By George Basler
A mixture of “bonbons, greatest hits, humor and fun” is how Executive Director Paul Cienniwa describes the Binghamton Philharmonic’s upcoming “Pops at the Forum” concert Saturday (March 25) at the Broome County Forum Theatre in downtown Binghamton.
The goal is “to revisit the style of programs” conducted by the late David Agard, who headed the former BC Pops Orchestra for 20 years until it merged with the Binghamton Symphony in 1996, Cienniwa said. “We have a great tradition with the BC Pops. We thought’ Why not go back to that and honor that legacy?’” he added.
At most Philharmonic concerts, the orchestra performs new works and larger, multi-movement works that are pillars of the symphonic repertoire. “This concert will be different,” said Music Director Daniel Hege, “because we will be performing overtures, medleys from Broadway musicals, excerpts from film scores and widely known music that doesn’t always make it into our classical series.”
The 3 p.m. concert will be preceded at 2:30 p.m. by an organ recital featuring Nancy Wildoner from the Binghamton Theater Organ Society, playing the Forum’s 1922 Robert Morton IV/24 Theatre Pipe Organ.
“The goal is to provide an afternoon of orchestral delights, shorter works that are very accessible and familiar to a wide range of people,” Hege said.
The classical selections include “the greatest hits of classical music,” Cienniwa said, such as the overture from the opera The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini (known to many from a Bugs Bunny cartoon); The Blue Danube, probably the most famous waltz by Johann Strauss II; George Bizet’s Carmen Suite, which combines themes from the opera Carmen, and Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel De Falla.
“These are the kind of works people think they might not know until they actually hear the music and will say, “Oh, I know this music,” even though they might not consider themselves music aficionados,” Hege said.
Also on the program are selections from the classic Broadway shows West Side Story and The Sound of Music, music composed by Hans Zimmer for The Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the John Phillips Sousa march Hands Across the Sea.
The orchestra is also throwing in some “cheeky” fun in the form of The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson, an American composer who specialized in short, light concert pieces. To perform it, the Philharmonic has borrowed an actual manual typewriter from TechWorks, the Binghamton-based technology museum. The orchestra’s principal percussionist, Sam Lazzara, will play the typewriter accompanied by the orchestra’s string section.
In addition to working with the Philharmonic, Lazzara has played in concert halls around the country and throughout the world. He has performed with opera star Jessye Norman and pop/theater legends Carol Channing, Rita Moreno, Lucie Arnez, Suzanne Vega and The Irish Tenors, among others. He has toured with the New York City Opera, performed with the Mark Morris Dance Company and toured the Czech Republic and Poland.
Besides being fun, The Typewriter is a fitting piece for the Philharmonic to play, because upstate New York was once the center of the typewriter manufacturing industry, Cienniwa said. In fact, by the first decade of the 20th century, more than 50 percent of the machines used across the country were made in Syracuse.
The philharmonic is billing Lazzara as a “typewriterist,” a lighthearted joke about him being a soloist with the “instrument” of a typewriter, Hege said.
The “Pops at the Forum” concert promises to be a fun event, Cienniwa said. It is designed to be family friendly and an opportunity to introduce a new audience to classical music, he added. Audience members also will get to hear classic Broadway and Hollywood music played by a full orchestra.
“Think of having a meal of your favorite appetizers, where you can enjoy the wonderful tastes and smells of a wide range of food to please your palate, but you have just a few bites of each. That’s similar to what we will present at this concert,” Hege said.
IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Pops at the Forum ” concert will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday (March 25) at the Broome County Forum Theatre, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. It will be preceded by a short organ recital at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $25, $45 and $65. Students with ID pay half and children under 17 are free. Call the box office at 607-723-3931 ext. 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, or purchase tickets online at binghamtonphilharmonic.org.