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by Daniel Hathaway

CMC-ShanahanJames Feddeck conducted CityMusic Cleveland in the second of five themed concerts devoted to the topic of refugees on Thursday, March 13 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ohio City, a program that began with an arresting solo cello work by Chinary Ung, moved on to an imaginative new percussion concerto by CIM-trained composer Dan Visconti featuring Shane Shanahan, and culminated in a thrilling performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony.

After demonstrating some of the special effects in the piece, cellist James Jaffee led off the evening with an intense, committed performance of Ung’s 1980 Khse Buon (Four Strings), a 15-minute work that the Cambodian composer wrote during his difficult transition from the troubles in his homeland to life in the United States. Playing from the conductor’s platform in front of the already seated orchestra, Jaffee produced an amazing range of sounds from growling bass figures to high, whistling harmonics, and from sudden, startling fortissimos to disappearing whispers. A fusion of eastern and western traditions, Khse Buon manages to sound strange and familiar at the same time. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Mike Telin

VISCONTI-DanEach season, CityMusic Cleveland dedicates one of its programs to highlighting a social issue that impacts Greater Cleveland. Past programs have addressed such topics as bullying and genocide. For this year’s project, CityMusic has chosen to explore a population of Cleveland that is invisible to many — the world of Cleveland’s refugees. CityMusic principal oboist and VP for Community Engagement Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew says the goal of the project is twofold: to increase awareness of Cleveland’s refugees, and to highlight the positive cultural and economic contributions refugees make to the city.

A highlight of the project will take place on Wednesday, March 12 in Fairmount Presbyterian Church, when CityMusic under the direction of James Feddeck presents the premiere of Dan Visconti’s percussion concerto, Roots to Branches. The work was commissioned by CityMusic especially for this project and features Grammy-winning percussionist Shane Shanahan and narrator Ali Alhaddad. The program also includes Chinary Ung’s Khse Buon for solo cello with James Jaffee as soloist, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.” Performances continue through Sunday at area churches. Read the rest of this entry »

by Donald Rosenberg
Special to ClevelandClassical

RefugeesCityMusic Cleveland savors the opportunity to share classical music with listeners who may have no other access to the arts. The professional chamber orchestra does so by giving free concerts throughout Northeast Ohio.

Once a year, CityMusic devotes a program to a social issue that heightens community awareness. In recent seasons, the ensemble has explored genocide and bullying.

This year’s project, “Fleeing,” focuses on refugees who have journeyed to Cleveland to begin new lives after years of displacement and suffering. CityMusic is bringing attention to the topic through a series of concerts in March, some of which will include performances by refugees.

To celebrate refugees in Cleveland, CityMusic has commissioned a percussion concerto featuring instruments from many countries. The piece will have its world premiere at concerts March 12 through 16 at churches in Cleveland, Lakewood and Willoughby Hills led by James Feddeck, former assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

RefugeesCityMusic Cleveland will present the first three free public concerts titled Journeys of Hope on Sunday, March 2 beginning at 2:00 pm at the Lakewood Public Library. The concerts are part of CityMusic’s Roots to Branches – Music Celebrating Refugees project. This is the first in a series of four articles.

We actually started the project because of a conversation Eugenia Strauss had with Father Bob Begin from St. Coleman’s Church,” said CityMusic Principal oboist and VP for Community Engagement Rebecca Schweigert Mayhew.

Through the help of the Refugee Services Collaborative with whom Mayhew, Strauss and CityMusic board member Sawsan Alhaddad started working with early on in the project, they discovered that every year 70,000 refugees come to the United States with over 500 settling in Cleveland, primarily from Bhutan/Nepal, Burma, Somalia, and Iraq.

Some come from once-prosperous but now war-torn countries, and many highly educated people find themselves working in unskilled jobs in a place where their credentials and experience are meaningless. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Visconti-Lonesome-Roads-CDDan Visconti has a knack for titles. The young composer, who studied with Margaret Brouwer at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Aaron Jay Kernis at Yale, is so adept at naming his pieces that it’s nearly impossible to listen to his music without the title’s image blossoming in the brain. Take for instance the small ensemble piece, Drift of Rainbows (2009), included on Lonesome Roads, a 2012 Bridge Records release by the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin and the Horszowski Trio of some of Visconti’s chamber music. Ecstatic strings surge and arc over majestic chords like, well, rainbows drifting through the air.

One reason Visconti’s titles are so successful is the pictorial quality of his work. He creates vivid paintings in sound, depicting the vast fields of America and the people that populate them by incorporating vernacular music. Black Bend (2003), for string quartet and bass, is an inventive romp through the blues, with strings wailing in imitation of a soulful singer. The violin and harp piece, Lawless Airs (2008), takes cowboy songs as its starting point. Read the rest of this entry »

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