CityMusic Cleveland - official website

Willoughby Hills church features free CityMusic Cleveland orchestral concert this Friday
Chris M. Worrell, Correspondent,, Wednesday, December 07, 2011

CityMusic Cleveland visits St. Noel Church in Willoughby Hills this Friday at 7:30 p.m. As with all CityMusic Cleveland concerts, admission is free.

Eugenia Strauss, executive director of the orchestra, says the symphony has played St. Noel in the past and that the church "is one of our favorite spots to play ... it has great acoustics and it is very roomy." Strauss credits Willoughby Hills councilmen Kevin Malecek and David Reichelt for initially bringing CityMusic Cleveland to Willoughby Hills, and she cites Mayor Bob Weger for his continuing commitment to the orchestra and the arts in general.

CityMusic Cleveland's website describes the group as "a professional chamber orchestra that performs free concerts throughout northeast Ohio, accompanied by local artworks." Because the shows are always free, Strauss complains, many people mistakenly believe "we are a student orchestra or a volunteer community orchestra." In fact, all players are professionals who make a living by performing in the ensemble.

With an annual budget in excess of $500,000, CityMusic Cleveland works diligently to secure funds so that the orchestra can continue to present free shows. "It isn't easy," Strauss comments, "especially in the current economy."

Donations are accepted at concerts and the organization holds a fund drive at the end of each season. A separate corporate campaign and an annual benefit show also help replenish the group's coffers. In addition, Strauss reveals that communities holding CityMusic Cleveland concerts are required to contribute a modest sum to defray the cost of the production. Strauss said that the fee ensures that cities and other bodies "are committed and will work to promote the event to constituents."

Strauss believes communities holding annual CityMusic Cleveland shows come to be regarded as "arts destinations for the area." Strauss explains, "our surveys show that the concerts bring people from within a 60-mile radius." Once visitors attend a show in a host community, they become familiar with the area and its attractions, which may result in return visits. CityMusic Cleveland's website also promotes the businesses and features of host communities.

The stated mission of CityMusic Cleveland is to deliver "the finest quality" classical performances while "eliminating the twin barriers of high ticket prices and unfamiliar venues." In addition, the orchestra works with "neighborhood leaders to enrich the cultural offerings of communities."

Strauss observes that many in northeast Ohio cannot attend other large, professional symphonies for financial reasons. She cites the example of 30 student musicians from Euclid High School. Whereas some of the young players might be able to afford a student ticket to the Cleveland Orchestra, certainly not all could, and the cash-strapped school district might not be willing to subsidize such a field trip. Instead, the budding musicians are attending an upcoming CityMusic Cleveland concert at no cost.

Music lovers who are unfamiliar with classical orchestras, Strauss adds, are much more likely to attend a CityMusic Cleveland event than to shell out "$50 for tickets to something that they might not like."

Furthering access, CityMusic Cleveland brings the music to the people. Since 2004, the orchestra has played myriad facilities throughout Greater Cleveland. These facilities are often closer to the homes of potential symphony patrons. Moreover, the venues are frequently more familiar and inviting to residents than a distant inner-city concert hall.

Friday, Conductor Joel Smirnoff leads the ensemble through Mozart's "Violin Concerto no. 3," Corelli's "Christmas Concerto," the Brandenburg "Concerto no. 3," and Dvorak's "Serenade for Strings." During intermission the audience is presented an opportunity to mingle with musicians from the orchestra while enjoying free cookies, pastries and refreshments. The evening concludes with "sing-along" renditions of favorite Christmas carols.

CityMusic Cleveland has several upcoming events. Saturday at 8 p.m. the orchestra plays St. Stanislaus Church in Cleveland. The following day, the symphony performs at the First United Methodist Church in Elyria at 2:30 p.m. The orchestra's next series of concerts take place March 14 to 18. In addition, Strauss discloses that the group plan to begin streaming concerts over the internet next spring.