By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

The following items come the hundreds of emails that land in my inbox each week … along with material from other Blogs and stories.

The Cal Phil has struggled financially for several years, so the CalPhil Foundation has declared bankruptcy. The orchestra will now be owned and run by Pasadena Entertainment, a local, for-profit company headed by André Vener, who has been President and CEO of the Foundation for 10 years and is the son of Music Director Victor Vener.

Among the highlights of the announcement:
• Pasadena Entertainment has paid all back wages owed to the musicians and a new collective bargaining agreement has been signed. Presumably all other debts incurred by the orchestra will be handled through the CalPhil Foundation bankruptcy.
• The 2014 season has been set, with outdoor concerts continuing at Santa Anita Racetrack and the indoor season taking place at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
• According to the release “close to 20,000 people” attended the five “Festival on the Green” concerts at Santa Anita this past summer and “10,000 fans” attended the five “sold out” Disney Hall concerts.

(The complete media release is at the bottom of this post.)

Larry Blank will conduct the orchestra in this annual concert with soloists Susan Egan, Vicki Lewis and David Burnham and the JPL Chorus singing. The free program begins at 7:30 p.m. DETAILS

Carl St.Clair, music director of the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa for 25 years, will become music director of the National Symphony of Costa Rica for one year beginning in 2014. He will continue with his Pacific Symphony post. Read the Los Angeles Times story HERE.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has named the latest class of young conductors who will work with Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the orchestra during the upcoming season: David Cohen, Ben Gernon and Antonio Méndez. DETAILS

Many of us thought that the day would never come given the serious of Maestro Levine’s health issues, but by the press accounts his return as conductor of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte was triumphant.
New York Times (Anthony Tommasini)
Financial Times (Martin Bernheimer)
Los Angeles Times (James C. Taylor)
Washington Post (Anne Midgette)

• FASTNOTES: A great L.A. Phil tradition continues
I got the first edition of “FastNotes” for the upcoming season in my inbox this week and once again I highly recommend them to any classical music lover. “FastNotes” are an email glimpse at each upcoming concert with an overview of the program, notes about each of the composers, links to ticket purchasing options, and links to the programs notes and excerpts of the pieces to be played (or, as is the case this week, when a piece is a premiere, excerpts from the composer’s other works — there may be a fee for the excepts). You can sign up for this through the Phil’s E-Newsletter section HERE. Even if you’re not going to attend a concert, I find them very informative.

(From the post above, here’s the complete Cal Phil media release)


Local 47 Musicians Union Issues Statement Of Support As California Philharmonic Moves Forward With New Ownership And Operations Under Pasadena Entertainment

Pasadena – With the dynamic conclusion of California Philharmonic’s 2013 summer season comes exciting news for the world class orchestra. And, as it begins the next phase of its legacy, now owned and operated by Pasadena Entertainment, California Philharmonic is moving full steam ahead with the announcement that both of its summer homes, iconic venues Santa Anita Race Track and Walt Disney Concert Hall, are on board for 2014 and beyond.

“It’s been our pleasure to work with Pasadena Entertainment since 2009,” says Sharon Stewart, Director of Scheduling and Events for the Music Center of Los Angeles County. “We look forward to working with them in future summers, and to another successful summer classical music series.”

Pasadena Entertainment has served as the production and marketing firm for the California Philharmonic and its concert series for the past four years.

“We value the professionalism of Pasadena Entertainment as part of our marketing and production team,” said Pete Siberell, Director of Special Projects for Los Angeles Turf Club. “Teaming up with California Philharmonic has been a great opportunity to develop Santa Anita Race Track as a premier concert venue.”

And the close to 20,000 people who attended California Philharmonic’s 2013 Festival on the Green at Santa Anita Race Track couldn’t agree more. Equally enthusiastic, are the 10,000 fans who filled last season’s sold out concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall and showed their appreciation of the revered orchestra with an unprecedented five standing ovations during the final performance of the season.

