The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was privileged to have the late Marvin Hamlisch as its principal pops conductor for 17 years, and he developed a rather extraordinary relationship with the city in that time.
Given that he was also pops conductor for the Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and Washington's National symphony orchestras -- in between writing the musical scores for 40 movies and eight Broadway hits including "A Chorus Line" -- his commitment to Pittsburgh stands out all the more. Whether he was writing a song for his friend Elsie Hillman to celebrate the Hillman Cancer Center or giving local talent a shot at the big time, Hamlisch always seemed to care.
On Tuesday a standing-room only crowd paid tribute to Mr. Hamlisch during "One Singular Sensation," a gala concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony featuring many Broadway stars who had worked with him. Also on hand was his widow, Terre Hamlisch, who spoke with quiet dignity about her husband and his feelings for Pittsburgh. "He said 'I love the people, they're warm, down to earth and friendly. I love the fact that I can go shopping hassle free.' He loved the restaurants -- I think he ate his way through this town. And he loved the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra."
PSO board chair Dick Simmons and Jim Rohr, chairman and CEO of presenting sponsor PNC Financial Services, both welcomed the crowd following a VIP cocktail reception in Heinz Hall. A private dinner was held after the concert for family members, friends and many of the entertainers who donated their talents to make the evening a success. The concert doubled as a benefit for the Marvin Hamlisch Pops Artistic Excellence Fund.
Among those flying in to perform were close friend and conductor J. Ernest Green, who was presented with Hamlisch's baton by Mrs. Hamlisch. Joining him onstage were Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel, Brian d'Arcy James, Lucie Arnaz, Robert Klein, Klea Blackhurst, Vanessa Campagna, Maria Friedman, Kevin Cole, Rob Mounsey, Rocky Paterra and PSO soloists Mark Huggins, Anne-Martindale Williams and English horn principal Harold Smoliar on piano. The All-Star College Chorus led by Robert Page was the icing on the concert.
First Published February 5, 2013 5:00 AM