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A melodic night at the movies

Jeff Tyzik led the Florida Orchestra as principal pops conductor for the first time on Friday night.  

Photo by Zach Malone

Jeff Tyzik led the Florida Orchestra as principal pops conductor for the first time on Friday night. 

TAMPA — Jeff Tyzik has been a guest conductor of the Florida Orchestra quite often through the years, but Friday night was the first time he was on the podium with the title of principal pops conductor behind his name. Fittingly the first piece on the program of movie music was the Raiders' March from John Williams' score for Indiana Jones, featuring a trumpet quartet. Tyzik is a trumpet player.

Four of the 10 works on the program were by Williams, which was fine with everyone at Ferguson Hall of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Tyzik included music from Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, the closing theme from E.T. and a suite from Star Wars. Williams' latest offering in movie theaters is the score for Lincoln, with no less than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the soundtrack.

"What makes this music so endearing?" asked Tyzik, who spoke between numbers. "It's the beautiful melodies. That's what makes it so memorable."

As Exhibit A, he led Max Steiner's suite from Casablanca. Then, in an arrangement by Tyzik, the orchestra played a medley of instantly identifiable themes associated with iconic screen characters from Scarlett O'Hara to the Pink Panther (with a sizzling sax solo by David Pate) to Rocky Balboa. Tyzik also arranged the medley of James Bond music (featuring Kurt Grissom on drum kit), beginning with the original theme by Monty Norman that has been used in every film in the franchise since Dr. No in 1962.

Tyzik is a vigorous, efficient conductor, with broad gestures and clear stick technique, and the orchestra, with extra players in some sections, sounded good under his direction. He inherits a strong tradition from his pops predecessors, Skitch Henderson and Richard Kaufman.

Since being named to head the pops in June, Tyzik has added two more orchestras to his resume, giving him a total of six in the United States and Canada. This could be a record, though popsmeisters do tend to accumulate orchestras in bunches. Mainstays like Henderson, Marvin Hamlisch and Erich Kunzel never limited themselves to one or two orchestras. If Tyzik can be charged with spreading himself too thin, his critical mass of orchestras could also pay dividends if it allows him to develop more ambitious programs, such as, perhaps, his "A Night at the Cotton Club" program that will be played here in March.

This weekend's program, which also includes music from The Entertainer and Pirates of the Caribbean, sticks with the basics. Nothing wrong with that, but in the future Tyzik ought to work in the orchestral music of less-known Hollywood composers, such as Thomas Newman (Meet Joe Black, American Beauty, Finding Nemo) or Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Movie music is more than John Williams, as great as he is.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.If you go

Program repeats at 8 p.m. today at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286.

A melodic night at the movies 11/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 11:32pm]

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