Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a great concert, and Pasadena offers more options than just about any place in America for music fans. With three competing symphonies, the Rose Bowl offering three gigantic concerts, the long-standing local favorite Levitt Pavilion, the daylong Make Music Pasadena festival, and the hot new nightclub the Rose all bringing quality entertainment to town, the Crown City might just give Nashville a run for the title of Music City.
First and foremost, music fans can rejoice that this is the first year in ages that the city’s two main competing orchestras — the California Philharmonic, CalPhil, and the Pasadena POPS — are not relying on The Beatles tribute shows to draw crowds. Instead, both ensembles are mixing things up in a big way with an array of other opportunities.
First, the POPS are offering a four-show program kicking off with the theme of “First Ladies of Song” on June 18, featuring guest soloists Lynn Roberts, Cady Huffman and Madelyn Baillio singing standards like “The Man That Got Away,” “Fever” and “Over the Rainbow” under the direction of conductor Michael Feinstein.
But it’s on the evening of July 9 that the POPS is offering up what could be the most fun show of the summer, when the “Music of Billy Joel” is spotlighted featuring solo pianist/singer Michael Cavanaugh, who was the star of the Broadway Joel tribute show “Movin’ Out.”
Feinstein presents the “Sinatra Project Volume 2” on July 30, offering up an evening of classics from Ol’ Blue Eyes. And on Aug. 20, it’s “Cole Porter Night,” featuring soloists Catherine Russell and Nic Ziobro singing songs by the great American standards writer including “I Love Paris” and “De Lovely.”
Meanwhile, CalPhil kicks off its season at Santa Anita Race Track and Walt Disney Concert Hall with the “All-American” show on June 25, featuring the orchestra, backed by a narrator and dancers, as they play classics ranging from the “New World Symphony” and “Lincoln Portrait” to “California Dreamin’’ and “Good Vibrations” with ragtime, country, jazz and Motown in between.
On July 9, “At the Movies” features music from classic films including “The Mission,” the “Adagio for Strings from ‘Platoon’,” “Titanic,” “The Lion King,” and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony featuring “Ode to Joy.” The July 23 “Classical Rock” show offers an intriguing combination of ABBA, Queen and Janis Joplin mixed with Mozart’s 29th Symphony, Brahms’ “Haydn Variations” and Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite,” featuring Tony-nominated singer Mary Bridget Davies and the CalPhil Rock Band.
CalPhil’s summer closes out with an Aug. 6 show called “Center Stage,” featuring Broadway classics from “Porgy & Bess,” “Aida,” “Grease” and “La Traviata”, and Aug. 20 with the annual tradition of playing one of classical music’s most epic works, Horst’s “The Planets.”
Under the guidance of mega-maestra Rachael Worby, MUSE/IQUE always has interesting shows up its sleeve. Its “Summer of Sound 2016” program presents “Gershwin/Nation,” featuring three shows inspired by George and Ira Gershwin’s work together as songwriters.
The “Perfect/Union” show July 16 kicks things off with a night of tributes to songwriting duos like Lennon/McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel and the Gershwins, while “American/Rhapsody” features thrilling American classical music like “Rhapsody in Blue” on Aug. 20. Finally, “Summer/Time” on Sept. 20 closes out the season with a tribute to “Porgy and Bess” featuring a mix of virtuoso players, gospel choirs, tap dancers and special surprises.
Of course, you can count on the Rose Bowl to bring you the literally biggest concerts of the year, with Beyoncé bringing her controversial “Formation World Tour” to town on May 14 and Coldplay taking on the challenge of packing the stadium for two nights Aug. 20 and 21. Good luck finding tickets to either, but start by trying ticketmaster.com.
Now in its ninth year, Make Music Pasadena, the West Coast’s largest free music festival, is set for Saturday, June 11, featuring more than 150 performers playing on six main stages and 30 smaller outdoor stages set up throughout downtown Pasadena. Judging by last year’s attendance, more than 50,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The program showcases almost every genre, including electronica, indie and alternative rock, world, folk, Latin, funk, and jazz. This year’s headliners include Atlas Genius, Bear Hands, The Mowgli’s, Small Black, Nahko and Medicine for the People.
The Levitt Pavilion offers up outdoor shows in a much more relaxed and intimate setting than the Rose Bowl, as it brings shows under the stars to Memorial Park in Old Pasadena. The full summer schedule has yet to be announced, but early shows include a production of the African-American version of “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz,” and the long-popular duo Trout Fishing in America.
Finally, The Rose nightclub at Paseo Colorado is bringing a constant flow of classic rock and pop stars through town and has a few particularly impressive shows on tap. “An Evening with Justin Hayward,” featuring the singular voice of The Moody Blues, takes place on June 11, while Todd Rundgren hits town on May 4 and perennially popular standup Sinbad brings the jokes on July 29. n
Pasadena Symphony-POPS performs at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, located at 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. Call (626) 793-7172 or visit Pasadenasymphony-pops.org.
CalPhil performs at Santa Anita Park, 285 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia. Call (626) 304-0333 or visit calphil.org.
MUSE/IQUE performs on the Great Lawn at Caltech, 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626)539-7085 or visit Muse-ique.com.
The Rose Bowl is located at 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena. Call (800) 745-3000 or visit ticketmaster.com.
Make Music Pasadena, which is from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, features 150 acts performing on six main stages and 30 smaller stages scattered throughout parts of Downtown Pasadena. For more information, visit makemusicpasadena.org
Levitt Pavilion Pasadena is located in Memorial Park, directly behind 85 E. Holly St., Pasadena. Call (626) 683-3230 or visit levittpavilionpasadena.org.