Jim Gardner sits down with Peter Nero

May 10, 2013 9:25:13 PM PDT
Tickets are still available for the weekend's concert with the Philly Pops at the Kimmel Center, and concert goers will be witnessing a bit of history.

This weekend will mark the final concerts at the Kimmel Center for the Philly Pops with Peter Nero at the helm.

It really does mark the end of an era. Jim Gardner talked with the maestro before Thursday's rehearsal and asked him what the name Peter Nero has come to mean in Philadelphia.

"I know what it means to me when someone comes up to me and says how much it has meant to them all these years. That gets me all teary eyed, because I don't know what else I can do," said Nero.

Peter Nero, the name is synonymous with pops music in Philadelphia and has been since he launched the Philly pops in 1979.

Many Philadelphians are most familiar with Nero from his July 4th concerts in front of Independence Hall.

But the Kimmel Center, and before that the Academy of Music, have been where Peter and his band of brilliant musicians have played to devoted audiences for decades.

Having caught up with Nero rehearsing for his final Kimmel concerts this weekend, Jim asked him to look back.

"I thought we were destined for success right after the first concert. There was definitely a connection between myself, the orchestra and the audience," said Nero.

Fans who have followed Peter Nero and the Philly Pops through the years appreciated the diversity of Nero's music, but he also had his favorites, like Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" played by Nero and the Pops in 1980.

When asked how he knows what it is the audience wants to hear, Nero said, "It's based on my experience; it's based on taking chances; it's a question of balance, and balance in every city is different. So if I am going to play a concert in Seattle, Washington, I know who I am playing for in Seattle, Washington. Philadelphia is unique, because of its history. It also has a history of culture."

And Peter Nero starts bringing down the curtain on his tenure with the Pops with what thought in his mind?

"I've had people thank me for giving the city something to be proud of that's different. I just had this conversation with somebody a couple of hours ago. He said, 'That's what I like about your concerts, there's always something new every time I hear the same piece; it is something that I am discovering,'" Nero said.

So if Nero could play only one song at a final concert, what would it be? Stephen Sondheim's "Bring in the Clowns".

Peter Nero and the Pops have concert dates coming up in Cape May and Trenton, and we will continue to see them together for their legendary July 4th concerts on the Mall, but Philadelphia is saying goodbye to one of its treasures.

The end of his relationship with the Pops hit some sour notes along the way.

Nero is self-admittedly cantankerous and at his age, he admits he doesn't practice enough.

But he is a one and only, and music lovers in this area will forever be grateful for the music of Peter Nero.