Worby’s en­gag­ing farewell at Pasadena

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Daina Beth Solomon cal­en­dar@latimes.com

“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.

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