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CityMusic Cleveland takes intergenerational program to Detention Center
Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer, April 16, 2013

CityMusic Cleveland spends most of its time giving free performances at area churches and synagogues, but it's always looking to expand its audience base.

The chamber orchestra did so Tuesday morning, when it ventured to a new destination, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center's Detention Center, to open this week's series of intergenerational concerts.

Guest conductor David Alan Miller and the ensemble performed for 88 youths, aged 12 to 18, who are awaiting arraignment, as well as members of Cleveland's arts and foundation communities.

Officials at the Detention Center said CityMusic's appearance was the first orchestra concert in the new facility, which opened in the fall of 2011, though students from the Cleveland Institute of Music have played chamber music there.

At Tuesday's concert, the youths sat attentively while Miller and CityMusic performed two works, including one about tolerance, Avner Dorman's "Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu." Only the sound of voices from the guards' walkie-talkies occasionally broke the spell of Dorman's enchanting parable.

Uzu and Muzu are brothers in the village of Kakaruzu who love one another until they get into a spat and build a wall down the middle of their house, never to speak again. The piece tells the story using a narrator, orchestra and two virtuoso percussion soloists, who banter as the brothers and conjure glistening colors and temperamental gestures.

Dorman is as skillful in descriptive passages -- portraying nightmares and snoring -- as he is reveling in the sonic possibilities of a battery of percussion teamed with orchestra.

PREVIEW

CityMusic Cleveland

What: The chamber orchestra and guest conductor David Alan Miller present intergenerational concerts featuring Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” overture and Avner Dorman’s “Uzu and Muzu from Kakaruzu” and evening performances that also include Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. 

When: 10 a.m. Wednesday through Friday; 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Where: Mary Queen of Peace Church, 4423 Pearl Road, Cleveland (Wednesday); Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood (Thursday); St. Stanislaus Church, 3649 E. 65th St., Cleveland (Friday, both concerts); St. Noel Church, 35200 Chardon Rd., Willoughby Hills (Saturday).

Tickets: Free, though donations welcome. Go to citymusiccleveland.org or call 216-321-8273.

The gymnasium at the Detention Center tended to emphasize the most clamorous passages in Dorman's clever and affecting score, but the acoustics also were clear enough for many felicitous details to come through.

With Wendy Kriss as the articulate narrator and conductor Miller in crisp command, the piece unfolded with equal degrees of mirth and tension. The percussion soloists, Haruka Fujii and Luke Rinderknecht, were nimble marvels who sailed across their marimbas, vibraphones and an array of other instruments.

Before presenting Dorman's 30-minute piece, Miller and the orchestra gave a vibrant account of Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie" overture and demonstrated excerpts from "Uzu" for the youths, who'd been prepared for the program. Some of them contributed pieces to the writing contest CityMusic is holding in conjunction with the intergenerational concerts.

"Uzu" was followed by a short question-and-answer period. One audience member asked about the function of the conductor.

"I'm the big traffic cop," answered Miller. "I keep everybody together."

He'll do so with CityMusic at five more concerts this week, including evening performances Friday and Saturday that add Schumann's Symphony No. 4 to the mix.