Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart, Mendelssohn, and More!

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BVW 1041
Handel: The King Shall Rejoice (Coronation Anthem No. 3)*
Handel: Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op. 3 No. 2
Mendelssohn: Verleih' uns Frieden ("Grant Us Peace")*
Mendelssohn: Hear my Prayer*, Teresa Wakim, soprano
Handel: Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem No. 1)*
Nicolas McGegan, Conductor.
*- With the Blossom Festival Chorus, Lisa Wong, Assistant Director of Choruses

Settling in to my seat this evening I wasn't sure what to expect from tonight's program of Baroque. When Mr. McGegan took the podium I wasn't sure what to expect from him: The back of his head and his body language taking the podium seemed like he might be, ahem, I don't think there's a polite way to put this: Crusty old conductor.

That possibility, though, quickly passed as Mr. McGegan launched into the energetic Allegro con Brio first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 with his own ball of energy. Unfortunately, while discouraging inter-movement applause (thankfully missing at this concert) it seems the orchestra has started a practice of inserting an interminable delay between the first and second movements of the first piece on the program for the purpose of seating latecomers. This practice is, in actuality, far more disruptive to the enjoyment of a piece than inter movement applause as it cleaves the first movement from the remainder of the piece and eliminates any sense of cohesiveness. It took me much of the second movement to return to the proper frame of mind, just in time to catch a playful shrug from Mr. McGegan to the violists at the end of that movement.

Cleveland Orchestra member and Principal Second Violin Stephen Rose joined the orchestra this evening as soloist in Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 and delivered musical bliss. For the first and third movements I was gripped by both the musical and literal image of a dance: Mr. Rose would push in and Mr. McGegan would pull back; then they'd pull together. During the third movement I had to stifle incipient laughter after a few of Mr. McGegan's gestures--beyond the whole-body movement I had noticed earlier--looked like something from Baroque-era dance.

My favorite movement, from the evening, however, was the second movement of the violin concerto: In advance of the Orchestra's 9/11 Concert on Public Square the Orchestra is asking for the public to submit Images of Peace: I merely had to let my eyes flutter closed for the acoustical image of peace with Mr. Rose's lyrical violin over a persistent theme from the orchestra. Not to mention inspiration for my continued practice on the instrument*

Following intermission The Cleveland Orchestra was joined by the Blossom Festival Chorus and while the chorus sounded great generally, I didn't feel a strong attraction to The King Shall Rejoice, Verleth' uns Frieden, or Hear my Prayer. While I expected, given my ADD** tendencies, to enjoy the to-the-point and quick moving Concerto Grosso it largely passed sans notice--except for the beautiful sound from the cellos in the second movement.

Closing out the program, Zadok the Priest, used for every English coronation since George II in 1727, drew out the power of the chorus's collective voice along with an emphatic orchestra proclaiming "God save the king! Long live the king! May the king live forever! Amen, alleluia!" was certainly a triumphant way to end the evening's concert.

*- Eighteen months into it, I still occasionally produce noises more similar to a New York City traffic jam than music. Thankfully, those occasions are becoming fewer in number.
** - Officially, ADHD, but I've never really gotten the "hyperactive" part of that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mercury Summer Stock: Show Boat

The idea of "Hide and Seek" in a art museum seems a bit sacrilegious but done quietly and respectfully it's a bit of a brain stretch to remember what objects match clues* and a lot of fun. Continuing a bit of a tradition, after working late at the museum Rachel -- it was her turn to hide -- texted the clue and then I seeked after I snuck out of the office. After browsing the contemporary galleries for a bit it was time to choose the next activity of the evening.

I had been pondering Mercury Summer Stock's production of Show Boat if for no other reason than the venue: The Cleveland Play House's Brooks Theater at the 8500 Euclid location was the host to the first play I saw after moving to Cleveland -- short-lived Fourth Wall Productions' Plans Change; and in all likelihood, Show Boat will be the last.

We made the short trip from the Museum down Euclid and found a full parking lot; the lobby was full to the point of overflowing, and when we made it to the front of the line we found that the show had sold out, however, if we stick around there was a good possibility that we could fit in at the last moment. It turned out that gamble worked. Taking our seats I realized that I had absolutely no idea what Show Boat is about; leaving the theatre, I'm still a little foggy.

