Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Pops Olympics show clears some hurdles
By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Olympic fanfares: It's music you can expect to hear a lot of in coming days. Sunday, a fairly full Music Hall got a large dose in a program made up almost entirely of fanfares and other pieces composed for Olympic Games.

It was stirring music — but there was no spectacular moment that bowled the audience over. In the end, it was a brass-band lovers' paradise. Maestro Erich Kunzel and the Pops were joined by the Cincinnati Brass Band (Anita Cocker Hunt, director), whose well-honed power added punch (and decibels) to the program — one fanfare after another.

Like the Games, which aren't always predictable, there were some unplanned bumps. The conflict with the Super Bowl caused more than a few empty seats.

And the hand balancing act of Darek & Jarek had to cancel when Darek pulled his shoulder in Las Vegas. (The duo should be at the repeat performance Sunday, Pops management says.)

So aerialist Alexander Streltsov stepped in to perform two high-wire acts (instead of one), soaring gracefully over the stage from two fabric cords in “Bugler's Dream” and music from Superman.

In the spotlight, the Pops featured the Olympian talent of gold medalist Darrell Pace (an archer), ice dancers Kimberly Navarro and Robert Shmalo and a team of tiny Olympic wannabees from the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, home base of several Olympic gold medalists.



Ms. Navarro and Mr. Shmalo, sixth-place winners in last month's U.S. Figure Skating Championships, waltzed through a charming routine to “The Skaters' Waltz” on a plastic and Teflon “rink” (borrowed from the Rockettes' Christmas show at the Aronoff Center). Though it was barely large enough for a figure 8, they managed some impressive twirls and lifts.

Mr. Pace, who grew up in Reading, won gold medals in 1976 and 1984, and a team silver in 1988, shot an apple off the top of Mr. Kunzel's picture to the tune of the William Tell Overture.

In the second half, cute-as-a- button gymnasts ages 6 to 10, coached by Mary Lee Tracy, performed routines to the music of “Linus & Lucy” from A Charlie Brown Christmas and Theme from The Muppet Show. And a pair of singers from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, soprano Betsy Wolfe and tenor Keldon Price, were knockouts in “Amigos Para Siempre,'' an Andrew Lloyd Webber tune from Barcelona in '92.

Musical high points included Josef Suk's “Toward a New Life,” (the 1932 Games), with six trumpeters in the balcony. John Williams' “Summon the Heroes” (1996 Atlanta Games) was enhanced by a beautifully phrased solo from principal trumpeter Phil Collins. In another surprise, Mr. Kunzel played the piano solo in Themes from Chariots of Fire.



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