-Möst spoke about how Bruckner’s musical genius suffered from his insecurities and second-guessing.  He additionally remarked on Bruckner as a composer with one leg in the traditional, religious-inspired style of his century and the other leg in the more contemporary influences of the next generation.  Both Welser-Möst and Cosel shared a glimpse into how they prepared for the recording. Welser-Möst discussed the evolution of The Orchestra’s performance and how certain musicians admitted that it wasn’t until they performed the symphony in a particular space in Austria that they finally ‘got’ Bruckner’s style.  Cosel spoke to the months of research needed to prepare the recording, in addition to introducing the various camera crew hidden throughout the Hall.   

Norton Memorial Organ at Severance Hall

 

Bookending the interview were two performances by Joela Jones, the principal keyboardist of The Cleveland Orchestra.  Jones performed Prelude in F major and Variations on ‘America’, both by Charles Ives.  Both pieces were performed on Severance Hall’s Norton Memorial Organ. which was built specifically for the Hall by renowned organ builder Ernest M. Skinner in 1930. Welser-Möst noted that Ives was an outcast among his colleagues – much like Bruckner was during his time. This idea of outcast could be seen in his Variations on ‘America’ which took a slightly wry look at the patriotic anthem and twisted it in unexpected ways that both challenged the listener and respected the source material.  It was a nice contrast to the Bruckner piece.   

If Producer-Director Cosel’s past experience is any indication, the recording of Symphony No. 8 will be well worth the purchase. However, nothing compares to sitting in Severance Hall and not just listening to but closely watching the musicians. It always amazes me to see how artfully they interpret a composition.  And the live performance brings a certain level of drama that isn’t always seen in a recording.     

An unexpected highlight of my evening was seeing a minor incident arise when a string on Assistant Concertmaster Yoko Moore’s violin snapped. [Editor’s Note: see correction in comments section below. It was actually Concertmaster Preucil’s string who broke fixed by Moore – makes more sense in retrospect.]  In past performances, Moore has consistently been one of my favorite musicians to watch as she brings a laser focus and intensity to her performance. However, this focus was moreso evident when she had to restring and retune her instrument in the middle of a movement. I’ve never played the violin and Scott has explained to me that this happens frequently with it; regardless, I was still on the edge of my seat as it unfolded.  She impeccably restrung the violin and, in a moment of silent communication that can only come from a strong relationship with a colleague, seamlessly switched instruments with Concertmaster William Preucil who finished the retuning process.  It only took them moments, but the intense thrill of witnessing this play out while the symphony roared around them was remarkable.   

Two days after last week’s recordings, The Cleveland Orchestra set off on their summer tour of Europe. They return on August 30 after nine concerts in six cities. While they’re gone, concerts at Blossom Music Festival continue including Disney in Concert, Canadian Brass Ensemble, and The Joffrey Ballet.  And at the end of September, the Orchestra returns to start the 2010-2011 season. Subscriptions and tickets are available to experience the talents of Welser-Möst and the musicians, and I definitely recommend it.   

Cleveland Orchestra 411:   

 About the Orchestra and Severance Hall
Season and Tickets
Cleveland Orchestra Blog
Cleveland Orchestra on Facebook
@CleveOrchestra

PlayhouseSquare's 13th Annual Cinema at the Square

   

The historic Palace Theatre located at 1615 Euclid Avenue (photo from playhousesquare.org)

 

In my last post, I covered the Capitol Theatre and their ‘Classic Movie and Brunch’ series.  However, the Capitol is just one venue in Cleveland where you can see classic movies on the big screen.  Before the Capitol started their monthly series, there was PlayhouseSquare’s annual Cinema at the Square festival.  

Now in its 13th year, Cinema at the Square runs for a few weeks in August and gives audience members the opportunity to experience classic favorites at the beautiful Palace Theatre.  Visiting the Palace for the history alone is worth it – it opened in 1922 as the flagship of B.F. Keith’s vaudeville chain and once showcased the likes of Fanny Brice, Bing Crosby, Houdini, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and The Three Stooges.   

The series’ movies are shown on the theatre’s 20-foot-high by 47-foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen – the largest non-Imax screen in Ohio.  This year’s Cinema at the Square started yesterday, August 5th, and will run until August 22nd.  It features 16 films with a range of options for moviegoers, such as a sing-along Wizard of Oz, James Bond double feature, and The Muppet Movie.  

Prior to the film, audience members are treated to pre-show organ recitals on a restored 1927 Kimball Organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and cymbals. The organ, which was donated to PlayhouseSquare in 1975, was restored by volunteers as a unique complement to the evening festivities.   

Tickets for Cinema at the Square are $5 each with the exception of yesterday’s screening of Fletch which was free.  If this wasn’t already a cheap datenight, PlayhouseSquare also offers their FlixTIX pass which saves 50% on tickets.  It’s $15 for 6 vouchers, which can be used in any combination and at any movie. Because Scott and I were interested in seeing more than one movie, it ended up being more cost-effective to get the FlixTIX – so now we’re seeing Wizard of Oz, Love in the Afternoon and Back to the Future.  

I’m definitely excited about heading over after work tonight for the sing-along version of Wizard of Oz.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it before, so it’ll be nice to experience the whole movie at the Palace.  But if Wizard of Oz isn’t for you or you can’t make it tonight, here’s a list of the rest of the movies:  

Cinema at the Square 411:
Ticket and Show Information
The Palace Theatre
@playhousesquare
PlayhouseSquare on Facebook