LA Scene: Pasadena Pops at Descanso Gardens

The LA Phil isn't the only game in town when it comes to orchestral ensembles. There is the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra led by John Mauceri. There is the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Last Sunday, I got a chance to hear the Pasadena Pops Orchestra under the baton of their artistic director Rachael Worby. They hold their summer series at Descanso Gardens.

The event ran with the title, "MOZART, McCARTNEY AND MORE!" and was a special event funded by Rusnak Auto Group for their customers and employees.

The event theme was all kinds of music by composers starting with the letter M. Worby seemed to genuinely enjoy hamming it up for the audience and later bantering with Joely Fisher who was the headlining vocalist.

The program with the "M" theme included classical excerpts like the Clarinet Concerto by Mozart with solo by Andrew Leonard a talented clarinetist from the USC School of Music, Mendelssohn's famed Violin Concerto with teenage sensation Kenneth Hamao who brought the audience to its feet with his amazing violin work, Mussorgsky's "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Pictures at an Exhibition and Mahler's bright second movement from his Symphony No. 1.

As a pops concert, there was also more contemporary works like Moncayo's "Huapango," an orchestral arrangement of jazz great Thelonius Monk's "Blue Monk," Morricone's main title theme for "Cinema Paradiso" and a medley of Beatles music.

Half the show was the Pasadena Pops working the wide range of music just described. In the other half of the show, they provided the accompaniment to the vivacious singing of Joely Fisher who grew up here in Southern California.

Fisher sang a variety of numbers including material from Barry Manilow, Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette.

She saved the biggest applause getter for last when she started singing Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and was joined on stage with her sister who sang the second verse and then by her mom Connie Stevens who sang the third verse.

The Hollywood Bowl, of course, is a summer institution. But if you are looking for a more intimate setting consider the Pasadena Pops. They put on a really good show!

UPDATE: Here is an item from the Glendale News-Press. Excerpt: It's summer in the city and that can mean only one thing -- there's music in the air. The Pasadena Pops Orchestra is gearing up for its opening performance "Mozart, McCartney and More" this weekend at Descanso Gardens in La CaƱada-Flintridge. The special guest is multitalented stage and film star Joely Fisher. Also featured on the program are soloists, violin wizard Ken Hamao and clarinetist Andrew Leonard.
Another added bonus will be nine members from the Side-By-Side-By-Symphony program, which allows young musicians in middle and high schools to gain experience performing with a professional orchestra.

"These are especially gifted students that are probably looking for careers as orchestra musicians or soloists," Worby said.

As for the rest of the summer concert season, Worby is especially excited about the Pops' inaugural appearance at the 79th annual AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl, Fourth of July celebration, which she describes "as American as apple pie."