I think the best description is "uneven": Parts of the production were done quite well, and others seemed slapdash and poorly integrated. The costuming and set were both quite good and evoked the period, but the choreography and pacing just felt off (parts of the first act seemed nearly interminable, though the second act seemed to move more quickly). Musically, something just didn't feel right but I couldn't put my finger on it. Having the orchestra on stage throughout was nice, but the piano was a bit loud during, and just on the verge of drowning out, scenes of pure dialog. When it came to solos, all of the actors were quite pleasant to hear, but duets and ensemble pieces suffered from a general lack of cohesion.

The Wikipedia article (as the program offers no synopsis beyond the list of musical numbers) suggests at least two locations, a Riverboat and Chicago: The Riverboat was clear, the transition off the boat in Act II was abstract and not marked in any meaningful way: It took me far too long to piece that together.

Though rough around the edges, the show does deliver on basic entertainment including well-timed quips that garner plenty of laughter gingerly spread throughout.

Unquestionably, though, Brian Keith Johnson (whom I have heard sing twice with The Cleveland Orchestra -- during the 2010 Christmas Concerts and the Martin Luther King Concert earlier this year) stole the show belting an amazingly powerful Ol' Man River early in Act I.

*Tonight's: "A House scene? Hardly. Though this window and these lamps belonged to houses at the beginning of the century."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Years of Lincoln In Cleveland

Today marks the two year anniversary of the great experiment known as Lincoln In Cleveland*, so I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's stopped by to read. I've had more great experiences and met more interesting people by way of LincolnInCleveland than I can count. What I wrote a year ago still holds true.

[By the way, feel free to tell your friends... will get you here without having to remember the other stuff. And if you have any tips, suggestions, complaints, as always feel free to comment, or email L (just the letter L) at

From the beginning of 2010, I've had more than 10,500 visitors from 77 countries on 6 continents, including all 50 states and Washington DC. (I know that a large number of additional visitors read via RSS Subscriptions and more recently via syndication on InstantEncore's buzz, but I'm not able to collect accurate stats for those readers).

I moved to Cleveland a bit over 6 years ago--primarily because of a job I was offered, of course, but also because I was hooked on the level, quantity of variety of culture that Cleveland Offered. Before LincolnInCleveland, during the time MySpace was actually popular (remember that?) I had challenged myself to attend at least one performing arts event in Cleveland each week--every week--for a year. Some cities that may have been a daunting task; it was nearly trivial for Cleveland. (Through that experiment, I--literally--discovered a joy of classical music with The Cleveland Orchestra, tried opera and ballet: I'd like to see more of the latter, I still don't have a grand appreciation for the former.

That experiment wrapped up before LincolnInCleveland started but I'm still impressed by the sheer variety in Cleveland; there are more events on any given date that sound interesting than I could possibly hope [or afford] to attend. Cleveland and Northeast Ohio is an underappreciated gem (from inside and out), and I hope for the readers in Cleveland appreciate what we have, and those from outside may visit sometime and see what you're missing.

So thanks again for reading, and here's to Year #3


*- And this weekend was the fifth mensiversary of dating Rachel.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back from St. Ignace and Mackianc Island, Michigan

I've been wanting to make it up to my Grandparent's place in St. Ignace, and to get some Michigan driving on my car*. I also wanted to show my girlfriend Upper Michigan. This was the first weekend where (a) Rachel didn't have to work for the full weekend, and (b) my grandparents -- popular as ever -- had an open weekend. Finally (c) of this summer's Cleveland Orchestra/Blossom Festival program, this weekend seemed to be the least compelling (I wasn't terribly impressed by last season's performance and Joffery Ballet's labor issues earlier in the season had cast some doubt as well)

I picked Rachel up after she finished work early Friday Afternoon, and we stopped by her apartment to grab her bag, then my place to pick up the razor I forgot to throw in my bag the first time I left the house. With that we were on the road just after 3:45, and had an uneventful drive "Up North," crossing the Mackinac Bridge right about 11, and arriving at our St. Ignace destination just after 11:15. We were surprised to find one of my uncles and two cousins wrapping up a much longer vacation.

