Beethoven with Your Beer
PERFORMING classical music at a dive bar that serves beer and hot dogs is an unusual concept. But Ensemble HD, a group of musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, is packing out the city’s Happy Dog bar at their monthly live shows.
The idea for the sextet—piano, flute, oboe, violin, viola and cello—to perform at the bar came from a meeting of minds. Joshua Smith, principal flautist at the orchestra and lead member of Ensemble HD, had long been interested in reaching out to people who don't go to classical-music concerts; and Sean Watterson, owner of Happy Dog, is similarly interested in mixing high- and low-brow culture. After leaving his finance job in New York following the financial meltdown in 2008, Mr Watterson moved back to Cleveland and transformed this rust-belt bar into a hub of cultural programming. In addition to Ensemble HD, the Happy Dog hosts monthly science lectures, regular talks from curators at the Cleveland Museum of Art and polka bands during happy hour. The venue attracts a diverse crowd: "It's great to look over at the bar and see people in mink coats next to twentysomethings covered in tattoos and piercings," Mr Watterson says.