The Cleveland Song Project, a 16-piece musical and vocal ensemble, will celebrate American social progress in two multi-media shows featuring the music of Christina Aguilera, Paul Simon, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner and others.
“The Rhythm, Blues and Soul of Change” will be onstage at 8 p.m. Friday, May 10, at the Tri-C Western Campus Theatre in Parma and at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood. For tickets ($10 and $5), call 216-987-4444.
Conceived and directed by Chris Ludwa, Tri-C’s executive director of performing arts and music, the show aims to ignite both pleasure and thought as it blends historical video with tunes that touch on issues such as civil rights and inclusion, body image, human trafficking and bullying. The seven-piece band, composed of professional musicians from Northeast Ohio, will be joined by the 10 singers of Cleveland Song Project for both shows and special guests on Friday night, the Western Chorale.
The project started months ago, when, Ludwa noted, “Everything I heard on the news was about failed leadership which had ground to a halt and was paralyzed because leaders couldn’t find common ground. The inaction of government brought on a crisis of faith, and I wondered if anything good was happening in the world.”
Optimism stepped in.
“I knew that, historically, this country has been a leader in social change movements and improving the world we live in,” Ludwa said. “I started thinking: What if I wrote a show that featured young talent, songs that were familiar and fun, but which were born out of similar social unrest?”
From the beginning, it was conceived as a multimedia presentation, where the music was metaphorically connected to videos that raise awareness of positive social change and action.
The visual element is key to the concept, he said – “otherwise it would be just a great wedding band. The point was to perform music that everyone likes and add a [visual] spin that makes them connect with it in a deeper way. So often, the current generation looks at great folk, R&B and Motown music as entertaining when it was written at a time when the population craved a government which acted on their behalf.”
The inaugural shows will lay the groundwork for further presentations in locations that might include schools, colleges, churches and community centers, Ludwa added.
Tri-C’s Western Campus Theatre is at 11000 Pleasant Valley Road, Parma.
Mahall’s 20 Lanes is at 13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood.