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By Daniel Hathaway


The Cleveland Chamber Symphony wrapped up its six-concert NEOSonicFest on Sunday evening in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory with the second part of its tribute to founder Edwin London. Continuing London’s tradition of orchestral readings of scores by “Young and Emerging Composers”, music director Stephen Smith and the ensemble brought the works of four composers to life in performances bracketed with scores by what might be called the Already Emerged: long-time CSU professor and CCS collaborator Howie Smith and 20th century insurance executive and musical iconoclast Charles Ives.

Each of the four composers — chosen after an earlier reading session — was invited to come to the stage and say a few words about their very different pieces. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

NEEDHAM-ClintThe debut edition of NEOSonicFest will conclude much the way it began, with a concert that pays homage to Cleveland Chamber Symphony (CCS) founder Ed London. On Sunday, April 6 beginning at 7:30 pm in Baldwin Wallace University’s Gamble Auditorium, Steve Smith will lead CCS in a concert featuring Howie Smith’s Epilogue and Charles Ives Tone Roads No. 1.

The evening will also feature a program near and dear to London, the annual Young and Emerging Composers concert. In a recent conversation Smith said the program is very important because it encourages and gives young composers the opportunity to learn by hearing performances of the music they’re writing.

Clint Needham (left), composer in residence and assistant professor of music at Baldwin Wallace, and the person responsible for coordinating the concert, agrees with Smith. “As a student at BW I was also part of the Young and Emerging Composers program”, Needham told us by telephone. “It was my first professional performance and my first orchestral performance so it was a big deal to me,” adding that coordinating the concert is special to him. “It’s a weird sort of roundabout way to give back, but it’s really nice.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

London-EdSince its founding in 1980 by the late composer and Cleveland State University professor Edwin London (left), the Cleveland Chamber Symphony has remained true to its core mission of performing and promoting new music that “dares to explore”. This week the Grammy Award-winning orchestra enters a new phase in its life when it takes on the role of organizer and host of NEOSonicFest, a festival of new music.

We’re very excited about it,” said Cleveland Chamber Symphony music director Steven Smith during a recent telephone conversation. “We’ve been thinking about how to keep the name and activities of CCS alive over the past several years. We thought the idea of concentrating our activities into a specific period of time would give a greater focus on what CCS does.”

NEOSonicFest opens on Friday, March 28 at 7:30 pm in Cleveland State University’s Drinko Hall, when Steven Smith leads the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in a program that features Ed London’s Melodrama and Federico’s Follies. The concert also includes Geoffrey Peterson’s The Edmund Fitzgerald, a concerto for piano and strings with Nicholas Underhill as soloist, and special guests Verb Ballets, Richard Dickinson, choreographer.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

CCS-at-BW-WellerThe Cleveland Chamber Symphony conducted by Stephen Smith resumed its Verb Ballets collaboration last Thursday evening, June 13, in Baldwin Wallace University’s Gamble Auditorium. The concert, titled “Music that Dares to Explore,” presented four interesting and relatively new pieces, one of which was a world premiere. Two of the performances involved the Verb Ballets.

The most ingratiating piece was BW composer-in residence, Clint Needham’s Urban Sprawl. The only piece utilizing the full ensemble complement, Urban Sprawl is, in the words of the composer, “a funky, jazzy, kitschy, and hopefully fun ode to suburban life.” Needham got the idea for the piece when he and his wife were house hunting and viewed the insides of strange houses with crazy wallpaper, hideous paint colors, abortive do-it-yourself projects, and oddball tobacco smells. He wrote his piece visualizing the inhabitants dancing a quirky new dance he called the “Urban Sprawl.”

The raucous, yet transparently-bright textures using intervals and harmonies evoking Copland’s Americana works, proved a fertile mine for the six Verb Ballets dancers’ talents. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CCS-at-BW-WellerNearly a quarter-century ago, composer-conductor Edwin London founded the Cleveland Chamber Symphony at Cleveland State University. With the directive of performing “music of our time that dares to explore”, CCS developed a reputation and a dedicated following for offering professional performances and recordings of new works, and, along the way, copped an impressive list of awards including a Grammy.

After London retired, a series of hosting, leadership and funding vicissitudes left the organization essentially homeless but doggedly determined to keep itself alive through new relationships with the Cleveland Music School Settlement and Baldwin Wallace University. Its “Meet the Composers” and “New and Emerging Composers” series have continued on an annual basis, and last season CCS teamed with Verb Ballets for performances at Cleveland Public Theater.

The Verb Ballets relationship will be renewed on Thursday, June 13 at 7:30 pm in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace, when music director Steven Smith will conduct the premiere of James A. Hirt’s Chromatophores, Clint Needham’s Urban Sprawl, and Michael Leese’s Harp, Percussion and Strings. Also on the program is Smith’s own String Quartet. Smith talked about some of the repertory by phone from his home in Richmond, VA, where he serves as music director of the Richmond Symphony. Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Hathaway
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Mike Telin
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