Introductions out of the way and quickly falling asleep, the first day of the trip was down. I think everyone sleeps a bit longer "up north" and we were certainly no exception, getting a leisurely start to Saturday morning. Being Rachel's first trip to Northern Michigan, we played tourists on Mackinac Island for most of the day Saturday: Starting with a light lunch at Fred's on the island, then a carriage tour for a general overview, and from there a bit of wandering.

The island's art museum is a relatively new addition to the tourist scene on the island, and was my first time visiting: All of the art on display (some of it for sale) depicts the island in some way giving the collection an appreciably narrow focus, and there were interesting surprises: The artist behind one of the more eye-catching works studied with the artist who created one of Rachel's favorite paintings Rest

While we decided to forgo the Fort on this visit, we found that the Art Museum ticket also grants access to the Market Street buildings we visited while working our way to the Grand Hotel -- my first time in those, I think, since my fist visit to the Island nearly 15 years ago. Popping into establishments along the way, we did our bit to support the local economy. Legs wearing thin, we hit the ferry back to the mainland and walked up the hill to my grandparents.

After a bit of socializing -- and a rather addictive game -- we adjourned to St. Ignace's boardwalk to enjoy the evening fireworks, before once again returning and retiring to another good "Up North" sleep.

This morning we woke up, once again, late in the morning and socialized a bit. I had originally thought about taking Rachel up to the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) or Taquemenon (I'm virtually positive I've misspelled that) Falls... but I didn't consider the travel distances for either of those and after brief discussion both of those were saved for a later trip. Instead, we walked the St. Ignace Boardwalk to the end of downtown (and then a bit further), walked back window shopping and stopping for a late brunch (me) and lunch (her) before returning to say goodbyes and hitting the road south in between rain showers.

The drive back went a bit slower than the drive up because it seems like we hit a few chunks of blockage or clumps of slow moving cars that seemed to last forever. We plan to return sooner rather than later, and my grandparents' hospitality is second to none.

Some of the photos taken by Rachel can be found on my Flickr Photostream at

*- Michiganders tend to drive like Californians: Fast, and with an average speed 10-15 MPH above the (70 MPH) posted speed limit. They're also typically more courteous than California drivers. Ohio drivers, on the other hand, generally give great deference to to the unreasonably low speed limits...and also linger in the left lane long after any passing has been completed. In other words, driving is just more fun in Michigan.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1947-50

[This is the fourth installment in a series; Part 1 covers 1915-20, Part 2, from 1920-29, and Part 3 from 1930-47]

I've been swamped at work, preparing for two trips to California, one that's already been rescheduled, and a trip to Michigan for work, plus a different trip for pleasure, so what better way than to relax by slipping 64 years into the Museum's history.

World War II has ended; and in 1947, depending on where you set the marker, the Cold War has either begun or is in its nascent stages. In Cleveland, Burke Lakefront Airport opened for operations; the Case School of Applied Sciences changed its name to the Case Institute of Technology (CIT would join with cross-street rival Western Reserve University 20 years later in 1967 to form Case Western Reserve University). "Untouchable" Eliot Ness was tht year's unsuccessful Republican mayoral candidate.

Television station WEWS, goes on the air on December 17, 1947 and is the first commercial television station in Ohio (16th in the country), it's call letters stand for Cleveland Press founder Edward Willis Scripps* -- perhaps best known as being one half of the Scripps-Howard media empire. WEWS is, to this day, Scripps-Howard's broadcast flagship... but enough background:

October 1947. Thirty Fourth year. Number Eight. On Friday, October 3rd, Lincoln Kirstein, president and director of The School of American Ballet will present a lecture on the Language of Classical Dance. In passing, he's credited as the "Founder of Ballet Society". In 1948, that organization will be renamed New York City Ballet. Oh, and by the way: He was a driving force behind the creation of Lincoln Center in New York -- though not the namesake.

December 1947. Thirty Fourth Year. Number Ten. Membership is rebounding from it's Depression- and World War-induced lows and now stands at 3,838 -- still below the 1920s peaks.

