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by Mike Telin

NASA-LogoFor thousands of years humans believed the earth was flat and if you traveled too far you would eventually fall off the edge. It was the third century Greek scholar Eratosthenes who first began to calculate the circumference of the Earth. In the twentieth century, Ohio and specifically Cleveland, has played an important role in furthering space research. Founded in 1941as the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center actually predates NASA by 17 years and is named in honor of former senator John H. Glenn, an Ohioan who was the first American to orbit Earth.

On Friday, April 25 beginning at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Carl Topilow will lead the Cleveland POPS Orchestra and Chorus in a Salute to NASA. “We’re very excited about this concert. It’s literally a cast of stars,” Carl Topilow told us during a recent telephone conversation. “This is the first time we have done a salute to NASA, but they are right here in Cleveland.”

The concert honors the men and women of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration for their indomitable spirit of exploration and discovery and includes a special salute to the 25 Astronauts who come from Ohio. Special guests include NASA Glenn Director James M. Free and astronauts David Thomas and Michael Foreman. “We have astronauts, the director of the center, vocalists Lindsey Mitchell and Connor O’Brien, the chorus, members of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra and footage from space shuttle missions and exhibits in the lobby, so there is a lot happening.” Read the rest of this entry »

ClePops&ChorusThe Cleveland POPS Orchestra (Carl Topilow, conducting) and Chorus will present five Friday evening subscription concerts at Severance Hall next season, in addition to “The Magic of Christmas” at the Palace Theatre on November 30 at 2pm and its 19th annual New Year’s Eve Concert and Dance at Severance Hall on December 31 at 9 pm.

November 14 – Comedy Tonight: light-hearted numbers from Broadway.
February 6 – A Night at the Oscars: Academy Award-winning songs and scores.
March 6 – Sinatra Centennial with Steve Lippia.
March 27 – La Musica di Italia: popular Italian music from pop to opera to romantic Neapolitan ballads.
May 1- 15th Annual Salute to our Armed Forces.

by Mike Telin

Hamlisch&CIMOrchIf you were asked to name one musical by the late great Marvin Hamlisch, chances are you’d say A Chorus Line. “I think the whole idea of A Chorus Line is amazing in itself,” says Cleveland Pops Conductor Carl Topilow, “and it is the work that distinguished him and made him very special. All you have to hear are the opening rhythms and you know exactly what it is. It’s so iconic.”

On Friday, February 21st beginning at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Topilow will lead The Cleveland POPS Orchestra in a concert dedicated to Hamlisch’s music. “Marvin Hamlisch, A Musical Legacy” features many of the composer’s most beloved music from A Chorus Line, Ice Castles and The Way We Were. Topliow will be joined by three stars of musical theatre, Donna McKechnie, Jodi Benson and Doug LaBrecque.

Prior to his 2011 performance with the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra (pictured above), we asked Hamlisch why he thought A Chorus Line resonates with so many. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

NunziatasWhenever I talk about the Cleveland POPS season so many people tell me how much they love coming to the New Year’s Eve concert,” says Cleveland POPS Orchestra co-founder and conductor Carl Topilow. “So the event really has become a tradition for so many.” On Tuesday, December 31 beginning at 9:00 pm in Severance Hall, The Cleveland POPS Orchestra and Topilow will welcome 2014 with their 18th annual concert and dance party.

The evening’s special guest artists areup-and-coming musical theater headliners Will and Anthony Nunziata, performing their own “Broadway Nites Revue.” The show includes songs from the best of Broadway’s musicals, both past and recent, including The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd,Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, City of Angels, Company, The Secret Garden, West Side Story, and Anyone Can Whistle.

Following the star-studded concert, dancing begins at 11:00 pm. “There’s a band that I will lead in the Grand Foyer which includes some of the finest jazz players in the area,” says Topilow, “and again this year my brother, Dr. Arthur Topilow, will be coming in from New Jersey. He’s a very fine pianist but an even better oncologist-hematologist. There will also be another band in the Smith lobby.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

TOPILOW-red-clarinetSeverance Hall sizzled on Saturday night as fifteen stellar performers from TV’s Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol took to the stage in Ballroom with a Twist. This razzle-dazzle production presented by Scott Stander with choreography by Louis van Amstel and Patricia Kaniowski as dance captain, music editing by Will Hollis, costumes by Randall Designs and lighting by Michael White —opened the Cleveland POPS Orchestra’s 18th season under founding artistic director and conductor Carl Topilow’s baton on a spectacular note.

Topilow led his orchestra in a tantalizing taste of the music of Henry Mancini as an overture to the evening. Among the most prolific and celebrated of film composers, Mancini “grew up just a stone’s throw away in Little Italy,” as Topilow said from the stage in his brief comments after conducting a rousing The Great Waldo Pepper March. Flutist Mary Kay Robinson then made her way to the front of the stage to play a very cool, laid-back theme from the Pink Panther which was followed by the orchestra in a funky and energetic Baby Elephant Walk from Hatari.