The transition of California Philharmonic to Pasadena Entertainment from the non-profit CalPhil Foundation began earlier this year. CalPhil Foundation (not the California Philharmonic), will phase out through bankruptcy.

Under its new organization, all past and present professional obligations with California Philharmonic musicians have been met. A new collective bargaining agreement has been set and California Philharmonic is moving forward with the Musicians Union and its members in good standing.

“AFM, Local 47 is pleased to announce that all back wages owed to California Philharmonic musicians for services rendered have been paid,” comments John Acosta, Vice President of Local 47. “Pasadena Entertainment has stepped up to take on the proud tradition of California Philharmonic, providing summer concerts in Los Angeles County. Local 47 and its new partner Pasadena Entertainment look forward to a long and successful relationship!”

The musicians echo the excitement for the future of California Philharmonic along with the Union, the orchestra’s ever-growing loyal fan base and the venues.

“Maestro Vener and California Philharmonic create the kind of energy that John Mauceri, Arthur Fiedler and Leonard Bernstein brought to the concert stage,” says Dennis Karmazyn, California Philharmonic’s principal cellist. “California Philharmonic takes the audience on a musical journey.”

Subscriptions and tickets are available for the 2014 summer season.


(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

OVERNIGHT REVEW: Feinstein, Pasadena Pops close season in style

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

Vocalist Catherine Russell, conductor Michael Feinstein and the Pasadena Pops lit up the night in an arrangement of Gershwin tunes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. (Photo by Steve Sabel for the Pasadena Pops)

When the Pasadena Pops hired Michael Feinstein to replace Marvin Hamlisch as its Principal Conductor shortly after Hamlisch died unexpectedly on Aug. 6, 2012, the orchestra was taking quite a gamble. Although Feinstein is a prolific entertainer and musical scholar, he had never conducted an orchestra prior to the Pops’ opening night last June.

To judge by the summer’s results — notably that first concert and Saturday night’s season finale — that gamble has paid off in a jackpot-large way. According to management, attendance at the Los Angeles County Arboretum has been up more than 30 percent and season renewals for next season have increased more than 200 percent. It’s no surprise that the board wasted no time extending Feinstein’s contract through the 2016 season.

Feinstein has worked on the music of George and Ira Gershwin since pianist Oscar Levant introduced Feinstein to Ira in 1977. Since then, Feinstein has been researching, cataloguing and preserving unpublished Gershwin sheet music and rare recordings, including a six-year-sojourn in the Gershwin’s home.

Thus it’s no surprise that last night’s concert, entitled “The Gershwins and Me,” included 20 Gershwin tunes, many of which were performed in arrangements that had not been played before or at least since their premieres.

As has been the case in all Feinstein concerts, his commentary Saturday was erudite, insightful and witty, laced with fascinating factoids drawn from Feinstein’s relationship with the Gershwin family and Hollywood. What was different from the opening concert was how much more comfortable Feinstein seemed on the podium (at least judging from the audience side). His beats were concise, his cutoffs more expert, and he seemed to swing and thoroughly enjoy himself, particularly in the arrangements of four songs that Nelson Riddle made for Ella Fitzgerald.

Catherine Russell was a creamy soloist in that set, which began with Nice Work if You Can Get It and ended with The Man I Love. In the second half of the concert, Tom Wopat emphasized lyrics in a set that opened with Love is Here to Stay and concluded with I Got Plenty of Nuttin, the latter using an arrangement that Riddle wrote for Frank Sinatra.

The JPL Chorus (Donald Brinegar, conductor) offered spritely lyrics to I Got Rhythm and the orchestra delivered lush sounds throughout the evening. Among the instrumental soloists, Aimee Kreston, violin, and Bryan Pezzone, piano, were standouts.

