Wednesday, July 05, 2000

Pops concert a holiday treat

Televised show timed to perfection

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Doc Severinsen heats up the stage while Erich Kunzel directs the orchestra.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        It was a historic first, and it went off without a hitch.

        The Cincinnati Pops' first-ever live PBS telecast from Riverbend Music Center Tuesday, “Fourth of July from the Heartland,” was jam-packed with flag-waving entertainment and perfectly timed down to the second.

        At 9:30 p.m., the Coast Guard stopped travel on the Ohio River, fireworks exploded next to, and on, the stage, and the Cincinnati Pops beamed live across the nation from a satellite dish parked nearby.

        Even the weather behaved, despite a few rumbles, and 9,597 revelers filled the pavilion and lawn.

        With Pops conductor Erich Kunzel on the Cincinnati podium, the show was splashy, colorful and top notch.

        Riverbend's stage was star-spangled and surround ed by television lights and nine cameras. From a gazebo in the rear of the pavilion, program host Nick Clooney smoothly introduced the acts. Because coordination was crucial, the pavilion crowd could not see actor Danny Glover, who was stationed in the gazebo for his expressive narration of “Casey at the Bat.” What the audience could see was Maysville, Ky., native Rosemary Clooney and her combo led by John Oddo.

        Ms. Clooney blew a kiss to her hometown fans and launched into “Strike Up the Band.” “It's good to be home, let me tell you,” she told the audience as she sang “The Secret of Life.” It was an introspective moment in an evening of extravaganza and spectacle, and she communicated on a personal level, even though the crowd was nearly 10,000. She sang “Our Love is Here to Stay” from the heart, with dead-on intonation.

        Trumpeter Doc Severinsen heated up the stage with a stunning tribute to Louis Armstrong, including a vocal imitation of Satchmo in Hello Dolly. He wasn't as lucky in his “Ode to Doc,” based on Beethoven's “Ode to Joy” but came back with a big, impressive finish.

        Excellent vocals were provided by Tom Wopat and Cincinnati native and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alum Alton Fitzgerald White. CCM musical theater students provided energy; the performance was enhanced by polished playing by the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus. Among the cast of literally hundreds — which included flag-bearing students from Winton Woods and Walnut Hills high schools — were 15-year-old fiddle whiz Billy Contreras and aerialist Alexander Streltsov.

        Channel 48 will repeat the broadcast at 8 p.m. today.

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