Most every city has a hometown symphony that is embraced by the community, but when it comes to the Reno Philharmonic, it’s easy to gush. Under the capable hands of maestro extraordinaire Laura Jackson, the symphony has soared to new heights over the past few years. The inventive and innovative Jackson has consistently tried to stretch the musicians and their talents, creating programs that continue to kick it up a notch attracting new listeners at every turn.
Annual favorites are the duo of Pops on the River and Broadway on the Beach. Each year, Jackson and the Philharmonic create an amazing program, delivered in glorious outdoor settings with the finest pops singers around. Every year, the audience walks away thinking it simply could not get any better, and yet Jackson and the Phil consistently raise the bar. Last year, they really tore it up with the theme of Pop Rocks.
“We try to make each year unique,” Jackson says, admitting these two concerts rank at the top of her favorites. “We wanted to capture the fun of last year, peppered with new and different things.”
This year is no exception with a program of classic American Broadway songs and jazz standards interspersed with some Gershwin and high energy Tina Turner tunes.
“At the heart it is a Broadway show. It is not my plan to get away from that,” she assures.
Topping last year’s overwhelming success is no easy feat, but Jackson is confident.
“What’s really going to bring the house down this year are the singers,” she says. “We got lucky.”
This year, the show features a real coup with Capathia Jenkins, who Jackson says they have been trying to incorporate into the program for the past three years. Jenkins may not always have the biggest part in a musical, but this big-voiced diva only needs one number to stop the show. The actress first burst onto the Broadway scene in 1999 in “The Civil War” and soon found herself center stage. Recently, Jenkins, at the top of her game, starred in “Newsies.” With impressive power and control, she knows how to belt it out, communicating her lyrics with precision. An active concert artist, Jenkins has appeared with orchestras around the world.
Joining Jenkins for the program is Darius de Haas. With a musical legacy as the son of jazzman Eddie de Haas, he has proven successful as a performer ranging from the Broadway stage to concert venues throughout the world. His singular abilities and range in popular music, jazz, musical theater and art song have established him as a performer in a variety of settings, as well as guest with several orchestras.
I am certain Jackson and the Phil will produce delightful evenings again as her musical instincts are impeccable.
“I’m just looking for quality and the right kind of program for these kinds of audiences,” she says.
The icing on the cake is always the venue — both magical in its own way. Reno’s Wingfield Park with its gentle breeze and dancing trees attracts a party crowd — costumed, verbal and outrageous. Sand Harbor, with moonlight through the pines, has more of a concert feel, although last year nearly a quarter of the audience formed a conga line in the magic of the musical moment.
“It’s a different atmosphere at both venues,” Jackson says. “I love them both. It’s such a pleasure to do it twice.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Pops on the River, Saturday, July 13 | 8 p.m. | $10 | All ages | Wingfield Park | Reno, Nev.
Broadway on the Beach, Monday, July 15 | 7:30 p.m. | $39-$89 | All ages | Sand Harbor | Incline Village, Nev.