Before the final scheduled number, Feinstein sang a winsome arrangement of They Can’t Take That Away From Me from the piano, which he termed a preview of the 2014 season when Feinstein will conduct and/or sing in four of the five Pops programs beginning June 7, 2014. Judging by the audience’s reaction, that date will be eagerly awaited.

• Last night was Feinstein’s 57th birthday; the orchestra and audience serenaded him with Happy Birthday prior to the concert.
• Among the celebrities in the audience, Feinstein introduced before the concert’s end Mark Gershwin and other members of the Gershwin family, Patricia Kelly (widow of dancer-singer-actor-director Gene), Ginny Mancini (widow of composer Henry), singer Debby Boone (also known to us old fogies as daughter of crooner Pat) and actress Betty White, who Feinstein noted is older than Rhapsody in Blue (look it up).
• The camera work was spotty most of the evening. Sometimes they got the correct soloist (albeit a note or two late); at other times they were totally off base, which can be disconcerting for those watching. Directing a concert is an art form in itself.
• The Pops will offer its annual free “Music Under the Stars” concert on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pasadena City Hall plaza. The orchestra’s resident conductor, Larry Blank, will lead the program. INFO
• The Pasadena Symphony opens its indoor season on Nov. 2 at 2 and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium when newly appointed Music Director David Lockington will lead a program that will include what CEO Paul Jan Zdunek joked last night will probably be the final performance in 2013 of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (this year marks the centennial of the piece’s Paris debut and seemingly every orchestra in Southern California — and probably the world — has programmed it this year). Fortunately, it remains fresh and provocative each time I hear it. INFO
• Brinegar and the JPL Chorus opened the evening with The Star-Spangled Banner, accompanied by snare drum.

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW: Cal Phil, Pasadena Pops perform tomorrow night

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

California Philharmonic: Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin
Saturday, August 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Anita Racetrack, Arcadia
Sunday, August 11 at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Pasadena Pops: Classical Mystery Tour
Saturday, August 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Los Angeles County Arboretum, Arcadia

There’s an interesting synergy between the two local orchestra concerts taking place tomorrow night in Arcadia: the Cal Phil at Santa Anita Racetrack and the Pasadena Pops at the L.A. County Arboretum.

The Cal Phil concert features music by George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The Pops concert (entitled “Classical Mystery Tour”) features music of The Beatles, with four mop-top singers who simulate the famous English quartet. I have no idea what “Classical Mystery Tour” means but it’s obviously a popular show with one or two bookings each month during this year and next throughout the country.

The synergy is the timing. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last musical, The Sound of Music, debuted on Broadway in 1959 and the movie version was released in 1965. The Beatles came together in 1960 in Liverpool and made their U.S. debut in 1964 when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Subsequent tours brought them to Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965.

Although the musical styles of R&H and The Beatles were dramatically different, they were hugely influential in their own eras and, as evidenced by these concerts and others this summer, remain so today.

Just so, the music and musical influence of George Gershwin remains significant today. Thus, Music Director Victor Vener’s decision to pair Gershwin with R&H makes a lot of sense both from a musicology and box office point of view.

The Cal Phil concert will open with Gershwin’s An American in Paris and will continue with Rhapsody in Blue, with well-known Southern California pianist Bryan Pezzone as soloist. Broadway soloists Kim Huber and James Barbour will join Vener and the Cal Phil for music from Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and The Sound of Music.
BTW: if both concerts intrigue you, you can catch the Pasadena Pops at the Arboretum on Saturday and Cal Phil Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall, with a preconcert lecture by Vener at 1 p.m.

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND/MUSIC: SW Chamber opens Huntington season on another “clash Saturday”

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

As if you couldn’t tell from last week’s heat wave, summer is really upon us and our burgeoning music season reflects the seasonal change.

Southwest Chamber Music begins its 20th season in the Loggia of the Huntington Library in San Marino next Saturday and Sunday. The music begins at 7:30 p.m. Preconcert, three-course dinners are available by prior reservation from the Huntington’s Tea Room or you can bring your own picnic and enjoy it on the lawn. As a bonus, sections of the library are open to ticketholders prior to the concert and at intermission.

