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POPS symphony offers romance and fun

PRESCOTT - The Prescott POPS Symphony takes it name seriously - it puts pop in its symphonies.

"It's more pop-contemporary, designed more for entertainment," said Paul Manz, music director, conductor and chairman of the symphony's board of directors. "It's friendly, entertaining, fun, and family-oriented."

The symphony performs its last concert for the 2009-10 season, "A Fine Romance," at 3 p.m. Feb. 14 at Yavapai College Performance Hall on the Prescott campus.

"This is a great concert for Valentine's Day," Manz said. "It has a romance theme and love songs."

Keeping the pop in the POPS symphony means the audience will be treated to songs from "West Side Story" and movies "Titanic" and "Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire."

Manz invited Harold Weller, conductor laureate of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, as guest conductor.

Masha Pisarenko, another guest, is an internationally acclaimed solo pianist. Pisarenko performs Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto.

Music historians credit Russian-born Sergei Rachmaninov, born April 1, 1873, with composing some of the most romantic symphonies to date.

In 1897, concert audiences panned Rachmaninov's First Symphony and he fell into a deep depression. He emerged after three years of therapy to write the Second Piano Concerto, which music scholars consider his most romantic and popular work.

"Rachmaninov wrote the best melodies and most romantic music," Manz said.

However, the Prescott POPS is not only about its members giving concerts, Manz said - it's about giving to the community.

One of the POPS' three missions is to advance young musicians' skill and experience and invite them to perform with professionals.

True to the POPS' mission, Tiffany Weiss, a Prescott High School senior and accomplished violinist, performs with the symphony and plays the last movement in Mozart's Second Violin Concerto.

"We want to recognize student talent and encourage them through our scholarship program," said Joe Serritella, a symphony board member.

In the past year, the POPS board of directors gave more than $15,000 in scholarships and donations to students and schools such as the Prescott High School band, Granite Mountain Middle School band, and the Mayer Unified School District.

Schools use the POPS' generous donations to buy instruments, uniforms, sheet music, sound equipment and instrument repairs.

The POPS symphony formed in 1992 as the Prescott Summer POPS Symphony. In 2006, the symphony board dropped "Summer" from the name and increased performances from two summer concerts to four larger productions.

Symphony members volunteer their time, and the number of musicians fluctuates between 40 and 80.

Tickets for "A Fine Romance" cost $20 for adults and $5 for kids 17 and younger. Seats are by reservation. Tickets are available at the performance hall box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, or by calling 776-2000.

To learn more about the Prescott POPS Symphony, visit www.prescottsymphony.com.

"Besides the music, we always include a healthy dose of bad jokes," Manz promised.

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