The Richmond Symphony performs a few of our favorite things from Richard Rodgers. 

Raindrops on Roses

If you're like me, wisps of music by American composer Richard Rodgers have been floating around inside your head as long as you can remember. In my childhood, hardly a sunny morning went by without my father breaking into the grand, swooping opening bars of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," from "Oklahoma!" I sang along with my "Sound of Music" LP back when 16 going on 17 still seemed such a glamorous age. Devotee of musicals or not, you can't help knowing Rodgers' tunes.

Richard Rodgers was born in New York City in June 1902, and this season provides an opportunity for orchestras across the country to commemorate his birth with concerts dedicated to his music. This Saturday, the Richmond Symphony, with guest vocalists Ron Raines, Jan Horvath and Doug La Brecque, will present a concert of songs from several of Rodgers' musicals and one of his movie scores, "State Fair."

Many of the songs on the program come from the most popular musicals, written during Rodgers' long collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1943, the pair won a special Pulitzer citation for drama for their first work together, "Oklahoma!" and since then, their names have been as inseparable as Gilbert and Sullivan's. Their "South Pacific" won the Pulitzer for drama in 1950, and "The King & I" won a Tony in 1952. Also represented on Saturday will be "Carousel," "The Sound of Music" and "Flower Drum Song."

But Rogers and Hammerstein weren't always a team. Before Rodgers started working with Hammerstein, he spent 20 productive years with the lyricist Lorenz Hart, whom he had met while attending Columbia University. They bonded almost immediately, and although their work together is not as familiar as Rodgers' later compositions, their contribution — more than 25 musicals — to the American musical theater tradition is significant. Saturday's program will include several numbers from their musicals, such as "Babes in Arms" and "The Boys From Syracuse."

Although known to television viewers as bad-guy Alan Spaulding on "The Guiding Light," Ron Raines has been a prominent performer on Broadway since 1983, when he played Gaylord Ravenal in "Showboat." Since then, he has also sung with the New York City Opera, appeared in PBS documentaries and toured the country as one of America's leading musical-theater performers.

Jan Horvath and Doug La Brecque also have performed in numerous musicals, both on and off Broadway and around the nation. With Raines, they are members of the touring group Bravo Broadway!

The Richard Rodgers Centennial concert will be led by Associate Conductor Eckart Preu. Preu, who was hired by the Richmond Symphony this past spring, will conduct many of the Pops and Community concerts, including the Kicked-Back Classics concert on Oct. 14. He will also conduct the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra as part of his role in leading the symphony's education program.

While I can't condone humming along at the concert, I'm sure that this celebration of Richard Rodgers will have you singing as you leave. It will, no doubt, be an enchanted evening.


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