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Steinbrenner or no, the show goes on

The Florida Orchestra this week announced its 1997-98 pops series, and the lineup is much the same as in previous seasons, with Skitch Henderson leading concerts of light classics and show tunes and guest artists like trumpeter Doc Severinsen and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, a tap dance troupe.

There was one significant change according to the announcement first released by the orchestra: The series of seven pops programs was no longer being sponsored by the family of George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees and longtime financial benefactor of the orchestra.

Steinbrenner has been engaged in an almost yearlong quarrel with orchestra officials over the pops programing. He wants bigger celebrities on the series _ he suggested Vic Damone and Tony Bennett _ while orchestra officials say they can't justify the high fees of such entertainers.

To buttress his position, Steinbrenner withheld a pledge of almost $300,000 he made in connection with an orchestra debt-reduction campaign. Several months ago, he apparently indicated he wanted his name removed from the pops series, and the orchestra complied.

On Tuesday, however, orchestra officials began to change their tune. They said negotiations had resumed with Steinbrenner about support for the pops series and other matters, and they were optimistic about the outcome.

"We have an ongoing relationship with Mr. Steinbrenner, and that's all I can say right now," executive director Kathryn Holm said.

Steinbrenner couldn't be reached on Tuesday.

In other highlights of the pops series, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay will perform a program of Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites, and Jeff Tyzik, a conductor with the Rochester Philharmonic, will lead a salute to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Concerts are at Mahaffey Theater, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and Ruth Eckerd Hall. As with the masterworks season, previously announced, the orchestra has less than complete access to TBPAC's large Morsani Hall, making it necessary to perform four of the pops programs in double concerts in the smaller Playhouse. Ruth Eckerd Hall also is unavailable for three pops programs, forcing the orchestra to move them for double engagements at Mahaffey.

Here's next season's pops schedule:

Oct. 9-12: Rhythm Kings with Gershwin and More; Manhattan Rhythm Kings, soloists; Skitch Henderson, conductor.

Oct. 30-Nov. 2: The Symphony Swings; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Bob Haggart, bass; Sid Jekowsky, clarinet; Bob Rosengarden, drums; Skitch Henderson, conductor.

Jan. 9-11: Blues to Classics; Bill Crofut and Chris Brubeck, guest artists; Skitch Henderson, conductor.

Jan. 29-Feb. 1: Unforgettably Doc; Doc Severinsen, conductor and trumpet.

March 5-8: Opening Night on Broadway; Skitch Henderson, conductor.

April 2-5, 1998: Salute to the Devil Rays; Jeff Tyzik, conductor.

May 21-23, 1998: Tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein; Master Chorale of Tampa Bay; Skitch Henderson, conductor.

For ticket information, call 286-1170 or (800) 66-BRAVO.

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