Along with sadness and shock, world-renowned composer Marvin Hamlisch's death left a lingering question for York Symphony Orchestra: What now?
Hamlisch - who won three Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globe awards during a four-decade career - had signed on with YSO as resident pops conductor for the 2012-13 season, which starts in the fall. He created programs for shows in November and May, which he was scheduled to conduct.
Family spokesman Jason Lee said Hamlisch died Monday after a brief illness, according to the Associated Press. He was 68 years old.
Ken Wesler, executive director of YSO and CEO of the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, said it's too soon to decide how YSO will move forward.
"The circle of people who I will reach out to are all the people who are mourning his passing," said Wesler, who also was a friend of Hamlisch.
He said the YSO board has a meeting Monday night, and members will discuss the orchestra's plan at that time. He said a decision will be made soon after.
Wesler said he wasn't surprised when Hamlisch - who conducted orchestras in Pittsburgh, Dallas and Seattle, among other major cities - agreed to work with YSO, which will be celebrating its 80th season.
"He loved making music, so why not come to York and make music?" he said.
Wesler and Hamlisch became friends 16 years ago when Wesler was working at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del.
"It's very unusual for someone of his stature to say, 'Let's go grab some lunch,'" he said.
Robert Hart Baker, musical director for YSO, said the partnership with Hamlisch aimed to revamp the orchestra's pops series.
Wesler said pops means something different to every audience and that Hamlisch would have delivered clarity.
"Everybody understood what he was going to do," he said.
In February, YSO announced its agreement with the composer, which generated excitement and new subscription sales.
Wesler said new subscription sales declined for the last five years. So far, he said, the orchestra has 56 new subscribers, along with 294 customers who renewed - roughly a 5 percent increase compared with last year.
He said YSO will do what it can to honor Hamlisch's memory and make sure customers are happy.
"When something this dramatic changes, the smart thing to do is to look at the entire equation - start from zero," Wesler said.
Baker said Hamlisch's agreement with YSO said something about the orchestra's caliber.
"He was very eager to be here," Baker said. "It's a big loss for everyone. It's a big loss for the profession."
First violinist Lisa Welty said many of the musicians in YSO were excited to work with Hamlisch. She said performing with someone so talented somewhat validates an orchestra's hard work.
"It kind of leaves a big hole to fill now," she said.
Wesler said he might reach out to YSO's audience to determine how the orchestra should proceed. He said the world must now deal with the loss of musical giant.
"He was truly a unique and extraordinary talent," Wesler said of Hamlisch. "He is absolutely irreplaceable."
The York Symphony Orchestra posted the following statement about Hamlisch's death on its website.
"The York Symphony Orchestra joins all the people from all over the world who are mourning the passing of a true genius, Marvin Hamlisch. We are sure that in the coming days, there will be countless discussions of all of the awards and accomplishments that Marvin garnered over his too short life. However, we hope that the people of York will remember him as we do as simply a great person whose impact as a musician was surpassed only by his spirit as a human being."
You may not have recognized his face, but the sounds of Marvin Hamlisch were unmistakable.
Prolific composer Hamlisch, who died Monday at 68, created the score for numerous cinematic classics, providing the music for movies ranging from the intense to the frivolous.
What were some of his better-known cinematic efforts? Here's a brief rundown:
"Take The Money and Run": Woody Allen's early movie about a wayward chain gang would be one of a few Hamlisch collaborations with the director. He also composed the score for "Bananas" and had a score or song in many other non-Allen comedies, including "Three Men and a Baby," "Bedtime Stories" and "How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days," appearing in the latter film as himself.
"The Way We Were": Perhaps his most notable effort on the big screen, Hamlisch was behind both the score and title song for the 1973 Robert Redford-Barbra Streisand romance - and won Oscars for each. He would win a third Oscar for his work on "The Sting," for which he wrote or adapted several songs, including the catchy ragtime-y theme "The Entertainer," which was originally written by Scott Joplin.
"Sophie's Choice": Meryl Streep's World War II drama was bolstered by the contribution of Hamlisch, who was nominated for an Oscar for his compositions. The strings in the love theme remain haunting and melancholic 30 years later.
"A Chorus Line": Hamlisch composed the score for the 1975 Broadway version of "A Chorus Line," which garnered him a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. (He is part of a small group of artists who has an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar). He was later credited with the music for the 1986 film version, which also yielded an Oscar nomination.
"The Informant!": Not his best known work, it was, as it turned out, his last as a composer. Hamlisch composed the score for the Steven Soderbergh whistle-blower tale that starred Matt Damon. Fittingly, it netted the composer a Golden Globe nomination.
- Los Angeles Times
More on Hamlisch
Hamlisch's career included composing, conducting and arranging music from Broadway to Hollywood.
The composer won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.
His music colored some of film and Broadway's most important works.
Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice," ''Ordinary People" and "Take the Money and Run." He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting." On Broadway, Hamlisch received the Pulitzer Prize for long-running favorite "The Chorus Line" and wrote "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success." A news release from his publicist said he was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a production of his hit musical, "The Nutty Professor."
Hamlisch earned his place in American culture through his music, but he also had a place in popular culture. Known for his nerdy look, complete with thick eyeglasses, that image was sealed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" during Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches. Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would swoon over Hamlisch.
Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego. He was to be announced to the same position with the Philadelphia Orchestra and also was due to lead the New York Philharmonic during its upcoming New Year's Eve concert.
He leaves behind a legacy in film and music that transcended far beyond notes on the page. As illustrative as the scenes playing out in front of the music, his scores helped define some of Hollywood's most iconic works.
--The Associated Press
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