The Cleveland Orchestra Blends Classical and Gospel in Hough Concert

Northeast Ohio musician Johnny Parker is assembling a community gospel choir for the Cleveland Orchestra (Photo: DCB)
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by David C. Barnett

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra have spent a good part of the summer outside of their Severance Hall home, playing in small groups throughout the Hough community.  A highlight of the "neighborhood residency", this week, features a blend of classical and gospel music.

When the Cleveland Orchestra was planning the visit to Hough, it recruited local musician Johnny Parker to organize a community choir, gathered from local churches, adding some vocal texture to a concert, Thursday night.

"We've got 93 registered singers," he says.

This group will be blended with the Orchestra's regular chorus for some familiar gospel numbers.

The Cleveland Orchestra has a worldwide reputation for extended stays in Florida, New York and Europe.  For the past four years, the ensemble has added residencies in Greater Cleveland neighborhoods, playing in non-traditional venues, from area shops to community centers.  The centerpiece of this summer's visit to Hough is the classical-meets-gospel performance at the East Professional Center.  Johnny Parker hopes concert will be the beginning of a long-term relationship.

"I love this project," he says, "because the Cleveland Orchestra isn't just focused on throwing a great concert or event.  They want to have a lasting impact on the community.  And I think that's definitely a project worth getting behind."

One of the songs scheduled for this Thursday's concert: Lift Every Voice and Sing.

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