Mann Goes Overboard with Orchestral Pop

(Photo courtesy of Mann Center)

Talk about Mann Alive, a  Mann Overboard! With its newly announced series of 2013 summer concerts tying the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Orchestras to symphonic celebrations of sports, movies, video games and rock and roll, our venerable  summer "shed"  is bringing a new game to West Fairmount Park.

  Truth is, only two concerts scheduled for  the Mann Center for the Performing Arts’ orchestra season qualify as “straight ahead” classical events unadorned by mixed media and crossover content. And even those boast  a high quotient of sassy bravura and sex appeal, designed to lure in listeners who otherwise can't connect with the classics.

Maybe our home team tooters ought to take a page from  their LA  bros and shorten their collective name to a hipper “Philly Orch” – at least for the outdoor season?

Billed “Two Great Orchestras, Eight Great Concerts,” the Mann’s 2013 orchestral series opens June 25th with a symphonic take on the music of the Grateful Dead’s late-lamented Jerry Garcia, with the most logical of jam band noodlers’  Warren Haynes (of the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and The Dead) working out with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Two lights later, the Pitts Symph unreels “Pixar In Concert with Fireworks,” featuring  some of the happiest of scorings from “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and others presented with stunning clips from the animated movies and a big blast of pyrotechnics, too.  

 Philly Orch gets with the plan with a big screen-enhanced “Disney’s Fantasia: Live in Concert” (July 23), reminding all that our Fab Philadelphians (then conducted by Leopold Stokowski) were responsible for the film’s original soundtrack of spritely short pieces some 70+ years ago.

One night later (July 24) comes the most  innovative, outreaching  show of the Philly Orch summer stand -  a “Symphonic Sports-tacular with Fireworks” hosted by “Voice of the Eagles” Merrill Reese with some surprise sports-lebrity guests. Greatest plays by the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and Union will blow up big on video screens scored with  rousing classical hits. And musical rascal PDQ Bach (aka Peter Schickele) will serve up his hilarious play-by-play of “Beethoven’s 5th.”

Video gamers are hot to hop on concerts featuring their big and bombastic game soundtrack music, game images and walk-around super hero characters. So a big crowd will roar  for  “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Second Quest,” July 25 with Philly’s finest musicians working their joysticks.

There also will be  plenty of firepower in  the Mann’s “straight-ahead” Philly Orch classical concerts – “From Russian Romance to Revolution” (July 31)  then “Van Cliburn: A Tribute” (August. 1.)  The latter plays homage to the recently taken American pianist, always a favorite of Mann founder Frederic R. Mann and Philadelphia audiences. The  Grand Prize winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition will be making his/her first ever orchestra appearance on this special night.  

Last, not least is “Michael Feinstein and Friends” (August 2), as the keeper of the American songbook and  the Philadelphia Orchestra flip the pages of some of Broadway’s best.

Tickets to a  couple of the Orchestral Series shows are already on sale. The rest become available to the general public on Wednesday at 10 a.m. via, 215-893-1999,, 800-745-3000, or the Mann box office at 52nd and Parkside Ave.