Music News & Reviews

Wichita Symphony goes to the movies for Valentine’s Day

When Don Reinhold, executive director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, realized Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year, he knew he had to do something special for his audience. He thought of a pops concert, movies and a light-hearted approach.

He knew Carl Topilow and his red clarinet would fit the bill of a fun-filled, entertaining Valentine’s concert. Topilow, an established conductor and clarinetist, will take movie themes and classical tunes and interweave them with film clips and quips. For this concert, along with playing his clarinet and conducting, Topilow will act as the master of ceremonies.

“Carl Topilow is one of America’s leading pops conductors,” Reinhold said. “He has an engaging personality, a quick wit, and is a professional clarinetist with an array of specially colored instruments.”

Topilow, founder of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and conductor and director of the Orchestral Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, enjoys originating theme concerts and interacting with the audience.

“I like talking to the audience,” Topilow said. “I do my best to make them laugh. I help to set the mood and peek into people’s memories. I tell jokes and use anecdotes.” Topilow will show movie clips as the Wichita Symphony Orchestra performs tunes of romance.

Caden Jahn, a sixth-grader at Wichita Collegiate School, will sing a number from “Lord of the Rings,” and WSU grad Emily Pirtle will sing “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.”

“Film scores are simply great music,” Reinhold said. “It’s music many of us know and love. Who doesn’t get a smile when they hear music from ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Gone With the Wind’ or ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ all of which will be heard at the concert. The film clips will bring a visual element into play that will remind people of the connections between the music and the films.”

Topilow, who is celebrating his 37th summer season conducting in Breckenridge, Colo., has served as a guest conductor with more than 120 orchestras in 37 states in the U.S., as well as orchestras in China, France, Italy and Korea.

“I like performing familiar, uplifting, toe-tapping music,” Topilow said.

For his pops concerts, he blends light classical, swing, jazz, show tunes, Dixieland and Klezmer music. This concert will rely heavily on songs from movies.

Reinhold is quick to point out that the concert also will play heavily on the Valentine theme.

“A lot of pops shows simply come with themed titles. There’s no rhyme or reason to them, just a marketing device that sums up what the audience will be hearing,” Reinhold said. “At this concert, we experience the great music of Hollywood.”

Reinhold believes that the great composers would have made their bread and butter from the movies if they were alive today.

“The sound of the music, which is so critical in films, opens a door to the soundscape of orchestral music, and from there it can actually be a pretty easy leap to more traditional classical music,” Reinhold said. “If Mozart, Verdi and Puccini were alive today, they’d probably be writing film scores – for the money, of course.”

If you go

Pops Goes to the Movies

What: The Wichita Symphony Orchestra presents a Valentine’s Day concert featuring special guest Carl Topilow

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $30-$60, 316-267-7658 or