Notes from Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's sensational tribute to Marvin Hamlisch

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 11:12 PM Written by 

HamlishSROFollowing is the set list from "One Singular Sensation: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch," a concert and lovefest in which the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra honored one of their own Tuesday at Heinz Hall. (Collaborators and arrangers/orchestrators in parentheses.)

  • "Overture to A Chorus Line" (Edward Klehan, arr. Ralph Burns), performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with pianist Kevin Cole. It was written for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show, but discarded when it didn't fit the opening. That was like Hamlisch, to do what was best for the musical, Green told the audience, but it didn't stop the composer from using it in concert. We got the long version.
  • "Nobody Does It Better" (Carole Bayer Sager, orch. Torrie Zito), performed by Klea Blackhurst. Green said Hamlisch referred to the theme from the James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me" as the Oscar nominee that didn't win. (It lost to "You Light Up My Life.")
  • "If You Remember Me" (Carole Bayer Sager, orch. Richard Hazard, ad. Larry Blank), performed by Maria Friedman, a blonde British pixie with a big voice just right for the song from "The Champ."
  • "If You Really Knew Me" (Carole Bayer Sager, arr. Ralph Burns), performed by pianist Kevin Cole, who said it was the Hamlisch's song that most reflects who the composer was. The tune from "They're Playing Our Song" is actually titled "If He Really Knew Me," but the program said "You" instead of "He." The lyrics by Sager, the composer's ex, include:

If she really knew me

If she really truly knew me

Maybe she would see the other side of me I hide of me

  • "Somewhere" (Bernstein/Sondheim), performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, sans conductor. Green introduced it by saying it was the song Hamlisch wished he had written. He called out to Terre Hamlisch in the audience and confirmed it was the song that the couple had walked down the aisle to at their wedding.
  • "Through the Eyes of Love" (Carole Bayer Sager, orch. Larry Hochman, choral arr. Robert Page), performed by the All-Star College Chorus with Robert Page conducting the song from the movie "Ice Castles."
  • "I Cannot Hear the City" and "At the Fountain" (Craig Carnelia, orch. William D. Brohn). At this point, Green decided to ignore the program (so like his mentor) and hold off the break by summoning violinist Mark Huggins, the PSO's associate concertmaster, for "I Cannot Hear the City," and vocalist Brian D'Arcy James for "At the Fountain," both from "The Sweet Smell of Success," which Mr. Green called one of the smartest scores in musical theater. James killed it, by the way. That last note on "So let my life story staaaart" ... Wow.
  • "They're Playing Our Song" selections (Carole Bayer Sager, orch. Larry Hochman, choral arr. Robert Page). Original Broadway cast member was in fine voice for "Falling" and the title song, and noted that he was playing Marvin in the show. Lucie Arnaz, lovely and fit in a one-shoulder blue mini, sand "I Still Believe in Love." Like many of the performers, she blew a kiss to the portrait of Hamlisch that overlooked the stage.
  • "Theme from 'Sophie's Choice' " (orch. Jack hayes), performed by the orchestra. The haunting composition feature solo work by cellist Anne Martindale Williams.
  • "While I Still Have the Time" (Rupert Holmes), performed by Klea Blackhurst with accompaniment by pianist Cole. The song is from the years-in-the-making musical of "The Nutty Professor," which Blackhurst has been with from the start. Hamlish died during the show's initial run in Nashville, and Blackhurst expressed hopes that it was on a fast track to Broadway. She also noted that the Hamlisch-Holmes musical was directed by Jerry Lewis. When they were all at a rehearsal, "Imagine what that room was like," she said.
  • "Nothing" from "A Chorus Line" (Edward Klehan, arr. Billie Byars, Hershy Kay, Jonathan Tunick), performed by Friedman. Check out Jane Vranish's perfect description of her rendition.
  • "A Chorus Line" medley, "At the Ballet" and "What I Did for Love" (Edward Klehan, arr. Rob Mounsey), performed by Tony-winner Idina Menzel, the "Rent" and "Wicked" stage star, with Mounsey at the piano. The emotional Menzel, who called Hamlish "a father figure," said "At the Ballet" was his favorite song.
  • "One Song" (Alan & Marilyn Bergman, orch. Torrie Zito, choral arr. Robert Page), performed by James, again in fine voice, with the All-Star College Chorus and Hamlisch discoveries Rocky Paterra and Vanessa Campagna.
  • "The Way We Were" (Alan & Marilyn Bergman), performed by Menzel with Mounsey. "Memories ..." I tell you, if you didn't shed a tear by then, well, how could you not? Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand wrote the perfect ending ...

Memories, may be beautiful and yet

what's too painful to remember

we simply choose to forget

So it's the laughter we will remember

whenever we remember

the way we were.

*      *      *


Before the set, there were several speakers who moved us to fight back tears:

PSO's Dick Simmons: Marvin always said, you bring the young people; I’ll make sure they stay. Later, Robert Page, Hamlisch’s longtime friend and associate, came out and conducted the All-Star College Chorus in "Through the Eyes of Love."

Jim Rohr: It’s not just his talent, but the relationships he built in Pittsburgh. Mr. Rohr also noted something Fred Rogers had said, that you know someone is a good friend when they can go someplace better, but they stay with you. Marvin Hamlisch could go anywhere he wanted at any time, but he spent a good portion of his last 17 years with us.

Terre Hamlisch: Marvin would say there are three reasons he loved Pittsburgh and his position as head of the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops: No. 1, it’s the finest orchestra in the world. Second, the people of Pittsburgh. And last, the food. “I think he ate his way through this town,” she said. She also left us in tears, when she handed her husband’s baton to his friend, J. Erniest Green, to conduct the concert, and when she broke into tears herself as she turned to the image of her late husband that overlooked the stage and said, "I love you, Marvin, and I always will."

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