Music Settlement offers array of performances, and introduces a priceless violin, to celebrate centennial
Posted April 26, 2013 in Articles
Author: Donald Rosenberg
Three of Cleveland's major cultural institutions began serving the public in the second decade of the 20th century, including two that would go on to become international titans: the Cleveland Museum of Art (1916) and the Cleveland Orchestra (1918).
But a more modest giant was first to race past the starting gate. Almeda Adams, a blind musician, came from New York to found the Cleveland Music School Settlement in 1912 and educate the masses.
The school, now the Music Settlement, continues to train musicians young and old, provide early childhood education and offer classes in music therapy.
The school also knows how to throw a birthday bash, as it demonstrated Thursday to almost dizzying effect. "Generations of Music: A Centennial Anniversary Party" was the final event in a year-long celebration of the school's longstanding community service.
The Music Settlement's University Circle campus was transformed into a maze of performance and culinary spaces for the occasion. If you could have planted yourself at the complex's six stages at once, here's what you would have experienced:
A plush-voiced faculty soprano, Natasha Ospina Simmons, in recital. Jazz faculty members, guitarist Tom Letizia and pianist Jackie Warren, in separate concerts. Performances by a student string ensemble, Centennial Strings (a rock/hip orchestra) and the Cleveland BoyChoir.
And that was only in one 30-minute segment.
The four-hour party included several dozen concerts by faculty, students and guests, who literally rubbed shoulders with partygoers munching on hors d'oeuvres, sipping libations and mingling with friends.
One concert brought home the impact the Music Settlement has had. Violinist Jaime Laredo, an artist of international renown now on the faculty around the corner at the Cleveland Institute of Music, was present to make an appearance with his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson, also a CIM faculty member.
The violinist spent a year at the Music Settlement during the 1953-54 school year studying with Josef Gingold, then concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. Laredo returned to perform at the 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations.
But Thursday's concert was especially meaningful for Laredo and the Music Settlement. Last fall, the estate of Melvin Ritter, a former concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony who studied at the Music Settlement in the late 1930s, bequeathed to the school a 1665 violin by the great Cremona violin maker Nicolo Amati.
Laredo, who told the audience he once played chamber music with Ritter, had the Amati and a prized Nikolaus Kittel bow in hands Thursday to join Robinson in a Handel passacaglia arranged by Johan Halvorsen.
The duo gave the piece a tour-de-force performance full of expressive subtleties and acrobatic panache. The Amati sounded gorgeous. So did Robinson's cello.
They were followed in Glick Recital Hall by a program paying tribute to founder Adams. Music therapy students appeared on a video in an original work, "I'm Only One Person.
Soprano Simmons and her husband, pianist John Simmons, performed an Adams' song, "If." And the school's resident Almeda Trio contributed two works by female composers: Amy Beach's Piano Trio No. 2 and a commissioned piece by former Music Settlement student Eden Raiz.
On to the bicentennial.