A Century of Music at the Cleveland Museum of Art | Applause
The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916 with an extensive collection of visual art. Just two years after it opened, the Cleveland Museum of Art began another (lesser known) legacy when the New York Philharmonic performed there in 1918.
In 1922, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Douglas Moore, the museum’s curator of music, asked, “Isn’t there a real service that a museum can render to the community by providing a musical standard as well as a pictorial?
Thus began a century of performing arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The museum’s performing arts series is a companion to the visual arts collection, said Tom Welsh, director of performing arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Cleveland Orchestra performs at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2011 [The Cleveland Museum of Art]
In 2009, Welsh wanted to build on the musical traditions of the museum when the Cleveland Museum of Art once again welcomed visitors to the then newly renovated East Wing Galleries.
“We all knew we wanted to throw a party, and from there came the idea to create ‘Solstice’, which was actually exactly that. It was a really fun night full of energy, kind of a spasm of “love and music and energy and just a ton of fun. And we knew immediately that this should be, could be, an annual event,” he said.
Following the success of “Solstice” on the CMA lawn, the museum took live music to the streets with another summer program in 2013.
“We’ve added a series called ‘City Stages’ which is free for everyone, a family-friendly, world-class outdoor concert lineup of bands from around the world,” Welsh said. “And that means shutting down the roads, putting up the beer tent, setting up a giant stage and welcoming bands from all over Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean and having a fun summer night in the sun.
Despite more than a century of performing arts presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Welsh said something was missing.
“The one thing our predecessors didn’t do was commission new work at a high level,” Welsh said. “That is to say, of all the broadcasting institutions in the world, one aspect of being a major force in the performing arts is to commission and create, or cause to be created, new compositions. And the Cleveland Foundation came to us and said, “We would like to explore this idea with you. “”
Audience members listen to Cenk Ergün’s May 2019 performance of “Formare” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]
The result is the Creative Fusion: Composers Series featuring a group of international composers from Japan, Italy, Serbia, Chicago, Africa and Turkey.
“So, in a partnership, we organized a plan to invite six composers from all over the world to this museum with the idea that if we released composers, what would we get? said Welsh.
One of the first composers to complete the commission is Cenk Ergün, a Turkish composer who has lived in the United States and Europe.
“I totally jumped on it,” Ergün said. “Tell any artist you can do pretty much anything you want and we’re going to fund it and we’re going to produce it, we’re going to make it happen… So of course I totally jumped on it.
In May 2019, Ergün premiered his piece – “Formare” – with a chamber choir, a children’s choir, three harpsichords and four trombones. The performers spread out in the immense space of the atrium allowing the public to wander among them. It was unlike anything Ergün had ever written.
“Most of the work I’ve created has been for the concert stage where all the performers are in one place and the sound comes from one place,” Ergün said. “So that was actually the biggest influence on how the piece took shape was the fact that it’s in that space and the performers are several feet apart. “
The museum relaunched its performing arts season earlier this year after a hiatus due to the pandemic.
The next performance of the CMA’s Composers Series is scheduled for later this year with music by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, inspired by a Byzantine masterpiece of the Madonna and Child.