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2014-15 PNC Pops season drops Thursdays, adds more film to schedule

| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
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Trumpeter Chris Botti has performed at Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest.
Production still of Gene Kelly in 'Singin' in the Rain.'

A new focus in repertoire for the seven concerts of the 2014-15 PNC Pops season isn't the only change coming to the symphony's second-largest subscription series.

The Pops concerts will run Fridays to Sundays. Thursday concerts have been dropped, due to poor attendance. The symphony says it has contacted current Thursday subscribers, 90 percent of whom have been “reseated” to weekend performances next season.

Friday and Saturday concerts will start at 7:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than previously. Classical subscription concerts, which dropped Thursdays many years ago, also will start at 7:30 p.m. A symphony survey of its concertgoers found 80 percent wanted an earlier start tine.

Less than two years after the death of Pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch, who brought a singular authenticity, knowledge and enthusiasm to Broadway repertoire, Pops programming is turning to film music. Four of the seven Pops concerts feature film music, including a showing of the complete “Singin' in the Rain” with the symphony playing the film score.

“One of the reasons for the emphasis on programming with videos or from films is it's what our market is looking for, and to maximize our appeal to it. It is also a response to trends in the symphonic pops industry,” says Marci Solomon, the symphony's general manager.

“There's a finite amount of shows. If there's more film, there's less musical theater. But I want to point out there's a little bit of overlap,” she says. “ ‘Disney in Concert' will have songs from movies, but also from screen-and-Broadway (productions), such as ‘Lion King.'

Marketing and sales Vice President Michael Sexauer says that, looking back five years, Broadway-themed programs were never the most popular unless Hamlisch was leading them.

“We have to know what works. That's why we're experimenting,” he says. “We're finding that people respond very favorably to a multimedia experience. I don't think we'd ever go completely in that direction because the orchestra would take a backseat, but it is a very popular form of concert presentation across the country.”

The symphony has already experienced excellent attendance in performing with “The Wizard of Oz,” and a family program from Pixar films.

The experiment will continue this season on July 12 when the symphony will play Hans Zimmer's music for a one-night showing of “Gladiator.”

The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops 2014-15 season includes:

Oct. 17 to 19: “Heroes and Villains,” film music, including “Dark Knight,” “Gladiator” and “Last Samurai,” conducted by Lucas Richman

Nov. 16 to 18: “Sci-Fi Spectacular,” including music from epic space films, cult-movie scores and vintage TV themes

Dec. 12-14, 20-21: Highmark Holiday Pops, led by Broadway conductor Todd Ellison

Feb. 6-8, 2015: Popular jazz trumpeter Chris Botti

March 13-15: “Singin' in the Rain,” the iconic Gene Kelly film with live performance of the orchestral soundtrack conducted by Lawrence Loh

April 24-26: “The Texas Tenors,” who came to fame on “America's Got Talent” and whose first CD is “Country Roots — Classical Sound”

June 19 to 21: “Disney in Concert: A Tale as Old as Time,” with a quartet of singers performing songs from such films as “Frozen,” “Tangled,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”

All performances are at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Subscriptions to the seven concerts cost $122.50 to $659.75. Single tickets will go on sale around Labor Day.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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