By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Riverbend Music Center will kick off its 20th anniversary season to the music of k.d. lang, the Pointer Sisters and the Beatles.
Calling the anniversary "a milestone we should all celebrate," Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel recalled the icons of American culture who have graced Riverbend's stage over the past two decades - from Ella Fitzgerald and Neil Armstrong, who were there for the first show July 4, 1984, to trumpeter Doc Severinsen and singer Rosemary Clooney.
New this year is the PNC Headliners Series: Three Saturday night shows starring k.d. lang, Classical Mystery Tour and the Pointer Sisters. Kunzel, who shares conducting duties with associate conductor John Morris Russell, will conduct two of the Headliner shows, plus the three-concert traditional Pops series.
Kunzel will wrap up the summertime season Aug. 1 when he leads his signature 1812 Overture on the Cincinnati Symphony podium.
The summer season will open June 12, with Classical Mystery Tour, a group of Fab Four look-alikes (well, almost), who will rock with the Pops in 30 Beatles tunes.
Multiplatinum singer k.d. lang makes her Pops debut June 26. She just won her fourth Grammy (over Rosemary Clooney) for her album of duets with Tony Bennett, A Wonderful World.
The Pointer Sisters should kick up the energy level on July 24, with hits such as "I'm So Excited," "He's So Shy," "Fire," "Neutron Dance" and "Jump."
In the "Pops Favorites" series, The Peking Acrobats, a troupe of Chinese tumblers and traditional musicians, will show off their 2,000-year-old art of Chinese acrobatics (July 9-10).
Kunzel will lead a tribute to Cincinnati's Irish heritage July 16-17, joined by Celtic fiddler Liz Knowles, Silver Arm, the McGing Irish Dancers, the May Festival Summer Chorus, Caledonian Pipes and Drums and Kieran O'Hare on uilleann pipes.
The Pops season ends July 30-31 with a Broadway show, featuring music of Tony-winning shows such as Hairspray, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, Rent and more.
For the Pops' annual July Fourth show, Grammy-winning group New York Voices will croon the songs of Paul Simon, and Russell conducts the film scores of John Williams - accompanied, of course, by fireworks.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will perform a two-concert series. Conductor Russell will lead best-known tunes from opera on June 27. Opera hits will include the Overture to William Tell and The Marriage of Figaro, the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah and "Nessun dorma" from Turandot.
Guest violinist Karen Gomyo will make her debut in Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy and the famous Mediation from Thais.
On Aug. 1, Prize-winning Chinese violinist Yang Liu performs Borodin's Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 (arranged for orchestra) and 19-year-old pianist Darrett Zusko will make his debut in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra summer subscriptions series go on sale Monday. Single tickets go on sale May 3 for subscribers; May 10 for the general public. Pops concerts are 8 p.m. Symphony shows are 7:30 p.m. Sundays. The Pops "PNC Headliner" and "Pops Favorites," each a three-concert series, cost $45-$109.50. Pops single tickets are $18-$45. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra two-concert series is $17.75-$36.75. Fourth of July tickets are $20.
Summerpass coupons (six for $165) are redeemable for any Symphony or Pops concert at Riverbend. Grasspass coupons are 10 for $140. Information: 381-3300;
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