Maureen McGovern came to Salt Lake City Friday night, and the self-proclaimed "disaster theme queen" swept the audience through an evening of all-American music that left them reeling from its hurricane force mingled with the softness of an autumn breeze.
From the haunting "Can You Read My Mind," which she dedicated to "men in tights everywhere," through the lilting "Dream Dancing" and her favorite Gershwin tunes, McGovern made the audience believe there was more than one symphony orchestra in the room.The incredible range of her marvelous voice was a symphony itself. She wasn't just accompanied by a flute in "Little Jazz Bird" - she WAS a flute, and her rendition of "By Strauss" was the entire Viennese Waltz.
When she perched atop the piano for a Gershwin medley, glittering in black beaded pants and a bronze-and-black top, she was more than performing with the orchestra - she was a part of the orchestra, the best part.
Called back by a thrilled and appreciative audience, McGovern made her fans shiver with "The Morning After," her first real hit and theme of the movie "The Poseidon Adventure." She related how it seemed she was called on to sing "whenever a ship sank or a building burned . . . I became the real disaster theme queen."
However, McGovern proved to be much more than a background singer of movie themes. She explained she began a "love affair" with Gershwin music as a child for two reasons - Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin - and then she proceeded to bring the romance to Symphony Hall.
Her voice, surprising in its forcefulness, could also caress the music and the audience.
Jeff Harris, McGovern's music director and pianist, conducted the Utah Symphony with body language during McGovern's half of the concert, while McGovern conducted the audience through an evening of pure delight.
Opening the concert, the Utah Symphony performed Gershwin's "Overture to Girl Crazy," Copland's "Saturday Night Waltz" and an arrangement of television theme music by Robert Resetar to set a mood of all-American music. Conductor Kory Katseanes took the audience through a guessing game, trying to name the television themes, which included the music of "The Muppet Show," "M.A.S.H." and "Gilligan's Island."
The orchestra was scaled down to a jazz band for a performance of Leonard Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs."
McGovern and the Utah Symphony will take to the stage again tonight in a concert at 8 p.m. in Symphony Hall.