Marvin Hamlisch and the Long Beach Symphony Pops!

AND THE UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD BAND JAZZ AMBASSADORS!!!! They played swing music and I had to sit their instead of jumping up and dancing it because no one was able to take up the 2nd ticket. Shoot.
So I show up for the event ready for a good time just because I love A Chorus Line (currently playing at the Curtis Theatre in Brea…go see it!) and The Sting. I don’t get a program, take my seat and wait for the show to start. Marvin Hamlisch comes out and tinkles the ivory with “As Time Goes By”, commenting on how memorable movie scores are. He continues with the story of how he got started in the business. He went to Juilliard (never mentioned that he was the youngest person ever to be accepted…he’s a friggin’ prodigy!) and from there played rehearsal piano for Barbara Streisand’s Funny Girl (what’s a rehearsal pianist do? Fetch Babs donuts). Then producer Sam Spiegel bought a piano so that he wouldn’t have to play records at his cocktail parties. Except he didn’t play and neither did any of his guests. So he looked for a pianist to hire, and Hamlisch jumps at the chance (“I’m not Jewish for a hobby”). This led to his first job as a film composer for a movie based on John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer. The orchestra kicks in with highlights.
Next up was selections from Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady (for God’s sake, get me to the church on time). What’s the connection to Marvin Hamlisch? According to him, when he was in 6th grade, he won a contest. He doesn’t remember how, but he remembers the prize was the soundtrack to My Fair Lady, which immediately garnered a scream from someone in the audience. “We don’t get many My Fair Lady freaks. Usually if I say Camelot (audience cheers).”
Next he talked about how inspirations for writing great songs. He says that for him it was all about great titles. If he heard a great titles for a song, the music would just jump into his head. He proved his point by creating an original composition on the spot based on some titles from the audience (Life Is Good and Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road).
Next was selections from his award-winning score for the Way We Were. I’d never heard it, so I’m just sitting there being polite because I have no context for this award-winning music.
Next was The Sting! Yay! The symphony was absolutely fantastic as they played The Entertainer and Easy Winners. But the thing that surprised me was that Marvin Hamlisch was asked to adapt Scott Joplin’s music for the movie. I thought that he just did it as a creative choice. Oh well.
For the Act 1 Finale (intermission at a concert in an arena…definitely a weird experience), they did selections from A Chorus Line! Woo hoo! “One”, “Nothing” and “What I Did For Love” is all I can remember. Very beautiful stuff.
So now it’s intermission and I’m gonna go find myself a program. I open up the program and gape at the number list. It’s (almost) all swing-danceable!

Tribute to Irving Berlin
Jumpin’ At The Woodside
Marvin at the Piano
Ellington Centennial Portrait
C Jam Blues
Lady Day
Sing, Sing, Sing (Parts 1 & 2)

But how does a symphony orchestra swing? Easy – by adding a jazz ensemble to it. They waste a good 20 minutes individually introducing each member of the band (at least it could have been 20 minutes, I think I fell asleep), but then they get down to business. Because they don’t have time to play everything anymore, they only play Jumpin’ At The Woodside, Satchmo (A Tribute), Lady Day (A Tribute), and Sing, Sing, Sing (Parts 1 & 2). It was lots of fun, but the thing I can’t understand is why the program listed only things that Marvin had next to nothing to do with. Why would they book Marvin Hamlisch and then not let him play A Chorus Line or The String? But hey, that’s management’s fault, not mine.
All in all, it was a fantastic concert.

Leave a Reply