When the Cleveland POPS Orchestra chose to honor Brendan Ring at its 2018 Tribute to Jazz and Pops benefit, the connection to music was obvious and indisputable. A native Dubliner who arrived in Cleveland as a bartender in 1992, the Irishman made Nighttown a destination for fine food, then integrated fantastic music into the menu at the Cedar Hill establishment. The casual and friendly atmosphere drew not only the locals, but also world-class jazz and pop acts. Musicians as varied as American icons Stevie Wonder and Count Basie Orchestra played from the same stage as the bracing West African rhythms of Malian musicians Habib Koite and Bamada.
The music connection was a no-brainer. But, as POPS board member Michael Occhionero pointed out, Ring’s demeanor for entertainment and hospitality served the neighborhood and businesses as well. The success of Nighttown, with its popular outdoor patio and performance roster, reenergized the Cedar Hill district, both for its residents and shops. The intimate setting is also a favorite of the Cleveland POPS Orchestra, for meetings, celebrations and, of course, performances.
The Cleveland POPS returned Ring’s legendary hospitality, with a menu offering a brie-wedge salad and fine beef or salmon filet for the 235 patrons. Then they regaled Ring and his wife Siobhan Sillott, along with a tableful of Nighttown employees, with a bit of jazz and Dixieland, a touch of Gershwin, and Paul Ferguson’s own arrangement of “Danny Boy.”
The evening’s proceeds will support the Cleveland POPS’ education and community programs, including the summer neighborhood concert series. Of particular note, said Gordon Petitt, Cleveland POPS marketing director, is the Actual Music program, developed in conjunction with Ideastream to bring music appreciation and technique to classrooms through distance learning technology. This digital transmission will allow lessons to be transmitted live to any number of classrooms and students worldwide – and probably as far as Dublin. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY TURBETT