Summer Festivals: Chamber Music, Orchestral Fare Fill N.E. Ohio

By Daniel Hathaway

With the winter season winding down, the northeast Ohio region holds the promise of a summertime classical bounty. Here’s an overview:

Apollo’s Fire, June 6-11, in Hunting Valley, Chardon, Olmsted Township, & Bath

Apollo’s Fire, Cleveland’s baroque orchestra, turns into a folk ensemble for its summertime “Countryside Concerts.” This year’s series, “My Father was a Matchmaker,” features Irish storyteller Tomaséen Foley. For more information, call 216-320-0012 or 800-314-2535.

Blossom Festival, July 3 – September 1, Cuyahoga Falls

The Cleveland Orchestra
‘s summer season at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park opens July 5 and 6 with music director Franz Welser-Möst conducting. His third concert at Blossom on July 13 will mark the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth with opera selections featuring soprano Christine Brewer and bass Alan Held.

Guest conductors for the classical concerts will include Nicholas McGegan, Stéphane Denève, Bramwell Tovey, Jahja Ling, David Afkham, and Kirill Karabits. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, soprano Christine Brewer, bass Alan Held, and violinist Gil Shaham will return as soloists. Artists making their Blossom debuts will include soprano Luba Orgonášová, pianist Cédric Tiberghein, violinist Ray Chen, and pianist Martin Helmchen.

The Joffrey Ballet will return to Blossom on August 17 and18 to mark the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in a production recreating Nijinsky’s original choreography and Roerich’s original costumes. Tito Muñoz will conduct. For more information, call 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141.

Closely connected is the Kent/Blossom Music Festival at Kent State University, which offers an intense chamber music and orchestra experience coached by Cleveland Orchestra musicians, who also team up with other professionals for a faculty chamber music series with concerts on June 26 & 29 and July 3, 10, 17 & 24. Student concerts run from July 5-7 and 19-21, and the student chamber orchestra plays a side-by-side at Blossom on July 27. For more information, call 330-672-2613.

Baldwin Wallace Wagner Intensive, Berea, July 17-27

Jane Eaglen, Timothy Mussard, Eric Weimer and William Vendice will mentor seasoned vocalists during the third annual Wagner Intensive at Baldwin Wallace University. Ten days of coachings culminate in staged performances by participants. For more information, call 440-826-2900.

ChamberFest Cleveland, Cleveland, June 20-30

Cleveland’s newest chamber series, launched last year by Franklin and Diana Cohen and friends, returns for an expanded schedule of nine events in multiple venues running from June 20-30 with the theme “[It’s] About Time”; it includes the premieres of Matan Porat‘s Start-time and Stop-time, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring arranged for piano four hands and percussion. For “Movie Night,” Porat provides an improvised score to Buster Keaton’s The General.  For more information, call 216-785-9977.

Cleveland International Piano Competition, Cleveland, July 30 – August 10

CIPC, held every other year, enters a new era under incoming executive director Pierre van der Westhuizen (himself a pianist), taking on more of the air of a festival. A strong slate of 32 competitors between 18 and 30 arrive on July 30 for preliminary rounds at the Cleveland Museum of Art, culminating for the four finalists in performances with The Cleveland Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling at Severance Hall on August 9 & 10. For more information, call 216-707-5397.

Cleveland Trombone Seminar, Cleveland, June 8-16

Organized last year by Cleveland Orchestra assistant principal trombonist Shachar Israel, the seminar attracts major orchestral players as teachers and trombonists from the Great Lakes and beyond as participants for a week of activities and concerts at Cleveland State University from June 8-16. For more information, fill out this form:

Music by Nature in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Peninsula, June 8, July 7, & August 4

In the same park as the Blossom Center, the Music by Nature Series sponsored by the CVNP Conservancy presents three picnic concerts: The Russian Duo (June 9), River Bottom Brass Quartet (July 7), and The Wind Machine (saxophone ensemble from Cleveland Jazz Orchestra) with vocalist Helen Welch (August 4), all on Sundays at 6:30 at Happy Days Lodge in Peninsula, dessert reception following. For more information, call 330-657-2909.

Oberlin Summer Programs, Cleveland, May 31 – July 27

Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute celebrates its forty-second year from June 16-30 with the theme “In the Valley of the Danube” and faculty concerts centering on Biber’s Mystery Sonatas on June 21 & 28. The Cooper International Violin Competition welcomes young fiddlers from 13-18 to the campus from July 18-27 with the final round at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra under Jahja Ling. Credo Chamber Music offers faculty and student concerts in Oberlin from June 23-July 20. The last week culminates in a Severance Hall orchestral gala. For more information, call 440-775-8044 (Baroque Performance and Cooper International) or 440-774-3658 (Credo).

Ohio Light Opera, Wooster, June 15 – August 10

From June 15 to August 10, The Savoy mingles with Broadway as this professional summer company celebrates its 35th season with productions of four operettas and three musicals including Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and Gershwin’s Lady Be Good. Most of the 56 performances are 2 p.m. matineesFreedlander Theater at The College of Wooster. For more information, call 330-263-2345.

Opera Circle, Cleveland, June 14 & 16; and Opera Per Tutti, Cleveland, July 21 & August 23-24

Cleveland’s two small but busy opera companies draw on local talent for economical but musically satisfying productions. Opera Circle makes its PlayhouseSquare Center debut on June 14 and 16 with Verdi’s Rigoletto. Opera Per Tutti presents its annual al fresco concert at the Italian Cultural Gardens on July 21 and teams up with Chagrin Studio Orchestra for H.M.S. Pinafore on August 23 & 24. For more information, call 216-441-2822 (Opera Circle) and 440-285-1874 (Opera Per Tutti).

Trinity Lutheran Noontime Concerts, Cleveland, Wednesdays, all year

Most organ recital series take a break for the summer, but Florence Mustric and Robert Myers and guests hold forth every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. on the newly-restored Beckerath instrument at W. 30th and Lorain near the West Side Market. For more information, call 216-281-1700 x112.

Author Daniel Hathaway is founder and editor of