Worby’s engaging farewell at Pasadena
“It looks like I’m crying, but I’m not,” vocalist Jodi Benson said after her moving rendition of “The Way We Were” at the Pasadena Pops concert Saturday night. “I’m really not emotional, it’s just that I have eyelash glue in my eye.”
Benson was in fact dryeyed, as was conductor Rachael Worby, who prepared for the downbeat of the next piece. But tear-streaked faces were evident on many of the 2,000 fans picnicking outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The song that expresses the nostalgia of lost dreams struck a chord with the crowd attending the final Pops concert conducted by Worby, who announced her resignation as music director in mid-August.
Dressed in slim black pants, knee-length coat and flats, Worby led the concert with characteristic élan, her waist-length dark hair swaying with the music as she exchanged meaningful looks with musicians. Her manner was amiable and engaging as she introduced music from movies, including “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Star Wars.” Her bright smile never quivered.
“The Way We Were” is actually as much a statement about the Pops’ future. Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the music for the Oscar-winning song (Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote the lyrics), will take over as music director next summer. Saturday, the orchestra heralded his arrival with colorful pamphlets and recorded announcements.
Worby’s exit came as a surprise. As recently as early August, Worby was announcing ambitious plans for the Pops, including extra concert dates and international tours. Her resignation came on the heels of another departure: In May, Jorge Mester left as Pasadena Symphony’s director.
Though neither Worby nor Mester cited financial reasons as a factor for leaving, the symphony and Pops are experiencing tough financial times. Both took 10% pay cuts last year.
Hamlisch is the pops director for six U.S. orchestras and is considered an enormous audience draw.
In contrast, Worby’s priority is the Pasadena Pops. A 10-year Pasadena resident, she is known for mingling with her audiences before performances, greeting many by name.
As the Saturday night concert concluded, the audience’s ovation was enthusiastic and heartfelt. Worby accepted massive bouquets, took a bow, and promptly left the stage.