by Mike Telin

May30-1On Friday May 30, the not-for-profit foundation Shaking with Laughter will present Prelude to a Cure, an evening of chamber music performed by twenty members of The Cleveland Orchestra in the newly-renovated sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights. The concert, sponsored by Northeast Ohio Medical University, will benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Among the works to be performed are J.S. Bach’s Sonata in e minor for Oboe D’amore and Harpsichord, Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 135, Mozart’s Oboe Quartet, Ravel’s Adagio from Piano Concerto in G, Thea Musgrave’s Impromptu no. 1 for Flute and Oboe, Bernard Garfield’s Quartet for Bassoon and Strings, and the world premiere of Jeffrey Rathbun’s Voyage for English Horn and Strings.

Shaking With Laughter was founded by Cleveland obstetrician and gynecologist Karen Jaffe and her husband Marc, a comedian and writer, after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. The foundation presents humor-related events that have already raised over $460,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Although most Shaking with Laughter events have been comedy and jazz-based, the May 30 benefit continues the Jaffe family’s longtime involvement with the Cleveland Orchestra, Marc Jaffe is the son of Samuel C. and Bernette K. Jaffe, who endowed the solo English horn chair in the Orchestra. Robert Walters, who has held that position since the beginning of the 2004-2005 season, got together with the Jaffes soon after arriving in Cleveland. “I met the family right away and we’ve all become good friends over the last decade.”

Walters says the concert is about philanthropy being a two-way street. “The musicians are all donating their time and St. Paul’s has been magnificent. They’ve given us the church, helped with programs, and the congregation has been enormously supportive of the whole endeavor. When you do a benefit and you ask people to donate time and talent for free, it can be awkward. But everyone has been so generous and pitching in to do whatever they can.”

Marc Jaffe said that his parents were supporters of all kinds of classical music and were always fans of the Cleveland Orchestra. “They always had friends who were musicians in the orchestra and I remember many chamber music concerts taking place at their house. At some point they decided they wanted to make a major gift to the Orchestra but I can’t tell you exactly why they chose the English horn.” Jaffe added that although his father passed away about eight-years ago his mother continues to attend the Orchestra’s concerts.

How did Marc Jaffe find his way into comedy? “I was interested in it from the time I was a kid. I remember listening to the albums of Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson — and Bob and Ray are still favorites of mine.”

Jaffe said he started doing “a little sketch work” at talent shows in high school and while in college started going to a student-run comedy club. During graduate school at the University of Michigan he continued to do stand up every week at another student-run club. “I ended up in Chicago one summer working at the Board of Trade during the day and at night going to the comedy clubs. Things started to go well and I thought that comedy was far more fun than business.”

What led Marc and Karen Jaffe to create a non-profit organization? “You do something of that magnitude because you have no idea it’s going to be of that magnitude,” Jaffe answers with a laugh. “We were looking for ways to raise money and were very impressed with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It’s really quite an amazing organization and one of the first places Karen turned to when she was diagnosed.”


The Jaffes first became involved in Team Fox, “It’s very grass roots, and people do all kinds of events from holding races or pancake breakfasts or golf tournaments. Karen knitted cotton wraps that she called Fox Wraps and sold them to raise money.”

After the success of their April 2011 fundraising event, “Side Effects May Include,” a humorous and touching one-man play Jaffe wrote with Eric Coble, Jaffe said he thought it would be nice to call on some of his comedy friends to do a show. “They said yes, and I asked my friend John Pizzarelli, the jazz guitarist, and he said yes. So it really turned into something.”

It wasn’t long before, as Jaffe put it, “things began to get too big, and since Team Fox cannot cover expenses associated with benefits we realized that we needed to set up an actual non-profit. It also makes things far less confusing for people who want to donate. People also like the tax benefit, so all things considered, it made more sense to create the foundation. It’s turned out to be a good thing because I think we’re becoming a name that is recognizable in town — so it’s been worth the effort.”

Marc Jaffe says he looks forward to Shaking with Laughter’s first classical music event, “When you have the best musicians in the world playing music they like, it’s going to be a great show.”

Robert Walters admires everything that Shaking with Laughter has accomplished. “They’ve created a vast local support network for people with Parkinson’s.” Walters also sees the benefit as being a real Cleveland event. “This city is great for classical music, great at philanthropy, great for medicine and great at food. The reaction of people who are so willing to help makes me proud to live here.”

Tickets for “Prelude to a Cure” may be purchased online or by telephoning 216.932.0290. VIP tickets include a 6:30 pm light dinner catered by Doug Katz, with desserts from LUNA Bakery, Kendall Jackson wines & Bottlehouse Brewery beer, as well as preferred seating for the concert.

Performers will include the Amici Quartet (Takako Masame and Miho Hashizume violin, Lynne Ramsey, viola, and Ralph Curry cello); Ensemble HD (Joshua Smith, flute, Jung-Min Amy Lee, violin, Charles Bernard, cello, Frank Rosenwein, oboe, and Joanna Patterson Zakany, viola); and The Omni Quartet (Jung-Min Amy Lee and Alicia Koelz, violin, Joanna Patterson Zakany, viola, and Tanya Ell, cello).

The concert will also feature performances by Carolyn Warner and Stephen Warner, violin, John Clouser bassoon, Jeffrey Rathbun and Mary Lynch oboe, Paul Yancich, percussion, Scott Dixon, bass, Franklin Cohen, clarinet Robert Walters, English horn, and St. Paul’s own Karel Paukert, organ.

During the evening the headlining act for Shaking With Laughter’s September 27 event at the Palace Theatre will also be announced.

Published on May 19, 2014.

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