On September 20th, All Without Words Live came to the stage at Cincinnati Music Hall to a sold-out audience, and I want to take you along for what it was like for me to attend this amazing event. There were so many amazing people who made this event possible, and every single one of them deserves a round of applause for all their hard work. So, what was it like, really at All Without Words Live? Let’s get into it.
Photo credit: JP Leong
It’s all because of composer Justin Morell that this event exists at all. His concerto, inspired by the spontaneous vocalizations of his nonverbal autistic son, Loren evolved into the amazing production that took place at Cincinnati Music Hall. This event was a special one because the entire audience's experience was captured to be used later in a feature-length video program (that is yet to be released).
There was a lively energy in Cincinnati Music Hall on September 20th. As people were scanned in, I noticed many groups staring in awe at the beautiful architecture of the venue. Built in 1878, there’s a lot to admire that the venue has preserved since its creation. There’s an unmistakable draw you feel when you see the front of Music Hall. It makes you want to go inside and explore. And I definitely did some exploring while I helped prep for this event. There are rumors that it’s haunted, but I sadly experienced nothing eerie to determine whether the rumors were true. I experienced more awe than anything else.
Photo taken by Matthew Zory
It was very interesting to see the different people who came out to the performance. There were a lot more children in attendance than we expected, which is not something the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra typically experience, but they were a welcome addition to the crowd. People of all ages came to experience this story. Some people I spoke to had heard about the event on the news and decided to check it out, others had connections to autism in some way, some knew someone performing, and there was also a group who were just lovers of the symphony.
While there was a select group of people in attendance who have always attend concerts that feature the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, about 50% of attendees were first-timers to a Music Hall concert. This was such a cool event to attend because of that--knowing so many people were being exposed to this sort of concert for the first time. Personally, I don’t attend very many orchestral concerts. I believe the last one I went to was back in high school. So many people were like me – drawn to the event because of the story behind the music. And I think that’s so beautiful.
When it came to the performance itself, it was fascinating to observe how the audience reacted to all the details that went into this show. From the dazzling choreography to the electrifying improvisation which added an extra layer to the already impressive existing album recorded by Justin Morell and John Daversa, All Without Words Live was an unforgettable event. Below are a couple of snapshots of what the performance looked like.
Credit: Mark Lyons
Credit: Mark Lyons
Credit: Mark Lyons
Credit: Mark Lyons
While I helped get this event together, I didn’t get a chance to watch many of the rehearsals which helped me experience All Without Words Live like any other attendee. What was it like for me? Well, it was very dazzling. You were never bored watching the performance because there was always something new for you to look at. You could spend one variation just watching the orchestra, but then you’d miss the beautiful choreography from the dancers, or you’d miss John Daversa moving to different parts of the stage. I found my eyes jumping from one section to the next, taking it all in. I think the dancers were a great addition because it added something extra for people who aren’t used to sitting still and just watching an orchestra. This show kept the brain stimulated in a lot of ways, and that made it very much unlike any other type of orchestral show I’d ever seen.
One of my favorite parts of the event was getting a chance to see Justin Morell’s family react to everything. They came all the way to Cincinnati from Los Angeles, and they were so impressed by all the work that was put into the event to bring Justin’s concerto to the stage in a big way. Justin’s wife Jennifer is a beautiful soul whom I had the pleasure of talking to a few times, and her excitement about the performance was contagious. I heard her say that she did not watch any of the rehearsals because she wanted to be surprised, and I know she was very surprised by the official performance. It was an emotional concert for the family, and I’m sure for Justin too. I loved that he was called up on stage at the end to get his own standing ovation. It was so very deserved! I love how John Daversa is Justin’s ultimate hype man in the photo below. What a stand-up guy!
Justin Morell receives a standing ovation for his incredible composition | Credit: Mark Lyons
Justin Morell said in the interview I conducted with him a few weeks back (you can check out that interview here) that every composer dreams of getting a chance to see their work played by an orchestra onstage, so getting to have that opportunity was something so special for him. He also said in his interview, “The idea that I get to show up to this concert and basically sit in the audience while all this stuff is going on and watch so many individuals bring their own life experience to something that is entirely out of my hands. It's not mine anymore. It started here, but it belongs to the world now. And so just to be in that in that kind of energy is...it's all you can ever want, really, as a musician and a composer” (Source). I really love this quote from him because I was able to see the truth of that statement from those who attended the event and shared their reactions with us.
On top of filming the performance, we also had a team of students from Northern Kentucky University capture audience reactions before and after the show. If you were in attendance, you may have been approached to share your thoughts. Thank you to everyone who was open to doing so. It was so heart-warming to learn how people heard about All Without Words Live. Some people who attended work within the autism community, and some have helped raise a child on the spectrum, and many were there to simply learn. It’s those people that I think of when I read Justin’s quote above, about it being out of his hands and out there for others now. Anyone who listens to the music will bring their own life experience to the concerto, making it into something personal to themselves, and I think that’s so incredible.
Credit: Mark Lyons
Attendees viewing the paintings at the All Without Words Live event | Credit: Mark Lyons
On top of the All Without Words Live performance, there was also an artist exhibition room featuring paintings from four artists on the autism spectrum who were commissioned to create paintings inspired by each variation of All Without Words. The featured artists were Brandon Drucker, Margie-Lee Rodriguez, Dane Capo, and Elina Silva. It was awesome getting a chance to view the paintings and see how each person had their own unique art style. I saw artists Dane Capo and Margie-Lee Rodriguez spending some time in the VIP area, and I was so happy to see they got to come in and experience the album in a live setting. I know Savage Content and The Boundless Arts Foundation are so grateful for these incredible artists sharing their talent for this event.
You can check out a few of the paintings featured below.
Photo by JP Leong. Painting by Dane Capo
Photo by JP Leong. Painting by Margie-Lee Rodriguez
Photo by JP Leong. Painting by Brandon Drucker
Photo by JP Leong. Painting by Elina Silva
After the Show
The energy during the post-event was very exciting to see because you could tell the show really resonated with people. I got to hear some of what was being said about the performance from people I passed by, and it seems that the blend of everything is what made a lot of people love the show. From the people close to me who also attended, it seems that the dancers were the standout of the performance for them. They were entranced, and honestly, so was I. You’d get a different answer from everyone about their favorite part of the performance was. Overall, attending All Without Words Live was an immersive and fascinating experience. I loved getting a chance to see everything for the first time with so many others.
The Upcoming Documentary
Before I go, I want to look forward for a moment
Credit: Mark Lyons
While the All Without Words Live event has concluded, the All Without Words story is not going to be forgotten anytime soon. This is not only because of its emotional connections but also because there’s more in the works with The Morell Family story. You may be wondering, the event is over, what could possibly be next? Well, for one thing, there will be a release of the performance in a live album. There will be details to come on that, but you can look forward to that in 2024.
Since the Cincinnati performance was filmed, material from this performance will be going into an upcoming documentary. Boundless Arts Foundation provided resources to capture the making and recording of the completed All Without Words album into a documentary format. This process will be combined with the live performance on top of the can’t-miss behind-the-scenes moments. If you were at the event, you just might see yourself in the to-come documentary, so you can look forward to that. There will be more information coming about where and how to view this documentary, so stay tuned. I already spotted myself in some photos, so check our social media to see if you can spot yourself too!
That covers some of my favorite moments from the All Without Words Live event. There were some incredible moments within the performance, but I don’t want to give those touching moments away just yet. You’ll be able to experience them in video format soon. The next chapter of the amazing Morell story is on its way. This live event chapter has come to a close, but we can look forward to what’s left to come for this story in the future.
Written by Kristen Petronio