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Poptet reimagines music

Hamilton (OH) – They’re kind of a big deal.

Not Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone. Although to be fair - like the fictional news anchors - this crew has been known to wear bright-colored sport coats to work, too.

We’re talking about the extraordinary musicians from the world-renowned Cincinnati Pops Orchestra performing in the Showstoppers Series at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts Saturday, February 17.

Since the entire orchestra won’t fit on the Fitton Center stage, the Pops dispatched its Poptet. They’re the rhythm section of the orchestra. With a twist.

“(Pops Conductor) John Morris Russel suggested we start doing our own independent events,” said pianist Julie Spangler, who leads the ensemble. “He came up with the name Poptet, which was cute, and it stuck. We have since brought a whole new dimension to what we play.”

Which includes everything from composers like Gershwin and Bernstein to band leaders like Duke Ellington, from Jazz Age icon Fats Waller to rock and soul star Stevie Wonder.

“I would call it a grab bag,” Spangler said. “We’ll take a classical piece, tear it down and build it back up in a jazz style. Or a pop song and emphasize it with a different instrument. We will take (the audience) on a journey with us to revisit familiar music in a new way.”

The Poptet includes Spangler on piano and vocals, along with Roger Klug (guitar and vocals), Matt Zory (upright and electric bass), Marc Wolfley (drum kit) and Chris Philpotts (primarily oboe, but also other wind instrumnets.)

“They make it possible to play really complex music,” Spangler said. “Maybe it’s the fact we’ve all known each other for decades and most of us first met in an orchestra setting. We grew together as musicians on the Music Hall stage. It’s a huge gift to make music with these guys.”

Spangler said playing with the small Poptet ensemble elevates the already exceptional musicianship.

“You can’t hide in the Poptet,” she said with a laugh. “The fact that it’s a smaller group forces us to raise our game.”

Spangler serves as the primary arranger for the Poptet. Each show - with each iteration of the group - means unique new versions of familiar songs.“There is no chart for an ensemble like ours,” she said. “I don’t want to leave a lot of room for doubt for what we play, so it’s pretty meticulous how we put it together. It makes for a better experience for us and for the audience.”

Tickets to the Poptet performance are $35 for Fitton Center members and $43 for non-members - plus a $1 service fee per ticket – and are available online right here. Guests also may purchase tickets by phone at 513-863-8873, ext. 110, or in person at the Fitton Center box office.

The Poptet performance follows the FREE gallery-opening reception for the Double Take art exhibition, which runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. before the show. At the same time, the Women’s Art Club of Hamilton opens its Pieces of Me dual exhibition in the Community Gallery, as well as its second location at the Strauss Gallery (222 High Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011).

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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