This weekend’s programs include Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh by English composer Oliver Knussen, Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds and Mozart’s Serenade, K. 361. Other programs are July 27 and 28, August 10 and 11 and August 24 and 25. Information: 800/7236-7147;

Saturday is one of this summer’s “clash nights.” In addition to Southwest Chamber Music, both the Pasadena Pops and California Philharmonic are performing in their Arcadia locations (thus creating some traffic issues).

Michael Feinstein, the Pasadena Pops’ new principal conductor, returns to the Los Angeles County Arboretum to lead a program celebrating the musical legacy of MGM movies, including Singing in the Rain, Harvey Girls, Gigi, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz and others. Vocalists Christine Ebersole and Ron Raines will join the festivities. Information: 626/793-7172;

Meanwhile, the Cal Phil returns to Santa Anita Racetrack on Saturday for one of Music Director Victor Vener’s perennial programming favorites: “Andrew Lloyd Webber Meets Puccini.” Singers Lori Stinson, Christine Campbell and Cedric Berry and the Cal Phil Chorale will join the orchestra for music by two of the world’s best-known composers. The program repeats July 14 at 2 p.m. indoors at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information: 626/300-8200;

Although Hollywood Bowl has presented several pops concerts during the last month, the Los Angeles Philharmonic opens its 10-week classical season at the iconic Cahuenga Pass amphitheater Tuesday night. Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, returns home to lead the Phil, Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists Kiera Duffy and Sasha Cooke in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection).

On Thursday, Thomas leads the orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Dubinushka, along with Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as soloist.

Next week, Bramwell Tovey returns to the Bowl stage on July 16 to lead the Phil in a Britten-Elgar-Sibelius program. On July 18, Tovey conducts a program that concludes with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Information: 323/850-2000;


(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.


By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

Every classical music indoor season brings two or three dates when crunches pop up as seemingly every organization decides to schedule an event on that particular day. Summertime has largely escaped these conflicts but this year — specifically Sat., June 29 — will force folks in the San Gabriel Valley to make a choice among three different orchestras.

The California Philharmonic will open its second season at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia on Jan. 29 as Music Director Victor Vener leads his band in a program entitled “Beatles, Beethoven and the Beach Boys.”

On the same date — indeed, at the same time (7:30 p.m.) — a quarter-mile away at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, the Pasadena Pops will be playing its second concert of the season with Broadway star Bernadette Peters as the centerpiece. Larry Blank returns to conduct the orchestra.

Finally, on the same day and time at Caltech’s Beckman Mall in Pasadena, Rachael Worby and her ensemble, Muse-ique, will begin its three-concert summer season with a program that features vocalist Patti Austin.

Pasadena Pops management, which announced its season several weeks ago, said that June 29 was the date chosen by Peters. A spokesperson for Muse-ique said, “Clearly each organization draws different audiences,” which sounds somewhat dubious to me but, hey, what does a lowly music critic know? The Cal Phil noted that each of its five concerts during the summer repeat Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. indoors at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Last year the Pops and Cal Phil scheduled their concerts on non-competing weekends but that has changed this year. The two organizations will have programs on July 13. The Pops plays the second of three programs being led by its new principal conductor, Michael Feinstein, this summer, while Cal Phil counters with one of Vener’s favorite programming concepts, “Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Puccini.” On Aug. 10, the Cal Phil’s “Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin” evening will go up against the Pops’ own Beatles-oriented program.

Meanwhile, on July 27, Muse-ique comes up with a program of movie music featuring cellist Matt Haimovitz as soloist, which the Cal Phil offers “Dance Fever.”

One of the potential problems when the Pops and Cal Phil perform on the same night is traffic. Although those attending Cal Phil concerts enter on the northeast side of the park, which is quite a ways from the Arboretum, traffic for both concerts coming from the west exits the 210 Freeway at Baldwin Ave.

