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Arts and Entertainment Monday, May 14, 2018 3 years ago

Sarasota Orchestra and Artist Series excel in end-of-season concerts

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A mix of musical theater hits and movie themes dominated concert set lists last week.
by: Edward Alley Contributor

When the Sarasota Orchestra goes outdoors and the Choral Artists of Sarasota and Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota combine and begin waxing toward movies, Broadway and the patriotic, we know we’re almost at the end of another music season. 

True, the Artist Series has the Capital Brass Quintet on tap soon, and there’s the traditional July 4 concert of Choral Artists, but by then summer is in full sway.

The Sarasota Orchestra opened its fifth year of outdoor concerts at Ed Smith Stadium last Friday with a surefire Hollywood and Broadway-based concert featuring guest artists Deedee Magno Hall and Clifford Hall, both of whom have strong recent Broadway credits.

Jennifer Sheehan was one of two soloists in Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota’s “Showtime!” Courtesy photo

Principal Pops Conductor Andrew Lane set the tone for the evening with John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and relatively new suites from “Far and Away” and “La La Land.”

The guest singers, Hall and Hall, sang two sets, including solos and duets. Their solo numbers were well done, but I thought their two duets were particularly effective — and so did the audience.

Lane also gave us two major Disney pieces, the overture to “Beauty and the Beast” and “Disney Classics Overture.” The strains of the Mickey Mouse Club theme and “It’s a Small World” had barely started when the audience joined in singing the lyrics with a fervor approaching that of our national anthem.

The amplification seems to get a bit better each year, although we are still virtually bombarded with a wall of sound, with little if any subtlety. The orchestral sound was good and solid, except for the trumpets, which seemed to be having an off night. These outdoor concerts are about entertainment, not nuance, and the idea of sitting outside with hot dogs, popcorn and beverages while listening to the orchestra and watching fireworks is still a great occasion.

On Sunday afternoon, Artist Series Concerts, together with the Choral Artists of Sarasota presented “Showtime,” a “reel” salute to the music of the movies, complete with a Twentieth Century Fox film introduction and a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Quickly followed by an a capella vocal — and kazoo  — rendering of the “William Tell Overture,” sung from the balcony, the program was off to a barreling start.

Musical theater star Deedee Magno Hall performed at the outdoor pops concert, "Field of Dreams," with her husband, Cliffton Hall. Courtesy photo

Guest soloists Jennifer Sheehan, soprano, and Tad Czyzewski, tenor, were featured in a series of duets in a tribute to those Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy operettas on film, followed by tributes to Mario Lanza and Judy Garland. Included was a setting of “Over the Rainbow” for voice, chorus and ukulele, played by Baron Garriott, which was certainly different, but charming.

The big bonus of the afternoon was a long and sometimes rambling collage: “Cinemagic! Hollywood’s Best Movie Music,” by Mac Huff, with bits of narration and solos by Sheehan and Czyzewski. This was truly a potpourri and a half, ranging from favorites of the early movies, lots of “Fred and Ginger” songs, through the war years, Oscar favorites — including “Jaws,” ending with the “long song title” from “Mary Poppins” and just a dose of the “Flintstones” theme.

All in all, the performance moved smoothly, quickly moving over some of the inevitable pitfalls of an undertaking of this size. At times things seemed a bit under rehearsed, but these were few and far between. The audience loved it.

However, the season is far from over, as the Sarasota Music Festival moves into town in full force in a week or so , and the month of June is still a music month in Sarasota.

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Edward Alley is a conductor, former manager of the NY Philharmonic, associate director of the Juilliard Opera Center and director of the MBRockefeller Fund for Music. He succeeds his wife, the late June LeBell, as producer/host of SILL’s Music Mondays.

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