Cleveland Orchestra Cellist Travels City Playing For Unity

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Alan Harrell has been playing his cello all over Cleveland, in front of landmarks, in parks and on public transit. The Cleveland Orchestra member performed Bach’s “Prelude to the First Cello Suite” at his various stops while being filmed by Katarina Davies. It’s all been edited into a music video. Harrell hopes viewers see more than what at first glance looks like a promotional video for the city.

“The video is a panoramic of Cleveland, but I think one thing that's a subtext is how music brings unity. There's so much division in our country right now, politically and racially. I wanted something to bring people together,” Harrell said.

The cellist said he selected this work by Bach because it helped him deliver the message he hoped to convey.

“I think of all of them, this one is the most hopeful and joyous. I wanted to play music that brought joy into people's lives and brought joy into my city. That suite in particular, because it gives a glimpse of hope,” Harrell said.

Harrell’s travels took him to Severance Hall, Great Lakes Brewery, the West Side Market, the East 55th Street pier, as well downtown areas that were damaged during the protests in late May.

Alan Harrell playing cello in downtown Cleveland.

Alan Harrell playing cello in downtown Cleveland. [Alan Harrell & Katarina Davies]

“Some of the stores are boarded up. You saw the emptiness and you saw the damage that was left behind. It was a reminder of what happened and some of the problems that we have. Hopefully people seeing this can see how we can work together for solutions,” Harrell said.

Most of the video features Harrell performing alone, but he did encounter some people during filming.

“I went to Severance [Hall] and Case [Western Reserve University] to record. There were some protestors on Euclid Avenue. I thought it was a great opportunity to meet them, talk to them and play music for them,” Harrell said.

photo of Alan Harrell playing cello on Euclid Avenue near the CWRU campus for demonstators.   [Katarina Davis/Alan Harrell]

Alan Harrell playing cello on Euclid Avenue near the CWRU campus for demonstators. [Alan Harrell & Katarina Davies]

During one of his visits downtown, Harrell encountered another group for whom he wanted to play.

photo of Alan Harrell playing cello for police officers near the "Free Stamp sculpture.  [Katarina Davis/Alan Harrell]

Alan Harrell playing cello for police officers near the Free Stamp sculpture. [Alan Harrell & Katarina Davies]

“I went downtown to record near the Free Stamp monument, and that didn't work out because the lighting was really bad. There was a group of police officers that were nearby. I went over there, introduced myself. I told them that I play in the Cleveland Orchestra. I said, ‘I’m making this video and asked if could I play this?’ It was a way to meet other people. Hopefully in the video you could see people coming together in these uncertain times,” Harrell said.

photo of Alan Harrell playing cello on the square of Cleveland's Mall B. [Katarina Davis/Alan Harrell]

Alan Harrell playing cello on the square of Cleveland's Mall B. [Alan Harrell & Katarina Davies]

Harrell said he feels music can remind us of what we mean to each other.

“Music gives us a chance to step back and say: ‘We’re all Clevelanders. We’re all human beings. How can we make our city an even better place?’” Harrell said.

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