Initially, the concerts were given in partnership with Community Concerts of North America, one of the oldest music organizations, operating without interruption since it was founded in 1927. The company brought musical and dance attractions to hundreds of communities in the United States and Canada.
Groups such as the duo pianists Ferrante and Teicher, Glenn Miller’s Orchestra and Chinese Acrobats brought a taste of culture to Cleveland the city would not have otherwise had.
A 1961 Cleveland Daily Banner article tells about the concert drawing a near-capacity crowd in the Bradley Central High School auditorium to hear singers Richard Cross and Doris Yarick, in spite of the fact a basketball game was going on next door.
The article said Jeanne and Coleman Sawyer were there — this was when descriptions were detailed — Jeanne in a turquoise knit; along with Polly Ripley in a gold suit with a leopard collar and Fern Harshbarger, who wore a beige coat with a fox collar. Mrs. Sawyer is still very much involved with the concert association and currently serves on the board.
Mrs. Frank Manley was president in 1961 and Mrs. William F. Johnson and Mrs. Pete Davies were in charge of the membership drive. According to a Oct. 10, 1961, newspaper article, Manley addressed 92 of the association’s workers at a buffet dinner for the membership drive kickoff.
The concert leaders in the 1964 season included Mrs. Johnson, Margaret Ware, Mrs. M.A. Hall, Mrs. Hugh Mosher and Mrs. Sawyer.
Covering the Christmas concert by a musical trio, the Banner ran “Seen at the Concert ...” by Margaret Williamson. It mentions Katherine Stockard and Bess Pirkle “savoring the warmth of the auditorium after a walk from the parking lot.” At the reception, Grace Rymer presided at the table “in a black dress with white, ermine cape; and serving Dr. and Mrs. Chalmer Chastain — she wearing a white wool dress — and Margaret Ware also “choosing holiday red.”
“Ambassadors in Levis,” an Arizona boys chorus, sang to a packed house, according the Banner, in the March 5, 1966, society news. The spring concert at Bradley Central High School was a “family affair.” Music lovers such as the Frank Manleys, Virginia Kyle, the Joe Rodgers family with daughter Molly, Betty Triplett and the Ted Guglers and daughter Denise were mentioned in the article.
It was noted that the Arizona boys ranged in age from 8 to 19 — some big handsome fellows — so there was “a great rush for autographs by the teenage girls after the performance.”
A photo by Stanfield Photographers captured members of the planning committee for the 1968-69 membership drive as they met in the Annadale Park home of Mrs. William F. Johnson to organize the membership drive. Along with selling teams, captains and co-captains, the committee included Mrs. John F. Smeltzer, Mrs. Coleman Sawyer, Mrs. C. Lee Walls and Mrs. Johnson.
In 1990, a family of Chinese acrobats were featured. Frances Fillauer, the publicity chairman at the time, said the family, who was housed in a local motel, asked to cook in the motel’s coffee shop. Fillauer said they ate with chopsticks, and she remembered “how clean the kitchen was after the cooked their meal.” (From Cleveland/Bradley County Living, Winter 1992, Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce.)
The Cleveland association worked with Community Concerts until about 2005, when the group partnered with Matt Davenport Productions and the name was changed to the Cleveland-Bradley Concert Association. The quality performances continued — offering four or five concerts annually. And now, unless otherwise announced, concerts are on stage in Lee University’s Conn Center.
Through the years, Cleveland has had the privilege of seeing and hearing the best the performing arts world has to offer, such as “Nearly Neil” with Bobby Bruce, Rudolf Budginas, “Red Hot Hollywood,” “Putting on the Ritz,” “The Concert That Never Was,” with Sharon Owens as Barbra Streisand and Sabastian Anzaldo as Frank Sinatra; “The Legacy of Floyd Cramer” with his grandson Jason Coleman; “The Dallas Brass,” and “The Great American Songbook.”
This year’s series begins Sept. 27 with the “American Spirit,” marking the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11. According to Davenport Productions, the 10 singers and dancers “will take you on a powerful journey that defines the true spirit of America.” Local talent will join the performers for a portion of the show.
On Nov. 17, The American Tenors, composed of Marcus McConico, Nathan Granne and Ben Gulley, will combine their voices, humor and material for an evening to thrill and entrance the audience.
“The Water Coolers” will be on the Conn Center stage in the New Year — Jan. 12, 2012 — offering “something really different.” The show is described as high energy, laugh-out-loud evening of award-winning song-and-sketch comedy with original music and parodies of familiar songs.
The final performance of the season will be April 30, 2012, featuring “The Shangri-La Acrobats,” the perfect attraction for hundreds of universities and performing arts centers. The company has the precision and grace of an art form developed by centuries of training and discipline. Members of the concert association say this is definitely a show the whole family will enjoy.
The local association is supported by membership. — admission to the concerts is by series membership. Season membership is offered for each concert series. Funds received from the memberships are used only for artists’ fees and normal operating costs. The membership campaign each year is to ensure the concerts are fully funded before the season begins.
Individual adult series ticket is $50; Family, $110; and Student, $10. Other levels with names printed in the programs include Contributor (two tickets), $110; Donor (three tickets), $10; Patron (four tickets), $210; Sponsor (six tickets), $310; Benefactor (10 tickets), $600; Grantor (30 tickets), $1,000; and Concert Sponsor (40 tickets), $1,500. For information on series memberships, call Nancy Casson, 473-1114. Make checks payable to: Cleveland-Bradley Concert Association, P.O. Box 823, Cleveland, TN 37364-0823.
Current officers are Nancy Casson, president; Marion Cook, vice president; Marty Dabbs, secretary; and Jackie Wattenbarger, treasurer. Board members are Jeanne Sawyer, Wattenbarer, Helen Louise Stout, Dabbs, Easter Frady, Mara Grissom, Jack Hall, Doris Johnson, George Lessig, Cathy Norwood, Plyllis Altapp, Beth Borst, Marilyn Chesnutt, Florence Coke, Jim Burns and Phyllis Ruch.