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Marvin Hamlisch, making his way in Pasadena

August 5, 2011 |  6:00 am

Marvin Hamlisch

When Marvin met Rachael: Marvin Hamlisch, now in his first season as principal conductor of the Pasadena Pops summer concert series, was staying at Pasadena’s gracious Langham Huntington Hotel in the days leading up to his debut concert on July 23. The composer's home is in New York and he hops around the country during the summer months conducting pops orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Seattle and San Diego.

At the hotel, Hamlisch happened to run into his longtime friend, soprano Jessye Norman. Little did he know that the petite woman with the long dark hair who accompanied the singing star was none other than Rachael Worby, who had announced her reportedly amicable resignation from the Pasadena Pops principal conductor post last August. Hamlisch was appointed about two weeks later.

And Worby was accompanying Norman because Norman would be part of another first the following weekend: The July 30 debut concert of Muse/ique, a new Pasadena-based orchestra that one might consider direct competition for the Pasadena music audience.

Awkward? Hamlisch says no. “When I saw her, I didn’t know who she was, but she couldn’t have been nicer, or kinder,” Hamlisch says. And for her part, in a separate conversation, Worby only had nice, if slightly self-serving, things to say about her successor. “After 10 years at the helm of the Pops, creating  broad-based audience support, civic pride and strong corporate support, we left a legacy befitting the gentleman and musician Marvin Hamlisch,” she offered via email. “His pops concerts will have a special appeal.”

Added Worby, “The Pasadena community beats with a unique pulse for the arts and sciences. Ultimately, there is no such thing as too much music!”

For his part, Hamlisch's competitive eye seems to be on the Hollywood Bowl, not Muse/ique. “I love the Hollywood Bowl, but you don’t have to go to the Hollywood Bowl every time if you have this in your backyard,” he says. “On the other hand, Hollywood Bowl does things I can never compete with. But the point is, you can have both.”

Seemingly never able to resist a quip, Hamlisch added: “There’s an amazing amount of music in this little area. I keeping thinking I’m going to go into the parking garage and another pops orchestra is going to be sitting there.”

A conversation with Marvin Hamlisch


Music review: Marvin Hamlisch conducts the Pasadena Pops near the Rose Bowl

Music review: Jessye Norman helps launch Rachael Worby's Muse/ique

Marvin Hamlisch named conductor of the Pasadena Pops

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Marvin Hamlisch conducts the Pasadena Pops. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times