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‘Sci-Fi Spectacular’ from Pittsburgh Symphony Pops goes where few Pops have gone before |

‘Sci-Fi Spectacular’ from Pittsburgh Symphony Pops goes where few Pops have gone before

Mark Kanny
Adam Bouska
Actor George Takei
Michael Tammaro
Conductor Jack Everly

Guest conductor Jack Everly is particularly excited by the science-fiction theme of the program he’s bringing to the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops.

He’s always been upbeat about the superbly prepared Pops programs he’s been bringing to Heinz Hall since November 1998, but sci-fi and its films and their music have a special resonance with him. He considers the story of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” for example, an important metaphor for us all.

“Given the genre of sci-fi writing, its timelessness and the many variations that can be written, it’s been inspiring for mankind,” Everly says. “It’s thrilling, sometimes scary and creepy, but when it’s good it will stay with us forever.”

Everly will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in “Sci-Fi Spectacular” with host George Takei, soprano Kristen Plumley, and the Mendelssohn Choir at concerts Nov. 14 to 16 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

Concertgoers may want to brush up on their sci-fi knowledge before arriving at the hall, because the conductor will invite one member of the audience to come up onstage to participate in a trivia game and the chance to win a lightsaber.

In addition, artist and former Steelers running back Baron Batch will create a painting inspired by the sci-fi theme before and at intermission of each concert. It will be shown at the end of the concert in an online auction.

The program was created in Indianapolis, where Everly is principal pops conductor of the symphony. He holds the same post with the Baltimore Symphony, Naples Philharmonic in Florida and National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. He also is music director of the Symphonic Pops Consortium.

“It’s not an official Pops Consortium project. It’s something that has evolved over the course of time,” Everly says. “We’ve been doing versions of this concert with George and the soprano Kristen Plumley for 10 years.

“It’s something we love and have such a great time doing. And it’s gratifying that the sci-fi base shows up and the pops fan base show up and both are mightily entertained.”

The program features plenty of John Williams, of course, including “Star Wars,” “E.T.” and “Superman.” It also includes an Everly medley from television sci-fi shows, called “Lost in Syndication,” and music by John Barry and Bernard Hermann.

One constant in Everly’s program is Takei’s contributions. “They click. They’re gold,” says the conductor.

Takei, who played Sulu on the original “Star Trek” television series, talks in the first half about the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry and what the show means.

“On the second half, he turns into a narrator,” Everly says. “He delivers Klaatu’s speech from ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ exactly as Michael Rennie did in the 1951 film.

“The music used to scare me to death, and it still creeps me out now that I’ve learned what Bernard Hermann is about. It’s thrilling. Hermann uses two Theremins, one electronic organ, two pipe organs and electric violin — not your standard studio symphony orchestra. The challenge was to make it symphonically playable for audiences and the orchestra. I had the best time doing that.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or [email protected].

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