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Visit by Takei highlights Pittsburgh Symphony Pops sci-fi performance

| Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops returned to a familiar theme in “Sci-Fi Spectacular,” a program devised by frequent guest conductor Jack Everly and which had the first of three performances at Heinz Hall on Friday night.

In recent years, every Pops season includes a sci-fi concert, or includes sci-fi music in one or more of the programs. And yet, even with the ubiquity of John Williams' music, such programs can have variety and freshness.

As Everly said about science fiction but which applies equally to concert programming: It's all in how the story is told.

“Sci-Fi Spectacular” was fresh evidence of the reasons why Everly has been the most reliable of Pops guest conductors since his debut here in 1998. It is another imaginatively conceived, superbly planned and executed program. It thrilled a substantial and enthusiastic audience on opening night.

Everly also had plenty of good stories to tell throughout the evening, often with wry humor.

The Main Title from “Star Wars” opened the evening, which had the uncommon extra pleasure of the Mendelssohn Choir performing with the orchestra. Everly made excellent use of the Mendelssohn in many pieces.

One of the most unusual elements on the program was the “Lost in Syndication” medley Everly created, using theme music from television shows.

Naming four of the tunes was the audience contest question in the second half.

The winner received a lightsaber after the concert as her prize.

The loudest applause in the first half went to actor George Takei, Sulu on the original “Star Trek” television series, who talked about working on the show and its creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Kristen Plumley sang the melisma of the theme music for the original show before Takei spoke.

The music for “The Next Generation” closed the first half.

Takei had a big role in the second half during a suite by Bernard Hermann from his score for “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

He delivered the speech by the alien Klaatu, given by Michael Rennie in the 1951 film.

Takei was into the role, delivering its wisdom with firmness.

This concert will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $24.75 to $99.75. Details: 412-392-4900 or pittsburghsymphony.org.

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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