Hollywood Bowl has concerts on each of the above weekends but the crossover issue seems less likely based on the Bowl’s programming as none of the Bowl’s programs involves orchestras.


(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Michael Feinstein debuts as Pasadena Pops conductor

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

Pasadena Pops Orchestra; Michael Feinstein, conductor
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2013 • Los Angeles County Arboretum
Next performance: June 29
Michael Feinstein and Lari White perform at last night’s concert by the Pasadena Pops at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Photo from Pasadena Pops

Midway through the Pasadena Pops concert last night at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, Michael Feinstein thanked the audience for accompanying him and the orchestra on what he called an “experiment” in pops programming.

The description was spot-on. This was Feinstein’s first concert as the orchestra’s Principal Conductor and his first time conducting a full-sized orchestra. Whatever you thought of his conducting ability, there was no doubting the uniquely fascinating nature of the evening’s program, Of the 19 pieces performed, I can only remember two or three that I had ever heard on an orchestra pops program in my decades of reviewing.

Feinstein played to his numerous strengths. His commentary was, for the most part, erudite and witty and many of the works were pieces he had either exhumed in his archival wanderings or had rarely been played before. Nearly all were from the mid- to late-20th century, an era in which Feinstein has focused in what has become known as the “Great American Songbook.”

As a conductor, Feinstein seemed uncomfortable at times and in his element in others. There were occasional ragged entrances and cutoffs but, for the most part, the orchestra acquitted itself well, especially considering that for many of the players a healthy slice of the program was music they were playing for the first time. Feinstein will undoubtedly get better on the podium; most fledgling conductors cut their teeth on student or community ensembles, not on a stage before several thousand people.

In the first half of the evening vocalist Lari White delivered powerful performances of Jump for Joy and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, both arranged by Nelson Riddle, whose birthday was on June 1. She then concluded with poignant renditions of Where is it Written? and A Piece of the Sky from the movie Yentl.

Marc Cherry proved to be the evening’s comedic highlight with a rollicking performance of Mrs. Worthington by Noel Coward. Cheyenne Jackson delivered over-wrought performances of I Get Along With You Very Well and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, but was effective in channeling Sam Cooke in A Change is Gonna Come. Jackson noted that Barbara Cook once admonished him to talk less and sing more. He should have heeded her advice.

Feinstein concluded the evening by singing a touching rendition of The Way We Were from the keyboard, a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who died last August (which is how Feinstein ended up as the Pops leader). Feinstein’s opening concert offered a great deal of promise for what he will bring in the two other programs he will conduct this summer and, perhaps, into the future.

• The Pops will appear June 9 at the Ford Amphitheatre (in the Cahuenga Pass, across the 101 Freeway from Hollywood Bowl) with vocalist Mandy Patinkin. The performance is part of the inaugural “Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series” at the Ford (Yaroslavsky’s L.A. County supervisorial district encompasses both the Ford and the Bowl). Info:
• Last night’s ambience was enhanced greatly by what seemed like hundreds of young volunteers who helped people to their seats and, in particular, provided light on the footpaths leading to the parking lots following the performance.
• Concertmaster Ainme Kreston led a somewhat lugubrious rendition of The Star Spangled Banner from her first-violin chair.
• Feinstein had a lot of fun with the Arboretum’s peacocks, many of whom were in fine voice Saturday night.
• The Pops second concert of the season, on June 29, will center on Broadway star Bernadette Peters. Feinstein will return on July 13 for an evening of music from MGM movies, and will conclude the season on Sept. 7 in an evening of the music of George and Ira Gershwin. In between those two, Martin Herman will lead the orchestra in a program featuring music of the Beatles.

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on October 20, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



Each Thursday morning, I list five events that peak my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a
minimum, inexpensive tickets. This week I actually have three such events — to
make up for last week when I had none.


