by Mike Telin

TCO&COCFormed in 1952, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is one of the few professionally trained, all-volunteer choruses sponsored by a major American orchestra.

In addition to performing with The Cleveland Orchestra in concerts at Severance Hall each season, the Chorus has appeared with the Orchestra on tour in North America and abroad. The 150 members contribute more than 50,000 hours annually, through rehearsals and performances. They also raise money for their tours through a variety of projects and events.

On Sunday February 9 beginning at 7:00 pm in Severance Hall, audiences are invited to attend a benefit concert titled Songs, Dances, and Romances: A Valentine Tribute to the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. The evening features the Cleveland Orchestra Chamber Chorus under the direction of Robert Porco in a performance of Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes.

Additionally dances by Dvorak, Borodin & Piazzolla, arias by Rossini, Dvorak & Mozart, and romances by Clara Schumann will be performed by members of the Cleveland Orchestra. “The orchestra musicians are in fact donating their time,” says benefit chair and chorus member Lee Scantlebury, adding that the program is the brain-child of Joela Jones, the orchestra’s principal keyboardist.

She conceived the program, secured the musicians, and even came up with the theme. I should also point out that Joela has been the principal accompanist for the chorus, and loves doing this for us. She knows how hard we work, and she loves the idea of the orchestra giving back.”

Scantlebury says there are a couple things about Sunday’s program that he finds particularly exciting. “For one, it is an opportunity to see and hear orchestra musicians, many of them principals and assistant principals, performing small chamber works in a variety of combinations. Normally, you go to hear a string quartet, and you get two hours of that. Same for a brass quintet. This concert has so much variety. I think it really is a unique opportunity to hear some rarely performed chamber works performed by incredible musicians, and in one of the most beautiful halls — both visually and acoustically — in the world. And the Brahms Liebeslider — literally love songs. I’m a member of the chamber chorus, so the opportunity to perform it is very exciting for me indeed!”

Scantlebury, who has been a member of the chorus since 2001, says that he admires the dedication of the chorus members. “Each week we rehearse at least once for three hours, and sometimes we need to add a rehearsal. The week of a concert, we meet at Severance Hall each week night (Monday-Wednesday) for rehearsals, and the usually sing concerts on Thursdays and Saturdays. So it’s a lot of time away from our families, friends, and other interests.”

And what motivates 150 people to continually give of their time and talent? “Of course I can only answer for myself, but it really is the opportunity to make music with a world-class orchestra such as The Cleveland Orchestra. I will never forget the first time I was the Severance Hall stage with the orchestra for a rehearsal, and just couldn’t quite get a handle on how in the world I got there! I’m an Information Technology professional at Progressive Insurance. So for me, every time I get to perform with the orchestra, it is still special, and I wouldn’t trade what we do for anything.”

In addition to benefits like Sunday’s concert, the Chorus also raises funds through CD sales which Scantlebury points out is one of their main fundraising vehicles. “We have also gotten the entire chorus family together for a concert, and another time we sponsored a wine tasting/silent auction.”

A silent auction will begin at 6:00 pm prior to Sunday’s concert. “Many of the merchants that the chorus family uses have gladly donated goods and services to help us raise additional funds. We think this would make an incredible date night ahead of Valentine’s Day, and with balcony tickets for $15, it may be the best bargain around. Oh, and the Student Advantage program that the orchestra runs will be providing $10 tickets to students.”

Published on February 4, 2014

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