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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, May 10, 2015 5 years ago

Music Review: Sarasota Orchestra Pops

Sarasota Orchestra bats a thousand at Ed Smith Stadium.

It was music that wafted across the green grass of Ed Smith Stadium this past Saturday night as the Sarasota Orchestra took the field for a pops concert and batted a thousand. Actually, close to 4,000 people jammed the seats along the third base line for a spectacular concert led with polish and pizazz by Sarasota Orchestra’s principal pops conductor, Andrew Lane.

Kaitlin Folsom, a 15 year old ninth grader who won the Sarasota Orchestra’s Anthem Idol competition, got things off to a good, solid start with her clear, strong performance of the National Anthem.

The Orchestra presented medleys of well-known songs by Elvis, Satchmo and Stevie Wonder as if the classical musicians were born to the varied styles. And they switched gears,  rounding third base for home, as they slid from the opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” to “Love Me Tender,” and from Aaron Copland to Harold Arlen without a hitch.

Sgt. First Class Jason Ham’s reading of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was well-defined over the gripping music of Randol Bass’ “A New Birth of Freedom,” and he continued, announcing the various branches of the armed forces in a stirring arrangement of the traditional “Armed Forces Salute.”

But the most powerful performances didn’t come until after intermission when Sarasota’s own Syesha Mercado, the singer who was a finalist in the 2008 edition of “American Idol,” took the stage with a few family members (singing back up), to show us that pop singers can, indeed, be fabulous musicians. Bursting with personality and a significant amount of panache, the young singer offered stylistic and charming renditions of songs from “Sky Fall” to “At Last.” But some of her finest work was in her delivery of Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” which was sensuous, sexy and soulful. Working her microphone like an instrument, her formidable voice ran through a tremendous range of pitches and colors, proving she’s a stylist with an extraordinary voice.

Speaking of microphones, kudos to the sound crew who stood head and shoulders above the attempts made at last year’s concert. It’s not easy to mic an ensemble that normally plays without amplification but this year’s work was much closer to the mark, allowing us to hear the orchestra (almost) as it’s intended to be heard.

The concert ended with a smashing performance of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” complete with stand-up piccolos and brass players, and a fireworks display that almost matched the evening’s dazzling music.

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