Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Steven Reineke Interview


The New York Pops with Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara

Steven Reineke, music director

April 16, 2010

Carnegie Hall

57th Street and 7th Avenue

Hailing from a small town in Ohio, conductor Steven Reineke took a long and winding road to his current post as music director of the New York Pops. After attending Miami University (of Ohio) and living in Los Angeles after college—where he worked in the film-music industry—he returned to his home state, where he was Erich Kunzel's right-hand man with the Cincinnati Pops for 15 years. In a sad irony, Kunzel died the same day Reineke boarded a plane to move to Manhattan and take over the New York Pops: September 1, 2009.

Reineke—who considers it an honor to carry on Kunzel's Cincinnati work and what Skitch Henderson began in New York (“I have big shoes to fill,” he modestly admits)—will be on the podium at Carnegie Hall when he and the Pops Orchestra perform the music of Lerner and Loewe with special guests Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara, who starred in the current smash revival of South Pacific.

Reineke discussed the upcoming concert, his first season with the New York Pops, along with what's on the docket for next year.

Kevin Filipski: So how's your first season leading the New York Pops, both at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere?

Steven Reineke: It's been a thrill beyond words. I knew it was going to be great and I was very excited about it from the start. It changed my life to move to New York and work with these incredible people. The audiences have been enthusiastic and the orchestra and I are having a great time together. We do plenty of other things beside our Carnegie Hall concerts. The orchestra just played the live score for the new Discovery Channel show Life and we open Summerstage every June and have a lot of fun doing the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks. We're also playing in Philadelphia in September.

KF: How did you decide on doing songs by the great Broadway tunesmiths Lerner and Loewe for this concert?

SR: The Great American Songbook is a calling card for us, and it was a matter of getting this program together and getting the best star power: happily, Paulo and Kelly were both available and loved the idea of doing it together. I'm excited that we have both of them—Kelly made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops a couple years ago, and this concert will be Paulo's Carnegie Hall debut. With Lerner and Loewe, there's a lot of great music to choose from, and we decided to go with their biggest hits, especially the ones that were turned into feature films: we're doing all of these film adaptations except The Little Prince. This music is the best of their best—there's so much music to delve into that my thought process was to give the public all their greatest hits. Kelly and Paulo's chemistry together is really great to work with: this music is a perfect match for them.

KF: Singing with Kelly and Paulo is a singer we don't know much about, Michael Slattery.

SR: Michael's a young tenor, someone who can carry these great romantic ballads and stack up with Kelly and Paulo. He blew us all away at the auditions: he has training in opera just as Paulo and Kelly do. The music of Lerner and Loewe requires trained voices, since it's of an era when trained singers sang this great music, and Michael will be up to the task with Kelly and Paulo.

KF: Talk about the Clurman Singers, who also are on the bill.

SR: There's a lot of big choral stuff that's often covered by the ensembles, but this is a much larger chorus, which will really show off the glory of this music. Instead of the usual 15-20 voices in the show, we're have a lot more: I think it's 70 or 80. Judith Clurman (The Clurman Singers' music director) puts together amazing choruses, and she's very particular in preparing them. A lot of old Broadway shows sound great with a big chorus, which lends itself well to this music.

KF: How did you arrive at the songs for the program?

SR: They're grouped by show, from Camelot to My Fair Lady. Our singers will not just be standing around, they will be moving about the stage—they are all professionals, as you know, so they will be acting the music out as if they were doing it on Broadway. I like big visual spectacles—I don't call what we do “concerts,” I call them “shows.” We pay a lot of attention to detail—to have the opportunity and resources here to do this well is a particular joy for me. And the New York Theater Ballet will join us to do original Agnes DeMille choreography. The whole “Come to Me, Bend to Me” sequence from Brigadoon, they will be recreating the original choreography of that. We'll see them again in the finale of “I Could Have Dance All Night,” of course.

KF: Can you give us a quick sneak preview of next season?

SR: I'm really thrilled with next season, which includes a wide variety of things—I like to do a little bit of something for everybody. We're starting with a whole evening of the music of Abba in October and, in November, we're doing the 80th birthday of Stephen Sondheim, even though it was in March, it's still the same year! There will be many special guests, of course, which I don't want to get into yet—but there will be a lot of star power. Our holiday concerts and family concert at Carnegie Hall will be with Brian Stokes Mitchell, including The Grinch Who Stole Christmas with Mitchell narrating and singing “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Doc Severinsen will be back with a young band he met while in Mexico, and we end in the spring with a recreation of the Judy Garland's show in Carnegie Hall 50 years ago—that's a heavy workload, so I've enlisted three young Broadway stars, Ashley Brown, Heather Headley and Karen Olivo, to take on all that wonderful music.

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