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Carl Topilow conducts THE LEGACY OF MARVIN HAMLISCH for The Cleveland Pops

Roy Berko

Carl Topilow conducts THE LEGACY OF MARVIN HAMLISCH for The Cleveland Pops

Roy Berko

(Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association)

When those with musical know-how think Carl Topilow, they conjure–Cleveland Pops Orchestra, multi-hued clarinets, a virtuoso who is equally at home in both classical and popular music modes, Cleveland Institute of Music, guest conductor of over 110 orchestras in the US, and such countries as Canada, China, England, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland and Venezuela.   Yes, Topilow is a very talented and renowned person in the field of music.

His reputation, in part, is based on his unique approach to pops programming.  He is noted for his openness to such factors as audience involvement and approaching the selection of programs with an open mind to innovation.

His creativity will be on display when the Cleveland Pops Orchestra presents “THE LEGACY OF MARVIN HAMLISCH: ONE SINGULAR SENSATION” on February 21 at Severance Hall.  The program will feature Broadway legends Donna McKechnie, Jodi Benson and Doug LaBrecque.  The trio, along with Topilow will not only perform, but share their past experiences with the recently deceased Hamlisch.

In an interview, Topilow shared that the concert will contain a medley of the music of Scott Joplin, which Hamlisch incorporated when writing the music for the movie “THE STING.”  Included will be “The Entertainer” and “Easy Winners,” which will feature Topilow as clarinet soloist, and “Solace,” which will be a piano solo.

Hamlisch is probably best known for composing the score for the legendary musical, “A CHORUS LINE,” including “What I Did for Love,” and “At the Ballet.”   Hamlisch also wrote such memorable songs as “The Way We Were,” “Through the Eyes of Love,” “Nobody Does it Better” and “They’re Playing Our Song.”  All of these will be heard at the concert.

Hamlisch, according to Topilow, wrote many lesser known songs which will be played in the concert, including such songs as “Ordinary Miracles,” “One Song,”, “Smile,” “Disneyland,” and “Dreamers.”

The conductor was fortunate to have met Hamlisch when Topilow served as his designated driver when he was in town for an engagement.

He also shared that, in contrast to most Cleveland Pops concerts, “The majority of the commentary and audience interaction will come from our guest vocalists, rather than from me.”

When probed about how he handles all of his assignments, he indicated that the major skill is “organizing, figuring out what to do.”  “Most people think of the responsibility of the conductor to be standing in front of the orchestra and indicating what should be played and when.  Not true,” shares Topilow.  He “organizes the performances and all aspects of the programs….dancers, choruses, guest performers, video…working for balanced programs.”

To see Topilow and the Cleveland Pops in action: “MARVIN HAMLISCH:  ONE SINGULAR SENSATION,”  February 21, 2014 at 8 p.m. in Severance Hall.  For tickets, which range in price from $20 to $82, go to the Severance Hall box office, or call 216-231-1111 or online at