September 1948. Thirty Fifth Year. Number Seven Part One. The bulletin includes a centerfold. Not that kind of centerfold -- Franz Hals's Portrait of a Lady in a Ruff. More interesting, however is the announcement of Masterpieces from the Berlin Museums:

Cleveland is fortunate in being one of the centers of the country in which the
paintings from the Berlin Museums will be shown. They will be exhibited here
from October 6th through October 22nd. In the Spring of 1945, as the United
States armies advanced in Germany, they found a huge cache of art objects in a
salt mine at Mertkers, among which was an outstanding group of paintings, the
finest from the collection of the Kaiser-Fredrich-Museum and numerous examples
from the National-Galerie of Berlin. Shortly thereafter the group was brought to
this country for safekeeping and stored in the vaults of the National Gallery,
Washington DC until such time as it could be returned safely. Such arrangements
have now been made, and of the two hundred examples, half have already recrossed the Atlantic.

It is further noted that a special admission charge of $0.25 will be levied for the exhibition--to be used for the German Children's Relief Fund.

October 1948. Thirty Fifth Year. Number Eight. This month's centerfold, Coronation of the Virgin attributed to Pedro Nicolau-de-Albentosa. The museum's schedule of upcoming events is, understandably, weighted heavily to the Masterpieces from the Berlin Museums exhibition.

April 1949. Thirty Sixth Year. Number Four. The Jane Taft Ingalls Membership Endowment Fund of $1,100.00 (no zeros are unaccounted for) was established by Mrs. Albert S. Ingalls. The Ingalls name is well-associated with the museum via the Ingalls Library, but it does not appear that that association has been fully-forged in 1949. Walter Blodgett, the museum's first Curator of Musical Arts gives an extensive series of organ recitals -- He'll give well over 1,000 of them during his 31-year tenure at the museum. Membership is now reported as 3,962.

June 1949. Thirty Sixth Year. Number 6. Part 1. The museum is maturing as an independent organization, and another tie to its founders fades as John Huntington Hord, grandson of one founder passes.

October 1949. Thirty Sixth Year. Number 8. Those ties further slip as Mrs. Ralph King passes. "Elected a Benefactor by reason of her many gifts to the Museum, she actively carried on the deep interest which she and her husband, the late Ralph King, had shown from the earliest inception of the Museum. The Print Department is a monument to their generosity and to the concern for its development which they aroused in others." Rodin's The Thinker, outside the museum's South Entrance and purchased by the Kings for the Museum in 1917 is among 840 items the Kings donated to the Museum's collection.

December 1949. Thirty Sixth Year. Number Ten. Salmon P. Halle, co-founder of Cleveland's Halle Brothers department store, and like the Kings before him, and active supporter of the Museum's Print Department, passes. As an interesting tangent, actress Halle Berry's name was, reportedly, from her mother's fondness for the Halle's store. William G. Mather, today perhaps best known as the namesake for the Steamship William G Mather, permanently anchored near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is elected as Honorary President and Trustee Emeritus. President Harold T. Clark reports that "Mr. Mather asked to be relieved of the burdens of office, but the Trustees, in deferring regretfully to his request, wished to pay him this signal honor. He has served as President from February 14, 1936, as a Trustee from the twenty-fourth of November, 1919 and as a member of the Accessions Committee from July 13, 1915. In that last capacity, the Museum has had the advantage of his wisdom and taste since the year after its incorporation. Few people have had the influence which he has had in the development of the Museum's collections. As Honorary President, the Museum will be able to call oh him, as before, for advice and counsel.

*- For my California readers, this is the same Scripps who's name is scattered about the San Diego area: He retired there in 1890 and died in 1926.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: Jahja Ling Conducts Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev

Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, op. 45
Prokoiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 (Yuja Wang, piano)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34
The Cleveland Orchestra, Jahja Ling, conductor.

Frequently after leaving a concert it's difficult for me to select a favorite piece from the concert but usually even in those cases one piece is able to squeak across the finish line slightly ahead of the others. Rarely, the entire program is so compelling as to render any such ranking impossible. Tonight was one of those concerts.

Arriving at Blossom, I immediately noticed that the lawn seemed unusually full; as the concert time approached I noticed that both the lawn and pavilion appeared impressively full, particularly for a classical program. And that audience received quite a treat.

