The Sarasota Orchestra ended its 2015-2016 season this weekend with a smashing, fun, blow-out-of-a-concert under perfect skies at Ed Smith Stadium with a program meant to please everyone at some time during the evening. They called it “Triple Play” in honor of the three very different vocalists who were accompanied by this extremely versatile orchestra.
For the ensemble, itself, there was music by John Williams, John Philip Sousa, and Jule Styne. Andrew Lane conducted, em-ceed and joked with the sold-out crowd of some 4,000 and, for almost two hours, Sarasota had its own miniature Hollywood Bowl, Central Park and Tanglewood.
There were a few glitches here and there but nobody cared. No programs were handed out and the titles that were supposed to be shown to the audience went missing. The concession stands and cafe were poorly stocked, so most of us thrived on hot dogs, pop corn and Crackerjack, washed down by beer, soda and splits of wine. And the miking was, again, more suited to a rock concert than classical or pops. But, as we said, it didn’t matter.
Lane’s pops programming had something to please everyone at one time or another and please us he did.
The three vocalists took their turns at the microphones starting with jazz singer Carol McCartney offering renditions of Jobim’s “A Felicidade,” (in rather fractured Portuguese), a charming arrangement by Nelson Riddle of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” and a great, upbeat version of Lerner and Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love,” which were graceful and pleasing.
Next up to the plate was home town hero, Maria Wirries. Now almost 19 years old, Wirries made her debut with the Sarasota Orchestra when she was only 13. She was good then and she’s spectacular now. Having just finished her second year at Penn State where she’s part of the prestigious Music Theater program, her voice has grown in depth and projection. Her performances of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Children Will Listen” and “Memory,” were worthy of a Broadway ace with twice her experience. We’ve been watching Wirries as she’s developed and what we heard at this concert cements our impression that she’s got what it takes to make a major career. Even with the miking problems, she managed to impart nuance and beauty of voice that remind us of a young Audra McDonald.
We can’t really comment on Amy Whitcomb, the third vocalist, because she’s basically a rock singer and, well, I just don’t get that stuff. But she seemed to be making a whole bunch of people happy so I guess she succeeded where my ears and understanding failed. (Hey - I’m a classical critic and I don’t know from rock.)
The evening came to a glorious finale with a trio of greats: Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” featuring all three singers; the orchestra in a rousing and excellent performance of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever;” and fireworks in the outfield that knocked our socks off.