The Valley Line: Of peacocks and the Pasadena Pops

Iridescent peacock feathers decorated each table last Saturday night at the Pasadena Pops concert, “Marvin Does Movies.” Of course this was a clever way to tell the audience that next year the Pops will be presenting its concerts at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

The Arboretum’s famed peacocks will no doubt be combining their voices to accompany the Pops orchestra, which is very exciting because it is such a beautiful setting. I know that the gorgeous feathers that we took home with us Saturday from the concert venue on the Rose Bowl lawn weren’t plucked from the fine feathered friends at the Arboretum because it just wouldn’t do to have naked peacocks on opening night.

Conductor Marvin Hamlisch brought his whole bag of wondrous musical tricks, plus some surprises, to the Pops audience Saturday. There is no way of getting around it, Hamlisch does have an endearing way with the audience. Not only does he give them fabulous music, but laughter, too. He can tell stories like nobody else and the audience just eats it up. Some people call him “Uncle Marvin.” He is just the kind of guy you want to have at the family party to liven things up.

But laughter aside, he knows his music and absolutely brings out the best in his musicians — many whom he has worked with for scores of years in Hollywood’s studios.

What a perfect title for the evening: “Marvin Does Movies.” One might go so far as to say, “Nobody Does it Better.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist — Hamlisch wrote the music for that song for the film, “The Spy who Loved Me.”

The big surprise of the evening came when one of his closest friends, singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester, stopped by to say hello and to add her own postscript to the love letter Hamlisch was writing to films.

Manchester is such a soulful singer, and she enraptured the audience with the songs, “Through the Eyes of Love” and “The Way We Were.” It was one of those “Wow!” performances, and when it was over, the audience immediately was on its feet to give her a standing ovation.

Also adding punctuation to Hamlisch’s love letter about movies was song stylist Susan Egan. She was very proud to say that she is a local girl who attended UCLA. This pronouncement brought a great cheer from the Bruins attending the concert that night.

Egan, a powerhouse of a singer, got everyone’s attention and appreciation as she sang not only the “Star Spangled Banner,” but also did a fabulous tribute to Judy Garland’s songs from the movies. Yes, of course, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” elicited heart-warming applause. Egan also sang songs from the 1972 Award-winning film “Cabaret,” with Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland’s daughter, in the starring role.

A really fun part of the evening’s concert came when Hamlisch did a musical tribute to Gene Kelly. Well, the Pops director thought you just couldn’t do a tribute to this brilliant man of dance without the sound of tap dancing. Jason Goodman, the Pops’ percussionist, helped Hamlisch out by putting a pair of argyle socks and tap shoes on his hands and tapping on a board balanced on a wooden stool. Needless to say, the audience went wild.

The evening was wonderful and Hamlisch and his orchestra were even more so. One more little note you might like to know — Hamlisch and his wife Terre were recently special guests at JPL.

Charles Elachi, director of JPL, was quite excited to show the couple around the campus and let them know he is a great supporter of the Pops. Hamlisch, in awe of the campus, shared his story of the visit with the audience.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene for the Valley Sun. She can be reached at

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