Opening the program tonight, Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances -- that composer's last work, was just sheer delight to listen to. In the first movement, two passages with particularly a particularly strong harp and strings (particularly violins, but since I was seated house left, that could be simply because I was closer) pulling me in emotionally. If the first movement pulled me in, the second movement held me tight, with a lone tear making an appearance in my left eye; particularly notable from this movement was a barely audible, ephemeral, pizzicato from the low strings. The final movement of the piece loosened its grip but was still captivating. I had closed my eyes and one passage, combined with the birds and crickets outside the pavilion felt like a storm rolling in on a secluded farm, finding peace, and going out with a bang.

(The one annoyance with tonight's program came during this piece, however: Mr. Ling took an interminable pause between the first and second movements, during which ushers seated latecomers: The overall effect was even more disruptive than inter movement applause)

Following intermission Ms. Yuja Wang joined the orchestra on stage for Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3. While it seems like I've read quite a bit of Ms. Wang lately, it also seems some outlets have become more obsessed with her choice of clothing than her playing. And wow; as she was playing the rest of the world--and what she was wearing--was of little consequence. Both hypnotized and mesmerized throughout the piece it was as if time stood still; yet it was as if the piece had finished before I had time to breathe.

Like a hummingbird, Ms. Wang's hands seemed to hover just above the keyboard; her fingers barely visible and striking with precision; there were times when notes fluttered out of the piano but the finger producing that note didn't seem to move. Despite playing with impressive speed, neither the Orchestra nor Ms. Wang gave the slightest hint of a lack of confidence or a tentative touch.

Most shocking visually, there was a point -- I think it was during the second movement, but that part of the brain was disengaged -- there was a point where my direct line-of-sight turned tunnel vision included Ms. Wang at the piano, Mr. Ling on the podium and cellist Richard Weiss all doing their thing. Its the sort of thing where the visual so perfectly captured the audible that I wish I would have been able to snap a photograph.

Closing out the program, Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio was a light desert on great concert, with some great violin solos played by Concertmaster Peter Otto.

(note: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the cellist)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cleveland Play House: Hanna Theater Happy Hour

About a month ago I attended the Cleveland Play House's Annual General Meeting largely for the promise of tours of the Allen Theater.

At that meeting, I was reminded about the Happy Hour that was scheduled for August 10th and lured with the promise of additional tours. Now tours were not my primary motivation for attending tonight's happy hour -- the CPH Happy Hours are generally great events with a ton of....well, happy...socialization. I've been to more of them than I've blogged. There was additional motivation in that I was curious about the evolution over the span of a month.

Tonight was no exception the CPHers once again were warm hosts and great conversation persisted through the evening. Rachel, my girlfriend, joined me and though she has not yet attended a CPH performance (yes, we need to fix that) was warmly welcomed by all.

Tonight's tours were significantly more limited than those last month -- reportedly, construction progress at the new PlayhouseSquare home has made access to the house, where seats were installed shortly after the Annual General Meeting, by the touring public impracticable. Most impressively, the temporary wall has been torn down, and the flow from the old lobby to the new lobby feels great, even if there are still some temporary obstructions blocking the view.

Today, Artistic Director Michael Bloom talked to the group on Dodge Court looking at the new *(and much shorter and more direct) gerbil tube linking the garage to the rest of PlayhouseSquare and the Cleveland Play House's two new ground-up theatres.

Here's a shot of the back side of the theatres plus the new gerbil tube (right), taken by Rachel since I inexplicably let my cell phone in my car

Some random tidbits picked up along the way:
- Mr. Moore described the transition as moving from "your grandfather's Buick to a Chevy Cruise"
- Galileo, the first show of the new season in the new home is being built and rehearsed at 8500 Euclid and will be loaded in to the Allen on September 11th.
- CPH's new offices will be ready end-ish of September, and the hope is to be completely moved out of 8500 Euclid by October/November with December as a firm deadline.
- Quote selected by the playwright of Galileo: "Theater without beer is just a museum"
- GenNow is a new program designed to lure 20-40s young professionals to the great cultural features of Cleveland and will offer significantly discounted tickets along with a happy hour or similar social event for select performances.

I'm starting to type incoherently now, so I think that's it for this post, but I've stumbled across some old writeups on the Bulkley Building -- in which the Allen is located -- which I suppose I shall save for a later post.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cleveland Orchestra: A Midsummer Night's Dream [and Meet the Musicians Picnic]

Mendelssohn: Three movements from Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 (Sherzo - Nocturne - Wedding March)
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 (Baiba Skride, violin)
Strauss: Don Juan, Op. 20
Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, Op. 11
Bramwell Tovey, conductor.

