Support the California Pops Orchestra - Save the Music!

Local Pops Orchestra Rescues American Popular Music

by Rebecca Wallace, Palo Alto Weekly

When the curtain went up on June 4th, 2006 the California Pops Orchestra formerly the Peninsula Pops Orchestra in Palo Alto did much more than a concert. This 60-piece "entertainment orchestra" began showcasing some of the thousands of pieces of music it saved from destruction over the last year alone.

Pops General Manager, Alicia Wilmunder said the loss of American popular music for orchestras has reached an epidemic level. "With school and college orchestra programs throughout the country falling to budget cuts, their libraries of music, that set of parts each musician reads to play each tune, are being hauled off to the landfill. It's just tragic. Libraries full of historic Broadway tunes, movie music, Gershwin, Porter, Berlin and so much more have been destroyed and much of that music cannot be replaced at any cost."

And it's not just the academic collections at risk. Wilmunder explains, "Where does all the orchestral pops music go that was once owned and played by orchestras that have gone bankrupt?  Where do the private, working collections, amassed over the last 100 years by orchestra conductors go?"

The Rescue in Los Angeles

It's with that sense of urgency that Wilmunder, conductor Kim Venaas, concertmaster Alan Cooper and other members of the orchestra caravanned to Los Angeles to wade through hundreds of cases of music that were soon to be destroyed by another budget squeeze. 

Conductor Venaas said, "We saw yet another tragedy in the making in LA and are lucky enough to have a wonderful, supportive audience behind us. I mentioned this situation from the stage at our Valentine's show in February and within 3 days we had a few thousands of dollars in contributions to start the acquisition, storage and restoration process. Six days later we were in LA carefully packing it all into vans for the trip back to the Bay Area and to our loyal fans."

Treasures and pieces of musical history for full orchestra

Saved music included original manuscripts and pieces from 1890 to 1970's with favorites by Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Ferde Grofe, Paul Whiteman, Louis Alter, Al Jolson, Charles Previn, Piercy Grainger and even movie star Lionel Barrymore. Music sung by the stars of the day including Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee and the Ken Darby Choir. Orchestrations from several show productions, burlesque, classical parodies, comic operas even silent movie scores such as the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin). Then there's the original "as recorded" orchestrations.

Added bonuses were the creative and often hilarious pencil drawings by the musicians on the backs of their musical parts with terrific caricatures of soloists and conductors.

Some of the rescued pieces for full orchestra:

  • Ferde Grofe
  • "Three Shades of Blue" (Indigo, Alice Blue and Heliotrope)
  • 1st edition of the tone poem "Mississippi Suite"
  • Music to the movie "Metropolis"
  • William Grant Still: Ballet "Sahdji" for Choir, Ballet and Orchestra
  • Several Paul Whiteman selections
  • Aldo Franchetti: Japanese Opera "Tiao Ch'an" (Sable Cicada)
  • About 20 arrangements by Ken Darby, music director for Disney Studios, performed during the Westinghouse Hour.
  • Music by Bernard Herrmann and Enrich Korngold both known for their westerns, their swashbuckling and Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Hundreds of NBC Studios original vocal arrangements for radio, and orchestras from MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox movies including:
  • Treasures of the Sierra Madre
  • High Noon
  • Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Calamity Jane
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Easter on 5th Avenue (Easter Parade)
  • Pete Kelly's Blues
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blonds
  • Porgy and Bess
  • Show Boat
  • Grand Central Station
  • Three Coins in the Fountain
  • South Pacific
  • Call Me Madam

Says Wilmunder, "But the job is just started. There are so many more situations like the one in LA that need saving and it is a major part of the reason the Pops exists, to save, restore and perform this music for the families of the Bay Area. It takes money in addition to our wonderful volunteers to make it all happen and donations to this effort are tax-deductable."

During the Summer of 2012 over 330 orchestrations from our vintage Music Library were restored and preserved enabling performance.

A Few Music Treasures

Overture to an "Opera Bouffe" Written by Lionel Barrymore. Yes, he played the evil patriarch Henry Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life"!

Opera Buffa-Barrymore

The Save the Music Rescue Team
The Pops Music Rescue Team from left: Jack Gerkin, Alicia Wilmunder, Conductor Kim Venaas, Concert Master Alan Cooper, Ernie Garcia, Alan Wilmunder and Bud.

Special Thanks to Donors of Sheet Music & Collections

  • Conductor Nelson Tandoc
  • Sue Rosado and Dee Ellacott
  • The Johnny Matesso Big Band Collection. Donated by Phyllis and Russ Matesso.
  • The Nan Bostick Collection. Donated by Will Hawkins and Nan's Daughter Mary Smith
  • Broadway & Songbook Collection. Donated by Bob Forster.
If you'd like to help and wish to make a tax deductible Online Donation
Click HERE

California Pops Orchestra - 3790 El Camino Real, Mail Suite 341 - Palo Alto, California 94306 - Phone: (650) 856-8432