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Snowed In: The Cleveland Orchestra in Ann Arbor!

The Cleveland Orchestra arrived in Ann Arbor on Tuesday afternoon, just before what was supposed to be the “snowpocalypse” hit the region. Lucky for us, the Orchestra made it just in time to perform a fantastic concert at Hill Auditorium Tuesday night, and those who braved the frightening weather were not disappointed. Unfortunately for Chicago, The Cleveland Orchestra was unable to leave Ann Arbor for the Windy City on Wednesday morning, as Illinois had declared a state of emergency. Their concert at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall was canceled, so they were stranded in Ann Arbor for an extra day. We invited them to come to see Wynton Marsalis at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra later that evening, but when we heard Wynton and the JLCO didn’t leave Toronto due to weather conditions, thus canceling our concert, we thought of a Plan C!

Classical Revolution Ann Arbor is a local chamber music collective that includes many U-M students and amateur musicians. They meet every Wednesday at Silvio’s Organic Pizza on N. University at 7:30pm for jam sessions. They also pop up at other locations around town to play chamber music in non-traditional spaces. Led by Ed Baskerville, Classical Revolution is open to anyone who wants to bring their instrument and jam! Ed brings stands and a huge pile of music to every gathering. Silvio’s has become CRAA’s home–it even has an old piano in there for piano trios, quartets, quintets, and any other configurations they want to make!

Knowing that Classical Revolution had a jam session Wednesday night, I got in touch with Carol Lee Iott, Director of Orchestra Personnel at The Cleveland Orchestra, and asked her to spread the word to the Orchestra. Ed warned Silvio that we might have an extra-large turnout, and he rounded up extra stands, music, local musicians, and instruments! Carol Lee got a great response from Orchestra musicians, and Silvio’s was at capacity after just about an hour!

The first quartet consisted of Bill Preucil, TCO’s very own concertmaster, TCO violist Joanna Patterson, cellist Ed Baskerville, and U-M student violinist Dan Winnick. Many other TCO musicians showed up and played throughout the evening, including principal oboe Frank Rosenwein, principal flutist Joshua Smith, horn Hans Clebsch, bassists Charles Carleton and Scott Dixon, cellists Charles Bernard and Martha Baldwin, and violinists Jung-Min Amy Lee and Sonja Braaten Molloy. Several other TCO musicians and administrative staff hung out at Silvio’s until midnight to watch, listen, and enjoy some pizza and beer! Music director Franz Welser-Möst even stopped by for awhile to watch.

The highlights of the night? When pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who played the Schumann Piano Concerto the night before on stage at Hill, sat down at the old upright piano with three others to play Brahms’ g-minor piano quartet! We also witnessed a rare performance of an arrangement for three basses of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise. Cellist Charles Bernard borrowed a U-M student’s cello to play a Brahms piano trio (many TCO musicians’ instruments were already on their truck to New York, so students shared theirs), and the student whispered to me when Bernard finished: “That was my cello!” I don’t think there was ever an all-TCO group–the TCO musicians were so excited to play with students.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a snow day. It was so wonderful to see these first-class musicians let loose and integrate with the Ann Arbor community, and make the best of an unfortunate situation.