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Jean Oelrich
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Leading Gershwin pianist/interpreter Kevin Cole joins Pacific Symphony pops for an unforgettable evening of multimedia and music -"the Gershwins: Here to Stay"

February 28, 2013

Strike up the (big) band for a one-of-a-kind concert experience as Pacific Symphony Pops celebrates the greatest team of collaborators in American music history: George and Ira Gershwin. “The Gershwins: Here to Stay” is a unique multimedia event that illuminates the lives and music of the composer and his lyricist brother with home movies, original photos and rare audio and video footage. This all-Gershwin concert features some of the duo’s best contributions to the Great American songbook and orchestral repertoire including “Summertime,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “The Man I Love,” “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” “Strike Up the Band” and many more. Led by guest conductor Albert-George Schram, the concert stars “the best Gershwin pianist in America today” (Chicago Tribune), Kevin Cole, plus Grammy Award-winning soprano Sylvia McNair and tap dancer/vocalist Danny Gardner, who portrays the Gershwins’ friend Fred Astaire.

Having enjoyed a long-time friendship with Ira, Cole shares personal stories of the Gershwin brothers to help new and old audiences further connect to their cherished music—performed by the full Symphony orchestra. This Gershwin extravaganza takes place Thursday through Saturday, March 14-16, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $25-$160; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

“A piano genius... [Kevin Cole] reveals an understanding of harmony, rhythmic complexity and pure show-biz virtuosity that would have had Vladimir Horowitz smiling with envy.”—The Chicago Sun-Times

The irresistable appeal of George and Ira Gershwin’s music has transcended generations through the voices of the great American crooners such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Gene Kelly and many more. In 1914, George left high school to become a “plugger” on Tin Pan Alley, where he composed his first mega-hit, “Swanee.” Later, he collaborated with Ira to write more than 20 scores for Broadway and Hollywood. After George’s death in 1937, at only 39, Ira maintained archives of their music, and both brothers received the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 1985. Ira Gershwin was the first lyricist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Today, their music is brought to life by scholar-interpreters like Cole and the generosity of the George Gershwin Family and the Ira and Leonore Gershwin trusts.

Equally adept at conducting classical and pops programs, guest conductor Schram is currently resident conductor of the Nashville Symphony and resident staff conductor of the Columbus (Ohio) and Charlotte symphonies. He has also served as music director of the Lubbock (Texas) Symphony and the Lynn (Fla.) Philharmonic and has held titled positions with the Louisville and Florida Philharmonic orchestras. As a pops conductor, Schram has worked with James Taylor, Art Garfunkel, Chris Botti, LeAnn Rimes, Boyz II Men, Kenny G, Olivia Newton-John, Chicago, Aretha Franklin and many others. He also has put together a variety of theme programs, including a Big Band show, a Ray Charles tribute, “Home for the Holidays” (a Christmas program) and a romantic evening called “That’s Amore.”

“America’s Pianist” Cole is an award-winning musical director, arranger, composer, vocalist and archivist who delights audiences with repertoire that includes the best of 20th-century American music. He has garnered the praises of Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, Hugh Martin, Burton Lane, Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch and members of the Jerome Kern and Gershwin families, and has also worked with songwriting legend Hugh Martin. Engagements for Cole include sold-out performances with major orchestras across the United States and London including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, plus engagements in Asia, New Zealand and Canada. Cole was a featured soloist for the PBS special, “Gershwin at One Symphony Place” with the Nashville Symphony.

Soprano McNair is a two-time Grammy Award winner and regional Emmy winner and lays claim to a stellar, 25-year career in the musical realms of opera, oratorio, cabaret and musical theater. Her journey has taken her from the Metropolitan Opera to the Salzburg Festival, from the New York Philharmonic to the Rainbow Room, and from the Ravinia Festival to The Plaza. As a regular guest soloist with nearly all of the major American and European orchestras and opera houses, McNair has collaborated with today’s most prominent conductors including Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin, André Previn, Neville Marriner and the late Robert Shaw. She also produced over 70 recordings ranging from Mozart arias to music by Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen. She was thrilled to accept the invitation to sing the Bach B-minor Mass with the Vienna Philharmonic for Pope John Paul II at The Vatican, to sing for Hillary Clinton and to perform at The U.S. Supreme Court by special invitation from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Danny Gardner started tap dancing when he was 7 years old at Maria Shaw School of Dance in his home town of Reading, Pa. He graduated from Ithaca College with a bachelor of arts in Musical Theater and has toured the country and abroad performing for the last seven years. He was on tour with “42nd Street” and is a member of various New York-based theater companies including the physical comedy theater troupe “Parallel Exit” and Noah Racey’s “New York Song & Dance Company.” Some of his regional credits include “Show Boat,” “Singin' in the Rain” and “Half a Sixpence” at the Tony Award-winning Goodspeed Opera House; “Promises, Promises” and “Fingers & Toes” at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse; “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Sacramento Music Circus; and “White Christmas” and “Annie” at Theater Under the Stars.

Thursday evening of “The Gershwins: Here to Stay” is sponsored by Symphony 100, Friday by Dan Smith and Saturday by Jean Moriarty and the Moriarty Family. Pacific Symphony’s Pops series receives additional support from The Westin South Coast Plaza, American Airlines, K-Earth 101 and PBS SoCal.