Here’s today’s grouping:



Today and Tomorrow
at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

In advance of the Phil’s trip to San Francisco next week,
Dudamel conducts John Adams’ Short Ride
in a Fast Machine
and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. Johannes Moser will be
the soloist in the world premiere of Magnetar,
Concerto for Electric Cello,
by Mexican composer-guitarist Enrico Chapela. “What,”
you ask, “is an electric cello?” Yamaha, creator of the instrument, provides
details in the following link.

Electric cello release.doc

Concert info:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at the Greek Theatre

Pasadena Pops; Marvin
Hamlisch, conductor. Idina Menzel, vocalist

If you still need a Pops fix, Marvin Hamlisch and the Pops
play back up for Menzel, who won a Tony Award in 2005 for her role as Elphaba
in Wicked on Broadway. The program
will reportedly include selections from pop, musical theater favorites
(including Wicked and Rent), as well as selections from her
album of original songs, I Stand.


And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …


Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Cappella Gloriana

This San Diego professional chorale opens the church’s “Friends
of Music” series of nine free concerts performing music by its founder and
director, Stephen Sturk, with organist Martin Green and the San Diego Harmony
Ringers Handbell Choir. Info:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn
Orchestra. Yehuda Gilad, conductor

Gilad will conduct Shostakovich’s Festival Overture and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. Colburn student
Estelle Choi will be the soloist in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.
There’s a wait list available for the free tickets. Info:


Sunday at 6 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

American Youth
Symphony. Alexander Treger, conductor; Rod Gilfry, baritone

Treger leads another of the region’s top-notch training
orchestras in Bernstein’s Candide Overture
and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Rod
Gilfry will be the soloist in selections from CarouselTrouble
in Tahiti
Sweeney Todd
and The Most Happy Fella. For my profile on this concert,
click HERE. The concert is free (although a $10 donation is suggested); make
reservations through the orchestra’s Web site. Info:



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.



(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Marvin Hamlisch and Pasadena Pops conclude season at the Rose Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



Pasadena Pops
Orchestra; Marvin Hamlisch, conductor

Saturday, August 27, 2011 The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose



Marvin Hamlisch and the Pasadena Pops Orchestra concluded
their 2012 season last night, Hamlisch’s first with the orchestra and the
ensemble’s second and last at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl (they move to
the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia next season). What appeared to be
the largest crowd of the season came out on a balmy evening to hear music from
the movies.


Hamlisch spent somewhat more time regaling the audience with
funny stories than he did in his last concert and the musical selections were
longer than has occurred this summer; the evening included, among other things,
multi-work pastiches from composers George and Ira Gershwin and Max Steiner.
One of the evening’s highlights was a tribute to dancer-director-actor Gene
Kelly, which featured a “tap-dancing” display by percussionist Jason Goodman who
had the shoes (and argyle socks) on his hands so that the audience could see, as
well as hear.


Vocalist Susan Egan was a sparkling soloist in pieces by
Judy Garland (ending, of course, with Over
the Rainbow)
and from the musical Cabaret
(Egan played the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway in the 1988 revival).


As has become standard for Hamlisch concerts with the
Pasadena Pops, he offered a “special unannounced guest,” in this case, Melissa
Manchester, who sang Through the Eyes of
(the theme song written by Hamlisch for the movie Ice Castles) and the title song from The Way We Were, for which Hamlisch won an Academy Award in 1973.


The second half opened with the music written by John
Williams for Star Wars, which was
supposed to be accompanied by space images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
but they never appeared.


The evening’s “official” program closed with George
Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the
most extensive piece Hamlisch has conducted so far with the Pops. Hamlisch
alternated between catching the jazz influences of this important piece and
dutifully beating time. However, the orchestra, which played splendidly
throughout the evening, shone in Gershwin’s famous 1928 piece, which was
subsequently used in the 1951 MGM musical that starred Gene Kelley and Leslie


Along the way were spiffy solo offerings by orchestra’s
principals: Trumpeter Melissa Benedict, Flutist Louise DiTullio, Clarinetist
Donald Foster, Oboist Leanne Becknell and Concertmaster Amy Hirshberger.




