Press & Reviews

Pops concert features songwriters’ art

By John M. Moran, The Hartford Courant

The sounds of Tin Pan Alley-reverberating first on Broadway, then on Bourbon Street-echoed back to the Bushnell Memorial auditorium Friday during a pops performance by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. The first half of the show, which was led by guest conductor Bo Ayars, focused on the Broadway productions that benefited from the ground-breaking music first composed in the 1920s and ‘30s by New York’s famed Tin Pan Alley songwriters.

Starting with [an original] march based on the familiar “Shave and a Haircut” tattoo, the program moved through a medley of tunes from the musical “South Pacific,” songs by Barbra Streisand, songs by other female Broadway singers and from the music of “Carousel.”

Highlights of the first segment included the sassy horns of such favorites as “Happy Days Are Here Again” and the sensual, lazy blues feel to “Stormy Weather.”

“I’ve always been basically a piano bar player,” explained Ayars, who arranged most of the music in the first part. That part of the concert concluded with a rousing rendition of “76 Trombones” from the “Music Man.”

The beauty of such performances often lies in the contrast between the street-smart quality of the popular songs and the musically sophisticated presentation that a fine orchestra provides.

Such a presentation is quite a testament to the unsung but talented songwriters who created their music by pounding away at pianos in cramped studios along Manhattan’s 28th St., now known as Tin Pan Alley.

Bo Ayars provides the sparkle as ‘Superstars Shine’ for pops

By Donald Dierks, The San Diego Union

Bo Ayars wore three hats at the San Diego Philharmonic summer pops concert last night at Hospitality Point on Mission Bay. The guest conductor had arranged the music that he led, and he was heard as the piano soloist.

Ayars, who has worked as an arranger-conductor on The Strip in Las Vegas, done time in Hollywood and led Walt Disney spectaculars at Radio City Music Hall in New York, has know and provided music for more than a few performing celebrities. It was around some of these biggest names that Ayars built his program, which will be repeated at 7:30 tonight, Friday and Saturday at Hospitality Point.

The program, called “Superstars Shine on San Diego,” began with a work not on the printed program, but one dedicated by Ayars to “America’s Finest City Week,” a suite form Richard Rodgers’ “Victory At Sea.” The orchestra gave one of it’s finest performances of the summer during this work and much of the music that followed – attributable to Ayars’ clear and precise beat and his apparent instinct for how much the orchestra had to give in terms of velocity, volume and accurate ensemble. He was careful to establish limits of expectation.

The printed part of the program began with signature songs associated with Frank Sinatra: “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “New York,” “Chicago” and “My Way.” Ayars arrangements were imaginative and interesting in their variety and instrumental combinations.

Ayars gave the audience his recollections of working with the famous popular musicians on the program, and along the way he added signature pieces of other well-known performers not listed on the program: John Denver, Lena Horne and Carol Channing.

The group of songs in orchestral arrangements associated with Barbra Streisand included “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Second-Hand Rose,” “On A Clear Day,” “The Way We Were” and a very odd arrangement of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Concert focuses on arranger’s art

By David Levinson, Long Beach Press Telegram

Guest conductor Bo Ayars called his Long Beach Symphony concert Saturday “A Celebration of the West.” It included folk songs, movie scores and some concert music written on Western themes.

The concert was also in a way a celebration of the American arranger. And the program demonstrated that one of the best of the current crop is Ayars himself.

Until this century, arrangements by one composer of another’s music occurred largely because the arranger liked a piece and wanted to hear it or play it with other instruments. Only occasionally did an Arthur Sullivan farm out the orchestration of his work to others. But Broadway and the movies turned arranging into a profession, and some of that profession’s work was at the heart of Ayars program.

Ayars has conducted Walt Disney road shows. He’s the pianist for the Capitol Steps comedy show. He writes youth band arrangements. And he brought to Long Beach arrangements of such tunes as “Shenandoah,” “Sweet Betsy From Pike” and “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Other comments

“The professionalism displayed by you was outstanding, and this, coupled with your musicianship and good humour, made the engagement one of the high spots of our Jubilee Season. We would always welcome any further opportunity of working with you again, here or in the States.”
Keith Millar, Chairman, The London Philharmonic Orchestra

“There were enough Disney tunes form the movies and the cartoons to please any fan – and all were performed with an enthusiasm appropriate to the event by the National Symphony Orchestra and the Masterworks Chorus, expertly led by Bo Ayars.”
Ed Roberts, Music Critic, Washington Post

“…our sincerest thank you for an excellent performance last Saturday night…”A Night on the Strip” proved to be a strong format…Obviously you left them wanting more.”
Russell Allen, Orchestra Manager, San Antonio Symphony Orchestra

“The concert was also in a way a celebration of the American arranger. And the program [Celebration of the West] demonstrated that one of the best of the current crop is Ayars himself.”
David Levinson, Staff Writer, Long Beach Press Telegram