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Sid Caesar eyes a successful orchestra season

Sid Caesar eyes a successful orchestra season

April 6, 1995: Setting the tone for the lighter fare promised by the Glendale Festival Orchestra, Sid Caesar makes a face at the news conference where the new group was announced. Caesar will host the June 4 opening gig.

This photo by Perry Riddle appeared in the April 7, 1995, Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Steve Ryfle reported:

Glendale already has a renowned symphony that caters to the black-tie set, but on Thursday, officials announced the start-up of a new orchestra that will produce a series of family-oriented concerts, some of which will feature celebrities.

Pianist and conductor Norman Henry Mamey said the new Glendale Festival Orchestra will integrate traditional orchestra music with other forms of live entertainment, beginning with its opening show, June 4, when the headliner will be comic Sid Caesar.

Unlike a traditional symphony’s emphasis on classical works, Mamey said, the new group will perform lighter fare and be more “accessible and innovative.”

“Many times, orchestras are thought of as being stuffy or overblown. What we are trying to do is be very family-friendly,” said Mamey. Two of the concerts scheduled for the orchestra’s first season feature Garfield the cat and the characters from “Sesame Street,” he said.

Mamey said that many details still must be ironed out, including the orchestra’s budget and how it will be funded, but he is confident that the venture will succeed.

“My philosophy is like the ‘Field of Dreams’ philosophy: ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ” Mamey said.

“We’re going to start this out slowly, and I think as people see the class and quality of work we’re doing, we’ll build up a big following.”

Caesar and actress Shirley Jones, who also is scheduled to perform during the orchestra’s nine-concert opening season at the Alex Theatre, attended a news conference Thursday to publicize the orchestra. Both are members of the organization’s honorary board of directors.

Asked what his kickoff show will be like, Caesar was irreverent, as usual.

“I’m going to introduce a whole new way of performing for me. It’s going to be an entire evening of pantomime” featuring portrayals of “a man getting up in the morning and brushing his teeth.”

But eventually, the comic said his act will feature favorite routines from “Your Show of Shows,” his early 1950s live TV variety show.

Jones, whose act features show tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, said she is supporting the venture because it will help rekindle interest in American popular music of the 1930s and ’40s and because orchestras have become a dying breed.

“Through the years, I’ve often gone back to cities where I’d performed with an orchestra several years ago and I’m told that the symphony has folded, so this is a particularly wonderful thing, to be launching a symphony orchestra,” Jones said.

Mamey, who was passed over for the job of conductor of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra when Lalo Schifrin announced his retirement earlier this year, said the Glendale Festival Orchestra will consist of 50 to 60 musicians, depending on the concert material to be performed.

Online searches failed to turn up any follow-up information on the Glendale Festival Orchestra. Orchestra Leader Norman Henry Mamey died in January 2015.

SF.Orchestra.#3.pr.4ñ6 GLENDALEññSid Caesar and Shirley Jones at a press conference announcing the formation of the Glendale Festival Orchestra. Each will star in a concert of the premiere season to be held at the Alex Theatre. Photo by Perry C. Riddle/LAT.

April 6, 1995: Sid Caesar and Shirley Jones appear at a news conference announcing the formation of the Glendale Festival Orchestra. Each will star in a concert of the premiere season to be held at the Alex Theatre. Photo credit: Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times.

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