Earlier this week I received an emailed invitation to a picnic with musicians from The Cleveland Orchestra on the Blossom lawn before tonight's concert. I was on the fence (let's face it, I don't do well with strangers--and I had this vague vision of "Hi, I stalk your concerts weekly" being the only musterable conversation-- but after arriving and feeling the well-marked group it proved a great evening. The musicians were spectacularly hospitable, the conversation was good, and spanned all topics [including, perhaps most surprisingly, a discussion on weather Wendy's or White Castle was more representative of the American hamburger]... and it was just great to talk to the talented musicians of the Orchestra outside of the musical context with a very organic and free-form feeling.

In the group that I settled into, was Assistant Conductor Sasha Makila who's work I have admired but whom I had not yet met. In addition to being funny and charming, I appreciated his willingness to answering some questions on conducting that have had be wondering for a while.

It was a great opportunity and one that I hope will be repeated frequently: I made it to my seat in the pavilion just in time for the start of the concert. Plaguing the first half of the program more significantly than the second half, Mr. Tovey seemed really stiff and restrained, and as a result, the first two pieces on the program felt overly restrained and a bit stunted.

That said, In the Incidental Music from A Midsummer Night's Dream -- aptly placed on a midsummer's night -- Scherzo was beautiful, and Nocturne didn't hold my attention (that could be restrained conducting, or it could be the extremely loud unexplained crash that reverberated in the pavilion). The three selections concluded with one of the best known pieces in the classical repertoire--but the first time I've heard it played by an orchestra--the Wedding March. Though thoroughly enjoyable, was much quieter than, and the celebratory feel was a bit more muted I would have expected (Though I have to admit pondering what kind of fee the orchestra would require to play the Wedding March for an actual ceremony)

For Bruch's Violin Concerto, I have to say that Baiba Skride's performance was amazing. Her sound was fascinatingly sweet, and at some point early in the first movement the conscious brain switched off and my ears and subconscious just enjoyed the sound while I stared off into the Blossom rafters, lingering there through the second movement, and returning to the real world in the Allegro energico Finale -- wihch between the warm energy of the music and the Ms. Skride's sweet sound made my favorite movement of the evening.

Following intermission, Mr. Tovey seemed notably looser and less restrained than the first half of the program and the overall sound of the orchestra benefited greatly. I enjoyed Strauss's tone poem of the story of Don Juan: The bravado, the romantic chase, an orchestra that, to borrow the words of the program note, "charges along undaunted". As the piece approaches the end pauses can be seen as a dying breath (the program note's interpretation) or perhaps of something finally slipping out of grasp.

Closing out the program Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. In his remarks to the audience, Mr. Tovey mentioned that the orchestra had last performed this work in the 1950s* (which would place it around the time of the composer's death). The first time I've heard any of Mr. Enescu's works, I thoroughly enjoyed it: With roots in folk music, the piece begins with sounds moving around the orchestra, building, and eventually involving the entire orchestra in a vibrant and energetic sound evocative of a folk dance.

*-Curiously, the program for this week's concert was missing "At A Glance" information for all four pieces, which would typically include orchestration, running time, and previous history of the piece with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1930-47

With another warm week under our collective belts and a tiring week in the office, I figured I'd unwind by returning to the stack of Cleveland Museum of Art Bulletins occupying a corner of my living room.

If you missed the last post, covering 1920 to 29 you might want to peak in, or if you have no idea what I'm rambling about you might be interested in the first installment.

Today's post covers two decades -- and a tumultuous period in American history: The end of the Great Depression and the beginning and end of World War II. Some scholars -- and at least one high school economics teacher -- link the two events, and logically it makes sense, but that's neither here nor there. The collection of discarded Bulletins was, sadly, rather light on the '30s, hence this post's two-decade span.

February 1934. Twenty First Year. Number 2, Part One. Prohibition ended with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment by the Twenty-first Amendment by a majority of states just two months prior to this issue -- incidentally Ohio was one of the three states that pushed the amendment to ratification on December 5, 1933. At the museum, a schedule of events shows Saturday "Radio Talks" on WHK at 5:45 PM. WHK, Ohio's oldest radio station, and the 15th oldest in the country still broadcasting, can be found today at AM 1420, though in the early 30s as a CBS affiliate you would have tuned to 1390 KHz.

