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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Cleveland Orchestra on Tour

October 2015

On Monday, October 12, The Cleveland Orchestra is leaving us. But not forever, rest assured! They’ll be touring Europe from Paris, France to Vienna, Austria, and returning November 1.  This isn’t the first time The Cleveland Orchestra has gone on tour; in fact, the Orchestra has been touring almost as long as it has been in existence.

Left: The Cleveland Orchestra departing on its first European tour, 1957
Right: Members of The Cleveland Orchestra playing Scrabble while travelling across the United States in a time before the Smartphone, c.a. 1950s

On January 28, 1919, The Cleveland Orchestra left its home base for the first time to perform a concert. Not to Europe, Canada, or even Michigan, but to a local vocational high school, West Technical High School, as part of a larger series of civic concerts in Cleveland. The first out-of-state concert was soon to come; in April 1919, they visited Pittsburgh as part of celebrations for the end of the First World War. Since then, the Orchestra has toured 44 states and 47 countries, and has been on some incredible trips.

Top Left: April 1919 program cover
Top right: Translation: “The Cleveland Orchestra appearance is sold out,” April 1975, San Paolo, Brazil
Bottom (Middle): Promotional postcard for The Cleveland Orchestra concert in Christchurch, New Zealand, 1973

One of these was in the spring and summer of 1965, when the Orchestra went behind the Iron Curtain and toured the USSR as part of a State Department sponsored tour. The Orchestra trekked through the mountains of the Caucasus in Georgia and Armenia, rolled across the great central plains in Kiev and Moscow, and then sailed onto the frozen banks of the Neva River in Leningrad (now St Petersburg). An interesting tidbit — as part of the tour’s political dimension, every concert performed contained music by an American composer, from Copland’s Appalachian Spring to William Grant Still’s In Memoriam.

The Cleveland Orchestra performing at the Bolshoi Hall, Leningrad on May 19, 1965

Finally, when a tour is over, there’s only one thing left to do.

Two unnamed musicians of the Orchestra taking a well-deserved rest

Bon Voyage to The Cleveland Orchestra!

—Alex Lawler
Alex Lawler is an intern this season with The Cleveland Orchestra Archives.
He is a PhD student in musicology at Case Western Reserve University.  

All photographs and audio clips courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra Archives.