NOTES: New York Pops Kicks off its 35th Season
Last night, The New York Pops kicked off its 35th Anniversary Season at Carnegie Hall with a special tribute concert to its founder and long-time music director and conductor, Skitch Henderson (1918-2005). Celebrating the best of popular orchestral music, from showtunes to movie themes and standards of the American Songbook, The New York Pops have become a treasured institution, and last night’s concert proves why.
With a set-list including music by Gershwin, Weill, Porter, Berlin, Bernstein, Styne, Lerner and Lowe, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, among others, the night was a greatest-hits tour through the tenure of Skitch Henderson, featuring vocalists Matt Doyle (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Sweeney Todd”, “The Book of Mormon”) and Ali Ewolt (“The Phantom of the Opera”, “The King and I”, “Les Miserables”) in their Carnegie Hall debuts.
Ms. Ewalt, who currently stars as Christine Daae in “The Phantom of the Opera” (the first Asian-American to play the role), stopped the show with a stunning and haunting performance of the “Summertime” aria from Gershwin and Heywood’s “Porgy and Bess”, delivered without a microphone, proving the outstanding acoustics of Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Doyle, with his characteristic cool charm, showed off his impressive range, effortlessly switching from legitimate ballad (“People Will Say We’re in Love” from “Oklahoma!”), to jazz tunes (“It Had to Be You”, “Night and Day”), and Broadway pop (the hilarious “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” from “The Book of Mormon”).
The concert closed with John Williams’ iconic “Raiders March”—the Indiana Jones franchise theme song—from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Under the direction of Steven Reineke since 2009, The New York Pops might not have the same high-brown pedigree as other institutions of music, but its accessibility and fine programming make it a hidden gem in the New York cultural landscape.