Before last year’s successful Fridays@7 series turned the concert calendar inside out, the idea of letting off steam in the hallowed home of the top-ranked Cleveland Orchestra might have seemed unthinkable. Not anymore. The still-new Fridays@7 formula combines the best of both worlds, with a lively classical music concert (lasting just over an hour) sandwiched between plenty of chances to eat, drink and be merry.
Last Friday, things started happening at 6 p.m., with snacks and drinks in the lobbies and a performance by Cleveland’s own Passport Project. The ensemble entertained with percussion (some intense, some intimate) and dance inspired by global artists. At 7 p.m., the audience moved into the elegant concert hall to hear Franz Welser-Möst conduct the orchestra in works by Beethoven and Toru Takemitsu.
Takemitsu’s “Dream Window” called for an unusual seating plan for the orchestra, with a few musicians gathered in front of the stage and a larger collection behind them. This layout made the layered and melodious harmonies take shape, especially for those in the balcony who could "see" the sonics going in waves from one side of the stage to the other. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“The Eroica”) concluded the short program with a polished and passionate interpretation that revealed the beating heart inherent in great music.
Hearts began to beat in another way once the audience adjourned to the Grand Foyer for an after-party with the rockin’ Brooklyn, New York-based ensemble, Nation Beat. The boisterous and vivacious lead vocalist Liliana Araújo, plus instrumentalists Scott Kettner, Dennis Lichtman, Mark Marshall and Mike Lavalle, turned the scene into a mini-Carnival that had even the most staid of us keeping the beat. The evening concluded with Passport Project dancers joining the crowd to get more dancing started.
More Fridays@7 concerts are scheduled for December 3, January 14, April 1 and May 27. For details or to purchase individual tickets or a subscription, visit the Cleveland Orchestra online or call the box office at 216-231-1111.
Photo by Roger Mastroianni