By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
(Updated to include quotes from Victor Vener and Rachael Worby)
Marvin Hamlisch, Academy Award-winning film score and Broadway composer and principal conductor of the Pasadena Pops Orchestra, died yesterday at the age of 68.
Hamlisch was one of just 12 people to have won for his music Oscars (three of them, in fact), Emmys (four), Grammys (four) and a Tony Award. He also is one of two composers to have swept those four categories plus earned a Pulitzer Prize (the other is Richard Rodgers).
In recent years, Hamlisch became equally renowned for his work as a pops orchestra conductor. He began this new phase of his life 18 years ago as principal pops conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Last summer he took over as principal conductor of the Pasadena Pops and served in a similar capacity with the Milwaukee, Dallas, Seattle and San Diego Symphonies. A link to a story I wrote prior to his first Pasadena Pops concert last year is HERE.
Melinda Shea, president of the Pasadena Symphony (parent of both the Pasadena Pops and Pasadena Symphony) released the following statement this morning:
“The Pasadena Symphony and Pops are both shocked and devastated to learn about Marvin Hamlisch’s sudden passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Terre, his family, and his friends and colleagues.
“During his time in Pasadena, he was beloved in our community and made an enormous impact with everyone he encountered. He brought a tireless humor and enthusiasm to the stage, and was loved by our audience, musicians, and staff. Marvin propelled the Pasadena Pops into a new and successful era, guided by his contributions to the Great American Songbook, carrying on the legacies of Richard Rogers and George Gershwin. His was a giant in American music and a true national treasure.
“Marvin was here when we needed him with his vision and artistic guidance. He was a great friend and his music leaves an unforgettable legacy to the world. Marvin was a remarkable person and an incredible talent who will be dearly missed.”
Victor Vener, music director of the California Philharmonic Orchestra, said this morning: “I, along with millions of people around the world, am shocked and saddened by the news of the untimely passing yesterday of the highly-respected and decorated Marvin Hamlisch. It is tragic and we at Cal Phil are grieving the loss of the remarkable and talented composer who left an indelible mark in the industry ... but more than that, in the lives of everyone, everywhere, who experienced the power and brilliance of his music and lyrics over the decades. Marvin undeniably leaves a legacy that will forever live through his music and in our hearts.”
Rachael Worby, who preceded Hamlisch as the Pops principal conductor and now leads her ensemble Muse-ique, said from Quebec where she is preparing to conduct a concert, “I’m absolutely devastated. Marvin was a bright light, a true genius. He was also an amazing human being with all the best instincts. I bet that when ‘Curiosity,’ JPL's rover, finally discovers life on Mars, it will discover a little bit of Marvin Hamlisch, for whom all music was certainly of the entire universe. He was, indeed, one singular sensation.”
Hamlisch’s Broadway credits included the music for A Chorus Line, which received the Pulitzer Prize, as well as They’re Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. Earlier this summer, what turned out to be Hamlisch’s final concert with the Pasadena Pops included selections from They’re Playing Our Song, starring Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, reprising the roles they inaugurated in 1978 when the musical opened at the Ahmanson Theatre and then moved on to Broadway, where it ran for 1,082 performances.
Hamlisch’s latest musical, The Nutty Professor, based on the movie that starred Jerry Lewis, had recently opened in Nashville.
Hamlisch was the composer of more than 40 motion picture scores including his Oscar-winning score and song for The Way We Were and his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for The Sting, for which he received a third Oscar. His prolific output of scores for films include original compositions and/or musical adaptations for Sophie’s Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer, Three Men and a Baby, Ice Castles, Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Save the Tiger, and his latest effort The Informant!, starring Matt Damon and directed by Steven Soderbergh.
A story from the New York Times is HERE.
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.