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Out & About in Cleveland

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Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble & Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival

On Saturday, April 4th, we attended two events that celebrated the music and culture of China and India. Our first event was a performance of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble at the south branch of the Lorain Public Library. It was no problem for us to drive a little ways because we have seen this group perform twice before, including last New Year's Eve, and always enjoy their performances because they are just the right combination of music and knowledge. The leader/spokesperson for the group is Dr. David Badagnani who always talks about the instruments that the six person group makes use of and the historical and cultural significance of the pieces that they play.

The Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble was formed in 2008 and is the only group in the Northeast Ohio area that devotes itself to the music of China. Accordingly, it plays everything from music from the 8th century to current pop music. We really enjoyed one of the last pieces that they played on this day which combined music with storytelling, humor, and audience participation titled "The Rats Marry Off Their Daughter" even though we found it to be a bit downbeat at the end when the rat inevitably gets devoured by a cat.

We congratulate Dr. Badagnani along with the other members of the ensemble who are Mr. Jay Xiao, Mr. Chee-Hang See, Ms. Yan Ping Ye, Mr. Rob Hassing, and Ms. Courtney Lambert.

We also got to meet Mr. Michael Roest, Executive and Artistic Director of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra which is headquartered in Oberlin. Mr. Roest is planning to do a world-influenced, international concert event next year and may work with Dr. Badagnani to put it on.

We hope so because the results could be spectacular.

Earlier in the week, we hung our "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" banner and dropped off some our literature at the annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival at the Waetjen Auditorium at CSU so we decided to stop by today for a little while to see how things were going. Our good friend, Mr. R. Balasubramanian, who is the principal organizer of the festival, also known as "Cleveland Balu" told us that things were going great because it was only Saturday and 2,500 people have attended the festival at various times which beats last year's attendance figure of 2,000 for the entire weekend. This was certainly verified by the fact that almost all of the literature that we left had been taken so we replenished the supply and watched a musical performance.

The Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival runs from April 1st to April 12th and  is the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India. It was first celebrated here in 1978 so 2015 is its 38th year of existence. Its program notes define it as a "musical homage to the Saint-Composer Sri. Thyagaraja whose consummate skill in composition and scholarly expressions are matched only by his devotion to Lord Rama."

This annual festival is put together by the Aradhana Committee which is a group of volunteers devoted putting on the best festival possible. Mr. Balasubramanian is the president of this organization which works in conjunction with other "Carnatic" music organizations in the United States and Canada to bring artists here to perform in this festival.

"Carnatic" music can best be described as a music system associated with Southern India. It has evolved from ancient Hindu traditions. Its emphasis is on vocal music and most of the compositions are written to be sung even when played on an instrument. The music is usually performed by a small ensemble of musicians consisting of a vocalist, a melodic instrument, a rhythm accompaniment, and a tambura (a stringed instrument).

We look forward to spending more time at this festival between now and April 12th when it wraps up. In the interim, we urge people to check out their schedule which can be found at www.aradhana.org/

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