2013 – 2014 Season

Panama City POPS launches season with St. Joe community foundation grant and a celebration of Florida

In 1513 Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon set sail searching for riches and the fountain of youth. He first spotted land during Easter week of that year. Sighting the verdant display of vegetation that he could see from his ship, he named the land “Pascua de Florida” (feast of flowers).

On Saturday, October 19, the Panama City POPS Orchestra launches its 18th concert season and presents “Feliz Cumpleaños, Florida!” The evening will be a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the state.

The highlight of the concert will be the debut of a piece especially commissioned for this date, made possible by a grant from the St. Joe Community Foundation.

“Florida: Land of Sun and Sea” is an orchestral piece which has been composed exclusively for The Panama City POPS’ Floridian birthday celebration. Written by Emmy-award winning composer Gary Fry, the score will highlight our rare Floridian history with references to the diverse cultural elements that have made our home what it is today: Native American, Latin, Spanish, French and so on.

“This piece is absolutely exquisite,” states Maestro Eddie Rackley, raising the baton for his eighth season at The POPS podium. “Gary Fry is a national talent. His music is known and loved by millions, and this work is destined to become a state treasure.”

Rackley added that every piece on the October 19th program is connected to Florida. The concert will be performed in Panama City POPS tradition: the first half is classical music and the second half is popular. “Florida: Land of Sun and Sea” will be the starring feature of the second half.

“The POPS wanted to draw attention to the historical significance of our state’s quincentennial birthday,” remarked Connie Gittard, president of the POPS Board of Directors. “There has been no perceptible recognition of the anniversary within our region until now, and we are very grateful to The St. Joe Community Foundation for its shared vision in honoring Florida’s history. This concert would not be possible without their generous support.”

Opening the concert will be the rarely heard “Florida Suite,” by classical English composer Frederick Delius. Composed in 1887, the piece is described as impressionistic, inspired by the young composer’s residence on a Florida orange plantation near Jacksonville. The Suite is in four movements and will be performed in its entirety. “This is a little known gem of a piece,” commented Rackley. “Every symphony orchestra in Florida could play this, but surprisingly it’s rarely performed. We are delighted to be presenting this tropical, mystical, musical painting for The POPS audience.”

Additional selections include “Cuban Overture” by George Gershwin; “The Patriot” by John Williams; and a special Disney medley, a tribute to a more modern-day Florida. Certain pieces will feature harp, Latin percussion and Native American flute to compliment the full orchestra.

Gary Fry
Gary Fry

Composer Gary Fry is expected to be at the Marina Civic Center for this performance. Fry’s arrangements and compositions are audience favorites with the Chicago Symphony and Chorus, as well as with the Dallas Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Boston Pops, Philadelphia Pops, New York Pops, the American Jazz Philharmonic, and other regional orchestras. Fry also regularly is commissioned by major churches to write sacred music for special events as well as for the Christmas season.

Mr. Fry has composed for film, television, live theater, ballet, and more than 2500 radio and television commercials for McDonald’s, Sears, Kellogg’s, and hundreds of other major national advertisers. He received a 2006 Emmy Award for his work for Chicago’s CBS affiliate WBBM-TV. Air travelers hear Fry’s electronic version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue when passing through the United Airlines terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. His music is also featured daily on the Cartoon Network program Baby Looney Tunes.

Music education and music for children are other areas in which Fry is active. His teaching resumé includes positions on the faculties of the University of Miami, Northwestern University, and Midwest Young Artists, and he has conducted workshops and seminars at many other educational institutions. He is a past governor of the Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and recently was named Artistic Consultant to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Gary and his wife Carol are longtime residents of suburban Chicago.

Concert dates for the 2013-2014 season are October 19, January 25, March 22 and May 3. All concerts will be performed at the Marina Civic Center and will start at 7:30 pm.