YSO strikes a chord with Manilow

If you go

Who: Barry Manilow with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown

Tickets: $47.50, $67.50 and $87.50 at the box office



When the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra was asked to perform with Barry Manilow at the Covelli Centre and three other venues, orchestra officials didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“We were thrilled,” said Randall Craig Fleischer, music director and conductor of the YSO.

“The more the symphony name gets out there, the better. It’s putting the Youngstown in front of an audience that didn’t come to hear Bach and Beethoven.”

Because Manilow has his own music director, Fleischer will not be part of the event.

More than 40 members of the orchestra, including the string, woodwind and brass sections, are accompanying Manilow. Many of the songs in Manilow’s vast repertoire of hits — including “Mandy” — are arranged to include orchestration.

But how did the Youngstown orchestra get hooked up with Manilow in the first place? It happened when Eric Ryan, director of Covelli Centre, submitted a bid for the show that included the YSO.

“I had known that Barry was doing dates outside of Las Vegas with a symphony. [Manilow’s management] said they would bring a symphony, and there were a few who already had been playing with him. I mentioned having the Youngstown symphony play. I thought it would be great for them and everybody, and when I submitted my offer, it included the YSO.”

Not only did Manilow’s camp agree to use the YSO at the Covelli show, but they asked if the orchestra could also do a few concerts.

The orchestra left Tuesday on a bus trip to Toronto. Manilow, backed by the YSO, was to play Wednesday night at Rexall Centre in that Canadian city, but a thunderstorm forced the show to be rescheduled to tonight.

The YSO got its first rehearsal with Manilow on Tuesday afternoon in Toronto, said Pam Pesa, office manager for the Youngstown Symphony Society. From Toronto, the orchestra traveled to the Saratoga Performing Arts Centre in Saratoga Springs, NY, for a concert Thursday night. After returning to Toronto for tonight’s rescheduled show, the YSO will return to Youngstown Saturday for a concert Saturday night at Covelli Centre.

The YSO’s final show with Manilow will be Sunday at the Colosseum at Caesars in Windsor, Ontario, which is close to Detroit.

Saturday’s concert at the Covelli Centre was close to a sell-out as of Thursday. Ryan said Thursday morning that about 300 seats in all price ranges — including $47. 50, $67.60 and $87.50 — were still available. He expects the show to sell out.

Those who attend the concert can expect a full-blown production, the kind for which Manilow is known.

“The stage will be huge. It’s a sizable production. They are touring with five trucks full of production gear,” said Ryan, noting that the average tour needs only two or three trucks.

Although it’s an honor to be asked to back a musician of Manilow’s stature, it’s not the first time the YSO has done such work. The orchestra most recently took the stage at Covelli Centre in 2008 to accompany a Christmas concert by touring Christian pop star Michael W. Smith.

Saturday’s concert at Covelli will be part of Panerathon, a two-day event sponsored by Panera restaurants to raise money to build a breast-care center in the Mahoning Valley.

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