There are rarely any surprises when it comes to Eugene Jelesnik's frequent Salt Lake Philharmonic pops concerts. After 42 years, he's got it down to a formula - some light classics, some pop standards, an aria and perhaps a Broadway tune to showcase Billie Loukas' fine soprano voice, another couple of upbeat songs to do the same thing for the program's tenor (this time out it was Jack Adamson), and a "special attraction" guest performer somewhere in the middle.
That - give or take a couple of minor modifications - was the musical itinerary for the concert Wednesday night at ZCMI Mall.
The real surprise was what was NOT on the program. I mean, Jelesnik's fans have come to expect his "JFK March," because they get to join in on "the whistling part." And you'd think that fall being marching band season, it would fit right in. But it wasn't there.
Not to worry. There was plenty of variety on the program to keep the crowd happy.
Among the more pleasant surprises were guitarist-singer Ed Pratt and lead guitarist Steve Flygare. The duo's all-too-brief performance focused on folk ("Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man"), softly romantic ("My Romance") and jazz ("Sweet September Morning"). This was music for cozying up around a fireplace on a chilly fall night with a steaming mug of herbal tea.
The rest of the concert conjured up other images - from a recital in a Milan opera house ("Ciribiribin" and "Il Bacio" by Billie Loukas), to a Las Vegas showroom (Jack Adamson's renditions of "Come Rain Or Come Shine," featuring some outstanding brass work, and "That Old Black Magic").
Or, close your eyes and you could almost imagine Mardi Gras time in Rio with such Latin tunes as "Cuanto Le Gusta" (spotlighting Bob Davis at the piano) and "El Relicario."
Other orchestral pieces included such light classical works as Bizet's "Carmen Suite," Johann Strauss' "Tales from the Vienna Woods," and a "Carnegie Hall Concert Medley" featuring samples of selections by Tschaikowsky, Rachmaninoff, Grieg and Chopin.
That's about as heavy as it got.
For his traditional finale, Jelesnik and the Philharmonic took us to Nashville, the heart of hillbilly country, for "Orange Blossom Special."
Normally held on the Friday evenings preceding the LDS Church's annual October conference sessions, the concert was shifted to a Wednesday this time in order to accommodate the ZCMI Mall's 13th anniversary sidewalk sales.
The concert was cosponsored by the mall and KSL-TV and Radio, with additional funding from the U.S. Recording Companies Fund and Local 104 of the American Federation of Musicians.