Symphony offers lighter fare with pops concert

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009

The last show of Juneau Symphony's 2008-2009 season will feature some of the greatest composers from 20th century Broadway and jazz.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"An American Romance" will feature songs from George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Lerner and Loewe.

"I'm always looking for works that are kind of lighter, more popular," said symphony Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett. "I really try to do things that are in the vein of like what a Boston pops concert might be. And I love American music and I especially love Gershwin."

He said he developed the June Pops Concert program by trying to find a fun piece to feature Sue Kazama, who has a piano solo in Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" variations, and then filled the rest in with Gershwin and other pieces from the same time period.

Kazama is a local who studied piano at Univeristy of Alaska Southeast, and has been very active as an accompanist in the arts community, especially with the symphony and the Juneau Lyric Opera.

"It's exciting. It's an honor to do it," Kazama said. "The last concert is always kind of a pop concert. So the music is alot fun but it's on the lighter side... I enjoy it when I get the chance to play it. It's not the type I play alot, but it's fun."

The show is a change from the symphony's heavier classic fare.

"It's definitely a pops concert. We've tended to be more serious at our pop concerts," said trumpet-player Rick Trostel. "Anybody who's going to come is going to recognize at least some of the melodies."

In addition to "I Got Rhythm," the symphony will play selections from Gershwin's folk opera "Porgy and Bess," which features the song "Summertime."

"Gershwin pieces are very uplifting, very American," Trostel said. "They are always something that leaves one sort of dancing in your heart."

They will also do selections from Kern's "Showboat," the first American musical, as well as a symphonic portrait of Berlin, one of the most prolific American composers, whose pieces include "White Christmas," "All By Myself" and "God Bless America."

There will also be selections from Lerner and Loewe's famous opera "Camelot." The piece had 873 showings on Broadway, won four Tonies and was later made into a movie.

"This would be a great concert to come to if you're not normally a symphony-goer or to bring someone to if you are a symphony-goer and you think there's someone who might be interested in hearing the orchestra but you're not sure," Pickett said. "There's nothing heavy about this program at all it's just light, fun, everything's familiar, everything's recognizable and it's just a really neat American program."

There will not be a concert conversation before the show, but brief introductions given before each piece.

The show begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday June 13 in the Juneau-Dougals High School auditorium. Tickets are available from Hearthside Books, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, the symphony office and on their Web site at Advance tickets are $20, $15 for students and senior and at-the-door tickets are two more dollars.

The 2009-2010 season will begin October 17 and 18 at Thunder Mountain High School and tickets go on sale August 1.

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