Before the concert, CEO Paul Jan Zdunek reported that
ticket sales for next season have already exceeded 500% of the recently completed
season. Since he didn’t provide hard numbers, it’s a little hard to judge that increase
effectively but it does appear that the move to the Arcadia facility seems to
be popular with many people.

Helicopter are a nuisance at all outdoor concerts but the
low-flying and circling aerial intruder last night wins the year’s award as the
summer’s most obnoxious distraction, so far.

The video camera work continues to be very spotty, batting
about .333 in landing on the correct soloist at any orchestral point in the
program. In an area that makes a gazillion movies, TV shows, TV commercials,
et. al, one would think that the direction and camera work could be better.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINK: Pasadena Pops adds “special guest” to Saturday’s program

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily


In each of his first two concerts as principal conductor of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, Marvin Hamlisch has slipped a “special guest” onto
the program. Apparently that’s going to happen again Saturday night as the Pops
makes its final appearance at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl before moving
to the Los Angeles County Arboretum next season.


And who might this special guest be? “Without giving it
completely away,” says CEO Paul Jan Zdunek, “as Marvin wants it to be a
surprise, here’s a hint: this singer started as the back-up artist for Bette
Midler, went on to win a Grammy for Best Female Vocalist and was the first artist
in the history of the Academy Awards to have two nominated movie themes in a
given year, making Oscar history by performing both on the telecast.”


Actually, the program, “Marvin Does Marvin” (which begins at
7:30 p.m.), which includes vocalist Susan Egan (her Broadway credits include
Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Sally
Bowles in Cabaret and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie as soloist, is
worth seeing on its own, but a little icing on the cake never hurts. The program
is scheduled to include selections from Star
Wars, Cabaret, Gigi, An American in Paris, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind,
Hamlisch’s own score for The Informant. LINK



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS AND LINKS: Pasadena Pops announces 2012 season at Los Angeles County Arboretum

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



Michael Feinstein will
perform with the Pasadena Pops on July 21, 2012 at the Los Angeles County
Arboretum in Arcadia.



When the Pasadena Pops shifts its summer season to the Los
Angeles County Arboretum next year, it will do so with a boost in soloist star
power. Marvin Hamlisch, who took over this summer as the Pops principal
conductor, will lead three of the four programs in the Arcadia facility next
summer (Hamlisch and the Pops conclude their 2011 season on Aug. 27 at The Lawn
Adjacent to the Rose Bowl with a program devoted to movie music — LINK).


The 2012 schedule:



Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein will perform together in a
concert version of Hamlisch’s They’re
Playing Our Song,
part of a program that will include a tribute to Arnaz’s
parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.



Singer and pianist Michael Feinstein, one of the forces
behind The Great American Songbook, will
join with Hamlisch and the Pops. The 54-year-old Feinstein has five Grammy nominations to
his credit along with several platinum-selling recordings.



Michael Krajewski, who opened this summer’s Pops season,
returns to lead the orchestra in a program that will feature the singing group
Poperazi, a trio whose numbers range from (to quote the media release) “Pavarotti
to Jersey Boys, Sinatra to the Rolling Stones.” Krajewski, who proved to be a
stylish, witty host and conductor last June, is principal pops conductor for
the Houston, Jacksonville and Atlanta Symphonies.



Hamlisch will return to lead the Pops in a program of music
entitled “Gershwin on the Green.” American
pianist Kevin Cole will be the evening’s soloist.


All concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Single tickets are
priced from $90-$25 (unchanged from this summer). Subscription packages will include
discounted prices and free onsite parking.

626/793-7172, ext. 16;



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.