Broadway, Movie and Holiday Music all part of Ark Symphony 2014-15 Acxiom Pops Live lineup

ASO_2-colorMusic of the Silver Screen, Great White Way and boughs of green highlight the 2014-2015 Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Acxiom Pops Live! Series.

Next year is the first of their two-year hiatus from Robinson Center Music Hall (as it gets transformed into a true music hall instead of a civic gathering room).  To entice audience members to go along for the journey of the new, temporary location, ASO Music Director Philip Mann has created a lineup of spectacular music performed by powerhouse talent as well as the phenomenal musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

The Acxiom Pops Live! Series will be performed at the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center.  (Think: Maumelle=Masterworks, PA=Pops)  The series will kick off on October 4 & 5 with Bill Conti’s Academy Awards.  Oscar and Emmy winner Bill Conti (who also is conductor of the Academy Awards orchestra) will lead the ASO in a celebration of songs from the movies. As a composer, Conti has won an Oscar for his score to The Right Stuff and was nominated for Rocky and For Your Eyes Only. Other movies and TV include Private Benjamin, “Dynasty,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “Falcon Crest,” The Karate Kid, “North & South,” and Broadcast News.

The ASO Holiday Extravaganza is an Arkansas tradition in December.  In 2014 it will take place on December 19, 20 & 21.  It will feature Christmas carols, sing-alongs, and some of Arkansas’ outstanding musicians and singers. There are always traditional favorites and new surprises thrown in.  This will help audiences relax after completing their shopping – or take a break from the last minute shopping frenzy. (Tickets also make a great early-Christmas present, and it falls in the middle of Hanukkah and makes a wonderful present for that too.)

Another ASO tradition is the Broadway Valentine’s concert. It will take place on February 14 and 15.  The music of Broadway and Hollywood will be the framework for an evening of song and dance by Broadway vets Joan Hess and Kirby Ward. Their singing and dancing will remind audiences (or introduce younger audiences to the mastery) of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Eleanor Powell.

The classic songs of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin have stood the test of time and are definitely timeless. The great vocalist Sylvia McNair will offer her take on these standards while accompanied by Jeffrey Biegel on piano.  This concert promises to be a feast for the eyes as well as the ears because it will also feature rare video clips, family photos and state-of-the art visuals to help share the story of the Gershwins and their music.

The Pops Live! Series for 2014-2015 will conclude with Ashley Brown’s Broadway.  Miss Brown was the original Mary Poppins when the eponymously entitled musical opened on Broadway.  For her work in the production, she received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League nominations. She made her Broadway debut as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  Backed by the ASO, she will sing Broadway favorites such as “Nothing Like a Dame,” “People,” and “Tonight” as well as Disney classics such as “Spoonful of Sugar” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”

All Acxiom Pops Live! concerts will be performed at 7:30pm on Saturday evenings and 3pm on Sunday evenings.

Two Jewish Guys Chanukah Special on KUAR

Chanukah begins at sundown tonight.  To get everyone in the spirit of it, KUAR – UALR Public Radio – is presenting the 11th annual Jewish Guys Chanukah Special tonight at 7pm on KUAR – FM 89.1.  Little Rock attorney Phil Kaplan and adman Leslie Singer recorded the broadcast before a live audience earlier in the month.

The Jewish Guys Chanukah Special celebrates cultural Judaism and features skits, music and general shtick. Musical guests included the Meshugga Klezmer Band and the Bauman Brothers.

“This year’s special guest is Susan McDougal who special prosecutor Ken Starr sent to prison for no cooperating with his investigation of President Clinton,” Leslie Singer says. “I’m going to ask her if she celebrated Chanukah with the Jewish inmates she has said took her in.”

Kaplan and Singer started identifying themselves as the Two Jewish Guys during KUAR’s semi-annual on-air fund drives several years ago. In 2001, the Two Jewish Guys and UALR Public Radio began producing an annual recorded Chanukah Special. After first featuring a live audience at the Central Arkansas Library System main campus, it outgrew that space and moved in 2007 to the Clinton Presidential Center.

“Interesting enough, at least two-thirds of our audience are not Jewish. That really inspires me that they are interested in the religious and cultural part of Judaism,” Singer noted to KUAR. “They enjoy a peek into another culture. And they like it.”

The program will also be broadcast on Christmas Day at 1pm. That is also the 5th of 8 days of Chanukah.

Holiday Music with the ASO

For many Arkansans, the Christmas season is marked by attendance at the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra December pops concert.  This year, it is entitled simply “Happy Holidays” and the music is programmed to ensure that audience members leave happy and full of the holiday spirit.

Music Director Philip Mann will take the podium and lead the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Christmas and Hanukkah music both old and new.

Among the selections are: Tyzik: “The Skater’s Overture,” Styne: “Let It Snow,” Anderson: “Sleigh Ride,” Vivaldi: “The Four Seasons: Winter” (featuring violin solo work by co-concertmaster Kiril Laskarov), Gabrieli: “Canzon Noni Toni,” Richman: “Holiday Cheer!” Biegel: Hanukkah Fantasy,” Tchaikovsky: Selections from The Nutcracker,” Bob Hupp narrating “The Night Before Christmas,” Rimsky-Korsakov: “Snow Maiden Suite: Dance of the Clowns” Tyzik: Ave Maria,” “The Wonderful World of Christmas/Silver Bells” and Finnegin: “Christmas Singalong.”

In addition to Hupp, special guests include performances by the O’Donovan School of Irish Dance, Ballet Arkansas, Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band, baritone Darren Drone, Winter Pops Chorus, and Cathedral School Choristers.  And of course, St. Nicolas himself, that jolly old elf Santa Claus will be on hand.

The concert is sponsored by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Performances began last night and continue tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 3pm.  At 2pm on Sunday, a children’s fair with arts and crafts will take place.  Also on Sunday, because of the sponsorship of Entergy Arkansas, children from Kindergarten through 12th grade are admitted for free with a paying adult.