The Pops Orchestra of Sarasota and Bradenton will feature a guest artist at each concert.
Every Monday night at the Neel Performing Arts Center, a group of what their director calls “community musikers” ranging from age 13 to 95 meet to play popular music.
The Pops Orchestra of Sarasota and Bradenton is an orchestral group that focuses on what Director Robyn Bell says is mostly music that “wasn’t written by dead people.” The members are not professional musicians, but their passion makes up for it.
“They’re not playing on million-dollar violins, and they haven’t had training at conservatories, but the way they make music for the love of making music is what makes this orchestra special,” she says.
The Pops will celebrate local music stars throughout its 2017-2018 season. Here is an overview of the four concerts that make up the Season of Celebrities (each includes a 3 p.m. Sunday performance at Riverview High School Performing Arts Center and a 7:30 p.m. Monday performance at Neel Performing Arts Center.)
Neil Diamond’s America
After featuring a tribute act for the first time last season, Bell decided to highlight Neil Diamond tribute artist Bobby Palermo for the season opener, which is a Veterans Day tribute show.
Doing an annual concert of patriotic songs can get repetitive, she says, but when she was conducting an outdoor concert at the State College of Florida last year that included a “Sweet Caroline” audience sing along, she was inspired to create a Neil Diamond’s “America” show.
Thinking back to the success of last year’s Bob Hope tribute show makes her confident for this new show — and gets her choked up.
A Vietnam veteran came into her office two days after last year’s show looking for his keys, and ended up crying as he told her how the concert transported him back to when he saw Bob Hope in Vietnam.
“That was it for me,” she says while fighting back tears. “Sometimes you forget how your music really affects people.”
The second show is always a holiday concert, and this year the orchestra will accompany local soprano Jenny Kim-Godfrey, known locally after starring in Choral Artists of Sarasota’s (then Gloria Musicae’s) “Barnum’s Bird” in 2016.
Kim-Godfrey selected a group of holiday songs along with a few opera arias that she will perform along with a special duet with her husband, John Godfrey, who is a jazz guitarist.
From Dallas With Love
Audrey Landers is known for her TV role as Afton Cooper in the 1980s series “Dallas,” but what few people know is she is also a skilled singer who trained at Juilliard and now lives in Sarasota.
After a few planning meetings for the Valentine’s Day-themed show, Bell says the orchestra will love her — just as they do most any guest artist.
“The most exciting rehearsal is when the guest artist comes,” she says. “I see the players sit a little taller and play a little louder.”
Hyman In The House
Dick Hyman, the Venice resident who was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995, is the artist that Bell is most excited about.
He’ll be 91 at the time of the performance, and the orchestra will accompany him on an entire jazz piano concerto that he wrote.