Sports Classics: Allentown Symphony Pops concert got game with scores connection
From Quidditch to Queen, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra explores the relationship between sports and music at the next “Pops Concert,” 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18, led by guest conductor Carl Topilow of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra.
“Music and Sports” looks at how music captures the emotional impact of sports, from the unforgettable theme (“Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti) to “Rocky” (1976) with Rocky Balboa running up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, to the inspirational theme from Vangelis that is the backdrop for the Olympic runners in “Chariots of Fire” (1981).
Topilow, a colleague of ASO music director Diane Wittry, was asked to bring his popular “Music and Sports” program to Miller Symphony Hall for the ASO Pops Series.
“It caught her eye,” Topilow says of Wittry.
The program, which Topilow debuted in West Virginia, includes clips from the award-winning NFL film, “We are the Champions” (a nod to Queen’s 1977 song), as well as from popular films, “The Natural” (1984, a professional baseball fable starring Robert Redford with the movie’s theme by Randy Newman) “Rocky” (which Sylvester Stallone wrote about a heavyweight boxer and starred as) and “Chariots of Fire” (based on the story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics).
“I’m a sports fan,” Topilow says in a phone interview.
He tailors the program, which when presented with the Cleveland Pops focused on the Cleveland Browns NFL football team, to where he is presenting it.
“It is geared toward Allentown and has a very exciting finale specific to the Eagles’ win in the Super Bowl,” says.Topilow.
The show includes NFL clips of the Eagles in Super Bowl LII in 2018.
Also included are student vocalists who sing on Alan Menken’s and David Zippel’s “Go the Distance” from the animated feature film, “Hercules” (2014), and Marvin Hamlisch’s “Through the Eyes of Love” from “Ice Castles” (1978).
Brookel Sabella, Bangor Senior High School, sings “Through the Eyes of Love,” and Lorenzo Antigua, Emmaus High School, sings “Go the Distance.”
The William Allen High School Varsity Cheerleading Squad, coached by Chris Billy, are featured in a performance of “Tiger Rag.”
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, First Movement, is reimagined as a sportscast in “New Horizons in Music Appreciation,” complete with two local sportscasters as narrators.
“You have to be there,” Topilow says. “There’s a lot of fun stuff.”
Audience members are encouraged to wear their favorite sports team fan gear and join in a sing-along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and clap along to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
Topilow says this is the first time he is incorporating pop groups such as Queen and Journey, which recorded songs that have become sports anthems, including Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Also included are several pieces by John Williams, including “Theme from Sunday Night Football”; “Summon the Heroes,” written for the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics; “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” composed for the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics, and “The Quiddich Match” from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001).
“It’s all great music,” Topilow says. “And anything by John Williams is just terrific.”
There will be guest instrumentalists and an appearance by Steve Reinecke, as narrator of the classic baseball poem, “Casey at the Bat.”
The concert includes narration by Dennis Razze, Associate Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and head of the Theater Department at DeSales University, and Kurt Landes, President and General Manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs baseball team.
Other music includes John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” and compositions by Samuel Spence, who wrote music for NFL Films.
As a guest conductor, Topilow has appeared around the world with more than 125 orchestras, including those in Canada, China, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, and in 37 states in the United States.
This is his first time conducting in Allentown, although he has long known Wittry, and uses her 2006 book, “Beyond the Baton: What Every Conductor Needs to Know,” in classes for his students studying conducting.
Topilow, noted for his trademark red clarinet, is equally at home in classical and popular music. His approach to pops programming includes extensive audience involvement and showmanship.
Topilow founded the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, now in its 23rd season, which plays in Severance Hall, Cleveland, Oh. Cleveland Pops programs have been critically-acclaimed. The orchestra has released three CDs, “Music to Grow On,” “Live at the Pops” and a 20th anniversary CD.
Topilow served as conductor and director of the orchestral program at the Cleveland Institute of Music for 37 years and has been named Faculty Emeritus.
As a clarinetist, Topilow performs with his brother Arthur, a pianist. The duo has released three CDs, “Come in from the Cold,” “A View from the Top” and “Music of America.”
Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715