Marvin Hamlisch - the musical legend who was to conduct the new series - died suddenly last week.
The board weighed customer expectations, show quality and timing before reaching a decision: YSO will continue preparations for the two pops concerts and keep the planned programming.
YSO executive director Ken Wesler said it seemed unfair to scrap the series three months from its premiere.
In February, YSO announced the pops series in an effort to divide pops, which can include Broadway tunes, movie scores, jazz and popular songs, from more traditional classical concerts. Hamlisch, one of the most decorated contemporary composers, agreed to lead the series.
Wesler said about 400 customers already purchased tickets to each of the pops shows - "Tribute to Gershwin" Nov. 17 and "From Hollywood to Broadway" May 4, 2013. Guest artists agreed to perform. Contracts were signed. Schedules were set. Marketing was under way.
Hamlisch's blueprints and arrangements for the pops series will likely remain intact. But the board is seeking a new conductor.
"We are in negotiations with a few people," Wesler said.
Broadway directors and notable personalities are in the mix, he added, and longtime YSO conductor Robert Hart Baker, who is slated to step down after conducting the orchestra's 2012-13 classical series, also volunteered to take on the pops series.
The challenge, Wesler said, will be to find someone who can work with a schedule and program that is already in progress. Normally, an incoming director would have a hand in selecting songs, guest artists and concert dates.
An announcement could come in days or weeks, Wesler said. But regardless of who steps in, Hamlisch's absence will be palpable this season.
The first pops series is not for months and, while Hamlisch performed in York, he never conducted the YSO. So staging a memorial event didn't seem appropriate, Wesler said. But, he added, the award-winning music man will be remembered and acknowledged this season.
As for the pops series, attendance - not the conductor or board - will determine whether it continues or not next season.
"Customers vote with their feet," Wesler said.
YSO board approves strategic plan
On Monday, the York Symphony Orchestra board approved a new strategic plan, which will guide the organization for the next few years. A crucial element of the plan was determining whether YSO is a community orchestra or a professional orchestra, YSO executive director Ken Wesler said.
A community orchestra focuses on the process of making music, he added, while a professional orchestra focuses on the final product.
"We are committing to (be) a professional orchestra," Wesler said. The priority, he added, is to present the best possible music on stage.
That mentality will help YSO evaluate decisions in the future, including hiring a new music director.
In February, YSO announced that it planned to have the new director in place by the end of the 2013-14 season.
"The next step is to put together a search committee," Wesler said.
Funeral for Hamlisch held Tuesday
Friends and admirers of Marvin Hamlisch, including former President Bill Clinton and Liza Minnelli, gathered Tuesday morning in New York City to bid farewell to the celebrated songwriter hailed as "the people's composer."
Hamlisch died Aug. 6 in Los Angeles at age 68. His funeral was held at Congregation Emanu-El, a prominent Upper East Side synagogue. Other guests included ex-Yankee manager Joe Torre, Ann-Margret, Richard Gere, Kathie Lee Gifford and Diane Sawyer. Hamlisch composed or arranged hundreds of scores for musicals and movies, including "A Chorus Line" on Broadway and the films "The Sting," "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People" and "The Way We Were." He won three Oscars, four Emmys, four Grammys, a Tony, a Pulitzer and three Golden Globes.
He was working on a new musical, "Gotta Dance," at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new Steven Soderbergh film on Liberace, "Behind the Candelabra." In Nashville, Tenn., the Tennessee Performing Arts Center is producing his new musical production of "The Nutty Professor," directed by Jerry Lewis.
Hamlisch also enjoyed conducting orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Seattle and San Diego, among others. At the time of his death, he was to be announced as the principal pops conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. And on New Year's Eve, he was to conduct a concert with the New York Philharmonic.
- The Associated Press
A Few Words on the Passing of Marvin Hamlisch
"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."
- Ken Wesler, Executive Director of York Symphony Orchestra