The Cleveland Pops Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert is an event that
we look forward to every year. I had the occasion to work with vocalists Christiane Noll, Debbie Gravitte, and Doug LaBreque last December with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and knew that this dynamic trio would be a perfect fit for our concert. Christiane is presently in the show “Chaplin” on Broadway, and we were fortunate that New Year’s Eve came on a Monday night, making her available. I was anxious since she was unable to travel to Cleveland until the day of the performance, but fortunately there were no weather problems, and she arrived safe and sound, and on schedule.
The rehearsal went smoothly, and we were all anticipating a big evening. Everyone was in good voice, and the orchestra was also in fine form. We had a
wonderful dinner at the Severance Hall restaurant, and made final preparations
for the concert
I decided to wear the jacket that Joseph Scafidi made for me for last year’s
concert, a maroon coat with some sort of glitter, complete with a wild tie and
matching lining. During the concert, I got the chance to show off to the audience
the extremely colorful pattern on the inside of my Scafidi jacket.
We traditionally have started our New Year’s Eve concerts with the introduction to
Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, made popular in the movie “2001, A
Space Odyssey”. We start in the dark, and at the big climactic F major chord, the 2013 balloon pattern is illuminated.
The concert was spectacular, as our 3 vocalists sang superbly, and brought down
the house on several occasions. Debbie singing Memory, Christiane and Doug singing selections from Phantom – it doesn’t get better.
I got to play the Gershwin arrangement for clarinet and orchestra that Paul
Ferguson wrote for me – what a kick to perform as soloist with the Cleveland
Another Pops tradition has the audience accompanying the orchestra on their paper horns for Josef Strauss’ Feuerfest Polka. I also had them “playing” on 76 Trombones in our Music Man medley. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, though the noise did get a little excessive and overly boisterous.
The post concert dancing and the balloon drop were great, and the majority of our
audience stayed to usher in the New Year – I really enjoy doing the countdown! I lead the combo of Pops musicians playing in the rotunda, and the 5th Avenue Band in the Smith Lobby was well received. Highlights of our dance music included the Mexican Hat Dance, the hora, a conga line, and the polka! I snuck downstairs, and was delighted to observe people dancing and jiving to the music.
Our family spent a few days in New York, where we took in the sights as well as a
couple of Broadway shows. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is incredible, and I especially enjoyed the musical instrument displays. We stopped at
Rizzoli Book Store on 57th Street, where I bought some books and
videos, and had a nice conversation in Italian with one of the clerks, recently
arrived from Sicily. A walk down 5th Avenue is always fun. I had my
first experience with the Stardust Diner, where the waiters and waitresses are
aspiring Broadway singers. We heard some wonderful signing, especially a young tenor who was stupendous!
My daughter Emily has become a complete and total “Newsies” fan! We all loved the show, and the dancing is just incredible. “Nice Work If You Can
Get It”, starring Matthew Broderick and Kelly O’Hara, was delightful.
We then visited my family in New Jersey, and especially enjoyed visiting with my
mom, “Grandma Pearl”, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday in