Broadway conductor and pit band veteran Wayne Abravanel is the new maestro of the Coachella Valley Symphony, appearing next for the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series.
For his first season as the symphony’s principal conductor, Abravanel tapped into his Big Apple roots. Those included 25 years in Broadway musical pit bands, on piano, for the original cast productions of Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion,” Lloyd Weber’s “Sunset Boulevard,” and other Broadway fare such as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Footloose,” and “Dream, the music of Johnny Mercer.”
Abravanel, a New York native, said his most satisfying gig while part of the New York theatre community was conducting the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular for several years.
At its Thursday, July 26, appearance, CVS will present suites from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma,” as well as sampling other musical disciplines. Book ending Broadway showstoppers, Abravanel has programmed jazz with Claude Bolling’s “Suite for Jazz Piano” and classical with Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” Abravanel will also, as he does in his regular seasons, showcase sections of the orchestra, so that audiences can hear the distinct tonal differences of the sections.
Since settling in the desert with his wife in 2003, Abravanel has stormed the desert’s musical battlements and found welcome in many different arenas — as conductor for Kaye Ballard, musical director for the Villa Theatre, sketch artist and musical arranger for “The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies,” and as choral conductor for Coachella Valley High School where he also directs and conducts an annual musical.
And now, as permanent conductor and music director of the CVS, Abravanel said he has found a home. Asked how a New Yorker could adapt to the desert, he said it’s an easy fit and, with the breadth of his work, it’s emotionally satisfying. Abravanel also conducts the Peninsula Symphony in Palos Verdes, which, he laughed, gives him a break from desert temperatures.
CVS takes the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 26, at the Idyllwild Community Center site. There is no opening act for this performance. All ISCS performances are free to the public but donations are appreciated.