Orchestras these days like to put titles on programs, which usually means a dash of the cute, the trite or the hyperbolic. But the title given to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's SuperPops offering this weekend strikes just the right note — "Marvin Hamlisch: One Singular Sensation."
The personable, prodigious composer was a singular force who created sensational scores for Broadway and Hollywood. His three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, three Golden Globes, a Tony and Pulitzer Prize affirm that.
Hamlisch, who died unexpectedly in 2012 at the age of 68, also enjoyed a busy and successful concert career. He served as the BSO's principal pops conductor from 1996 to 2000, and held similar posts with several other ensembles, including the National Symphony Orchestra and orchestras in Pittsburgh, Dallas and Seattle.
"Marvin loved the BSO and he loved those musicians," says the composer's widow, Terre Blair Hamlisch, who plans to attend the "One Singular Sensation" performances this weekend.
Conducting the BSO's tribute will be Hamlisch's successor as principal pops conductor, Jack Everly.
"The audience in Baltimore is the best, most welcoming one you could ask for, and I know Marvin felt it all those years he was there," Everly says.
The two men enjoyed a long friendship, which began in the early 1980s when Everly was conductor for the national touring company of Hamlisch's musical "They're Playing Our Song."
When Hamlisch started getting pops engagements with orchestras, he asked Everly to be his conductor. "Marvin would mostly be at the piano, and also be the raconteur for the concert," Everly says. "I would do most of the conducting."
Gradually, Hamlisch took on all the podium duties himself and expanded his pops career.
"Marvin was a colleague out there doing his own concerts which, naturally, contained a lot of his own music, so I never put together a Hamlisch program," Everly says. "I didn't think it would be appropriate. I didn't expect to assemble a concert such as this, but after his death, I wanted to honor him. I miss Marvin very much."
The lineup Everly has assembled for the BSO presentation includes excerpts from such film scores as "The Swimmer" (Hamlisch's first Hollywood work), "Sophie's Choice" and "The Way We Were."
"We will also have some unusual items," Everly says. "I've orchestrated 'That's How I Say Goodbye,' which was deleted from [the 2002 Broadway show] 'Sweet Smell of Success.' It's one of Marvin's most passionately lyrical ballads."
"That song rips my heart out," says Terre Hamlisch. "There's another one that's hard for me to hear now. It's from 'The Nutty Professor,' which Marvin wrote with Rupert Holmes near the end of his life. The song is 'While I Still Have the Time.' It really feels like Marvin speaking to all of us when that song is sung."
The way Terre, a TV producer and interviewer, met Marvin in Los Angeles "is the stuff of musicals," she says. A friend of the composer's suggested he call Terre.
"I knew of Marvin, of course, but I didn't understand why he was calling," she says. "When we started talking and laughing there was a connection. He invited me to lunch and said if Bruce Springsteen called and asked me out, he would understand if I canceled. But I went to lunch and it was one of the best decisions I ever made."
Although 18 months has passed since Hamlisch's death, Terre is still mourning the loss of her husband.
"It's actually getting more difficult," she says. "The first year I was in shock. Now I am out of denial and trying to deal with the reality of his being gone and not coming back. He was extraordinarily humble; he never thought of himself as higher than anyone else. He was just so ebullient in life and so witty. I was very lucky."
If you go
The BSO SuperPops tribute to Marvin Hamlisch will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Tickets are $29 to $94. Call 410-783-8000 or go to bsomusic.org.