The schedule of events also includes frequent Organ Music programs and discussions in the auditorium.

John Long Severance is the President of the Board (the hall that bears his name and still serves as the home of the Cleveland Orchestra opened three years prior); and William Mathewson Milliken had also begun his Directorship of the museum at the beginning of the decade -- both will leave lasting imprints on the museum, and as I learned this afternoon, Mr. Milliken also headed the Public Works of Art Project for Region 9 of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The Museum's Education staff totals nine. The library staff of seven includes a Miss Thwing -- and I have to wonder about her relationship to the Thwing Center that now stands just a few hundred feet from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Admission is still just $0.25.

December 1935. Twenty Second Year. Number Ten. The Autumn flower show this year paired flowers in paintings and was describes as "one of the most beautiful exhibits ever held in the museum" and included five paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe--this being barely 20 years after her work first gained widespread acclaim. Among those thanked for their participation, Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Ginn -- Mr. Ginn, like Mr. Severance, had a close association with the Cleveland Orchestra, this time memorialized in the elegant Ginn Suite at Severance Hall.

The Bulletin offers five upcoming concerts in the "Cleveland Concert Course," sponsored by but not taking place at the Museum. For information, call CHerry 5805 (Today that number would be 241-5805*, but Google doesn't turn up any current results). Radio programs are listed for WTAM and WGAR including the Art Museum Drama. (WTAM is still around, and the WGAR call letters survive in Cleveland as WGAR-FM, but WGAR-AM is now WNKR). Total membership stands at 3,554 -- rather shocking as in October 1929 membership was reported as 6,365, and in 1922 the Board had hoped for membership of 10,000 by the end of the year.

March 1943. Thirtieth Year. Number Three. As if the membership numbers from 1935 weren't disappointing enough, the reported number is now just 3,113. For the first time since the building opened, hours and admission prices have changed: 9AM to 5PM except: Closed Mondays, Wednesdays until 10PM, Sundays 1PM to 6PM, and Friday Evenings 7PM to 10PM during Lecture Season. The Museum is closed July 4, Thanksgiving, and December 25. (Today the Museum is still closed Mondays, otherwise open daily 10AM to 5PM except until 9PM Wednesdays and Fridays). Then as now, admission is free at all times.

June, September, November, 1943; and March 1947 (Thirtieth Year, Number Six, Seven, Nine and Thirty-Fourth Year, Number Three, respectively) don't offer anything particularly noteworthy, with a relatively stable Museum organization and in-depth analyses on particular artworks. In September, Membership is reported as 3,008.

June 1947. Thirty-Fourth Year. Number Six. Part One. Miss Neil G. Sill, librarian of the Museum since February 1, 1920, retired as of April 15, 1947. The event is reported in the Bulletin "Miss Sill several years ago asked to be relieved of her responsibilities, but was generously willing to remain until after the war crisis. She submitted her resignation on December 1, 1946 to take effect at such time as the Trustees should decide, but no later than the spring." -- I find it hard to imagine, in the 21st Century someone staying in a job "several years" longer than they would otherwise desire.

President Milliken writes that "The strain of carrying the Library through the war years has made it seem imperative that, for a time at least, she have a period of rest and relief from responsibility. Miss Sill, during the years she has been in charge of the Library has built it up so that it is one of the outstanding special libraries in the country. Her ability in building up important representation in the various sections of the Library under her control and her wisdom in the selection and purchase of books have been outstanding contributions to the Museum's growth".

And I wonder if there are any modern markers of Ms. Sill's impact on the Museum's Ingalls Library during her 27-year reign early in the dawn of the museum?

And since I've wandered through these few issues for far longer than I originally set out to do, I suppose I shall save the rest of the last three years of the decade for the next post.


*- For completely tangential trivia, the 216-241 Exchange is one of several dozen served from the Ohio Bell Building on Huron Avenue, is a great example of Modern American Perpendicular Gothic Architecture and is frequently cited as the inspiration for the Daily Planet Building in Superman.