Midwest Living Review
Cleveland's 100-plus member orchestra is consistently recognized as one of the finest in the world. The orchestra, which will begin its century season in 2018, plays year-round in two locations. Since 2002, the orchestra has been under the direction of award-winning conductor Franz Wesler-Most. Programming includes traditional pieces and classical favorites, pops standards, full-scale opera and celebrity series, family and children's performances, and holiday concerts. The orchestra's Fridays@7 series offers abbreviated versions of performances (75 minutes with no intermission) with world music and cocktails afterward -- perfect for visitors looking for a light dose of culture. The orchestra has two home venues in Cleveland, each as defining to the orchestra experience as the actual music performed. Its winter residence is University Circle's Severance Hall. Built in 1931 to house the orchestra and renovated in 2000, Severance Hall is an elegant jumble of design styles -- Georgian, Art Deco, Egyptian Revival, Classicism and Modernism. Its stone exterior opens up to a glittery, shimmery interior that is acoustically perfect. The orchestra performs here most weekends (Thursday to Sunday) from September through June. Tickets are $31 to $117. Don't be fooled into thinking that seats closer to the stage are better; the best sound and views come at the middle to the back of the house. Dress for Severance Hall can be more formal, but denim isn't unusual. During summer weekends, the orchestra makes its home at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (about 45 minutes south of downtown). Blossom features an open-air amphitheater tucked in the grassy hills of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Guests can pick from acoustically correct covered seating within the pavilion or a spot on the lawn. Picnics (with wine and beer allowed) are popular. General Admission is $20; free for under 18. The Cleveland Orchestra's Holiday Festival begins in early December and lasts until the 23rd. The series features at least a dozen holiday-themed performances covering music and artists that are less traditional than the orchestra's typical symphony repertoire (a brass ensemble, an organ symphony, Randy Newman and a "Colors of Christmas" program featuring Ben Vereen all made the lineup for 2011). The most popular (and probably the best) are the nine Cleveland Orchestra Christmas Concerts. They are unapologetically Christmas concerts; there is nothing pan-religious or inclusive about them. They feature Christmas music (some older, some newer), Christmas lights (all kinds), audience sing-alongs and visit from Santa.