The Days of Wine and Roses was seductively romantic with lush, legato string playing. Topilow said in his introduction, “you may hear it like you’ve never heard it before,” and demonstrated by playing his clarinet as the song repeated, up-tempo and jazzy. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

ClePops&ChorusThe troops were out in force for Cleveland POPS’ thirteenth annual Armed Forces Salute at Severance Hall on Friday, May 17 — not the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who were honored in a medley of official songs, but in addition to the orchestra and its new Cleveland POPS Chorus, the evening featured a Joint Veterans Honor Guard, the Gates Keystone Club Police Pipes and Drums, the Mutual Gifts Gospel Choir (employees of Medical Mutual, who sponsored the evening) and a celebrity narrator, former Cavs star Austin Carr, aka “Mr. Cavalier.” All these participants were masterfully deployed and led by POPS conductor Carl Topilow, chorus master William Zurkey and gospel choir leader Jimmy L. Wilcher, Jr. in an evening of rousing patriotic and military-inspired music that brought the spirit of the Fourth of July indoors a few weeks early.

After a ceremonial entry by the honor guard, pipes and drums and a gospely version of the national anthem by the Mutual Gifts choir, those seventeen singers remained onstage for Kevin Bond’s God be praised with orchestral backup arranged by the POPS’s tubist, J.c. Sherman. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

TOPILOW-red-clarinet“Music and Fun for Everyone!” For seventeen years the Cleveland Pops Orchestra has been presenting concerts that feature the music of Hollywood and Broadway along with light classics and jazz. “It’s music you can hum along with or tap your toes to and that you can just enjoy,” says Cleveland Pops founder and conductor Carl Topilow. On Friday, May 3rd beginning at 8:00 pm in Severance Hall, Topilow and his orchestra will present an evening of New Orleans Jazz featuring trumpeter Byron Stripling. We spoke to the multi-faceted Carl Topilow by telephone and began by asking him about the evening’s program.

Carl Topilow: In keeping with the New Orleans theme, the concert features Hershy Kay’s arrangement of Louis Gottschalk’s Cakewalk Suite, a medley from Showboat and Mardi Gras from Ferde Grofé’s Mississippi Suite. Byron will join the orchestra in tunes like Bourbon Street Parade, St. James Infirmary, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone and Sweet Georgia Brown. I’ll also join in with my clarinet, that’s always something very special for me. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

CIM-Orchestra-TopilowThe Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra presented its fifth concert program on March 27, 2013 in Severance Hall. It was a fine concert. Carl Topilow, director of the Institute’s orchestral program, conducted, and the event featured talented Taiwanese piano soloist I-Chieh Wang.

Notwithstanding the concerto focus, the highpoint of the evening was reached in Sergei Prokofiev’s magnificent Symphony No. 5 in B-flat, op. 100. The four-movement work was composed in summer, 1944, and came to being in the wake of a major Soviet victory over the Nazis. Though there is no specific program, the composer stated that he “wanted to sing the praises of the free and happy man — his strength, his generosity, and the purity of his soul.” It may best be characterized as displaying joy and enthusiasm for humanity and its future.

A full string complement, woodwinds by three, a large brass section underpinned by an active tuba part, and five percussionists filled up the Severance Hall stage. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin


LastMcVey-JMark Saturday evening the Youngstown Symphony presented an outstanding Powers Auditorium pops concert under gifted guest conductor Carl Topilow. Topilow heads the onducting degree programs at the Cleveland Institute of Music and is music director of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. The headliners included talented veteran vocalists Lisa Vroman and J. Mark McVey, and exceptional pianist Kathryn Brown. McVey achieved fame as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and Vroman as Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera. Their Broadway lead credits number literally in the thousands. Brown, Associate Head of the Cleveland Institute’s Piano Department, is a remarkably gifted soloist and chamber performer with many competitions and international venues to her credit.


I had the pleasure of reviewing a CIM Orchestra concert last November. Toplilow conducted Ernest Bloch’s Viola Concerto and Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra beautifully. In Youngstown he displayed his pops talents, beginning the show in a bright red dinner jacket and playing an excellent My Funny Valentine jazz solo on his signature red clarinet. Concertmaster Calvin Lewis had started the Rodgers and Hart number, enabling Topilow’s surprise offstage entrance.  Read the rest of this entry »

Carl Topilow will conduct the CIM Orchestra and Miami timba band Tiempo Libre in Ricardo Lorenz’s ‘Rumba Sinfónica’ on Saturday, October 24 at 8:30 in Severance Hall as part of the CIM Women’s Committee’s annual benefit. Tiempo Libre plays a set of their own after intermission. We reached composer Ricardo Lorenz and pianist and Tiempo Libre music director Jorge Gomez by conference call to talk about the genesis of a work for symphony orchestra and Cuban band.

Daniel Hathaway: I wanted to talk a little bit about the performance next Saturday at Severance Hall. How did this project get started in the first place?

Ricardo GomezRicardo Lorenz (left): Well, it was a cosmic meeting in of all places, Bloomington, Indiana.

DH: At Indiana University?

Ricardo: Yes. I was teaching there for a couple of years and Jorge came to do master classes. What really caught my imagination is when I saw him doing rumba with music students. I had this idea running in my head, but it had to be put together with somebody like Jorge who brings together his classical background and his jazz and Cuban background.

Read the rest of this entry »

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