Composed and on his toes

April 15, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Marvin Hamlisch is the "one."

He's received three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys and a Tony Award, and he will be on stage at Shepherd College's Frank Center Theater at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 18.

The "singular sensation's" performance technically is sold out, but some side seats still may be available, said Mark McCoy, chairman of the Department of Music and Theater.

Those lyrical descriptions of Hamlisch, of course, are borrowed from "One," the show-stopping tune from the Broadway musical "A Chorus Line." Hamlisch wrote the music for that 1975 show, which won the Pulitzer Prize and garnered several Tonys, including for best musical and best musical score.


Hamlisch, who lives in New York City with his wife, Terre Blair, and three Labrador retrievers, is principal pops conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony and National Symphony orchestras. His position is a first for the National Symphony Orchestra.

He'll be riding to Shepherdstown, W.Va., following NSO Pops performances in Washington, D.C., and said he is looking forward to the concert at Shepherd. The program he has planned is a lot of fun, he said.

It includes a "Rent-A-Composer" segment during which audience members are invited to come up with a song title, for which Hamlisch will come up with a song.

Hamlisch is scheduled to perform Tuesday, April 20, at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va.

Quite a busy on-the-road schedule.

"It keeps me on my toes," Hamlisch said.

Hamlisch has been on his toes for a while. At 6 years old, he was one of the youngest students ever admitted to The Juilliard School's preparatory program. He had started playing piano about a year before - "always piano" - and started to dabble in composition when he was 11 or 12.

"I knew I wasn't going to be the next Horowitz," he said humbly, referring to the late revered classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz.

Hamlisch's talents reach far beyond the concert stage though.

His first work in film was scoring 1968's "The Swimmer," which starred Burt Lancaster.

"I was in the right place at the right time," he said, explaining that he got the gig while playing at a party attended by Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel. "He took a chance on me."

He went on to compose more than 40 motion picture scores, including the Oscar-winning song and score for "The Way We Were." Hamlisch received his third Academy Award for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting," and his scores for more than 40 widely diverse films include original compositions and adaptations for Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run" and "Bananas," as well as "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People" and "Three Men and a Baby."

The versatile Hamlisch worked with Groucho Marx, describing him as the grandfather he never knew. He was musical director and arranger of Barbra Streisand's 1994 concert tour of the United States and England, her television special - for which he received two Emmys - and her "Millennium" concerts.

Yes, Hamlisch has been part of some "thrilling combinations."

His performance will be a fitting finale to Shepherd's "Year of the Piano."

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