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In Search of the Next Gershwin

In 2007, world renowned violinist Joshua Bell set up shop in a Washington

Fiddler in the Subway

That’s Joshua Bell on the far left.

DC subway station and played. A video of it went viral. It was part of a social experiment for an article in the Washington Post to see if people could, or would, recognize artistic excellence in their midst. As you might imagine, few people even acknowledged him.

Banksy New YorkIn the fall of 2013, British street artist Banksy set up a stall in New York’s Central Park, selling signed prints of his work for $60 under a sign that read “Spray Art.” Some of the pieces sold there are estimated to be worth over $170,000.

What if you later found out that the violinist you heard peripherally along your commute, or the stall of spray art you disregarded as knock-offs was actually a world famous performer playing a multi-million dollar Stradivari violin, or one of the most elusively famed street artists in the world? Would you think you missed out? Would you regret not stopping even for a moment? Would you feel cheated out of the experience because of the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding their art?

Buskers, or street performers, are still common in cities and tourist areas around the US, and like the Klezmers of Gershwin’s roots, we, as audience members, place a monetary value on their performance; we toss some change, maybe a dollar or two into their hat, or cup, or instrument case. American capitalism would remind us that the market dictates the value we place on things like art, and I’m sure you could apply concepts like supply and demand, but for art and artists, this monetary value is largely arbitrary. For example, tickets to Hamilton on Broadway (currently the hottest ticket on Broadway) are going for anywhere between $600 – $1,100 a piece. A busker out in front of the Xcel Center during a Wild game would likely make a fraction of a dollar per person who happens to catch a part of their performance on the way to wherever they may be going. But for argument’s sake let’s round up. With due respect to the cast, crew, and producers of Hamilton, is their work 600 times more valuable than the buskers? Some might say yes, some might say no. Some of the aforementioned capitalists would also say that Banksy is crazy to be willing to part with his work for $60 when he could make as much as $169,940 more. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that at the level of Hamilton or Banksy these prices are often not set by the artists themselves; there are producers, art dealers, and scores of others who stand to make a cut of the money that comes in. On the other hand, the busker cuts out the proverbial middle man and gets to keep all the money dropped in his or her hat/cup/case, no matter how little it may be.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’m sure many of us out there have paid a pretty penny for performances that, as we left the ornate halls, theaters, and auditoriums, we thought to ourselves “well, that wasn’t worth it.”

But if we are able to separate the ideas of value and cost, then perhaps we will begin to place a different value on the art in our communities. Perhaps we can cultivate a greater appreciation of those who, like Gershwin, play in the cafes, bars, and on street corners. And whether or not they practice enough to get to Carnegie Hall, we can expand our view of where great art happens. It’s not just in the dimmed houses where we sit silently, surrounded by other silent, nicely dressed art lovers who set aside time and money to consume art. It may very well be in the most unlikely of places, and if we’re not paying attention, we might miss it.

Maud’s Pick

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As the Chanteuse in Park Square Theatre’s The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, Maud Hixson will be filling the Proscenium Stage with her soulful voice. When asked for her favorite Gershwin tune to sing or hear and why, Maud kept her answer short and sweet:

My favorite Gershwin song is “Little Jazz Bird” because I’ve always loved Blossom Dearie’s recording of it, and I love performing it myself.

To hear Blossom Dearie’s rendition of the song, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuWJzDJOOVY&sns=em

Maud Hixson’s Background:

Park Square Debut Representative Theatre Guthrie Theater, Dowling Studio: Coward’s Women Awards/Other Two-time recipient of the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artist Initiative Grant; McKnight Foundation’s “Next Step” Grant recipient; Two-time performer at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall in the New York Cabaret Convention Upcoming Projects Touring with Listening For Your Song (A Musical Companion to the Betsy-Tacy Books by Maud Hart Lovelace)

Michael Paul Levin, Maud Hixson and Maggie Burton in rehearsal

Michael Paul Levin, Maud Hixson and Maggie Burton in rehearsal (Photo by Connie Shaver)

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer – December 2 to 31

Join us for the holidays at Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage!

 

The Stage Manager Chronicles: Megan Fae Dougherty

For those civilians out there who don’t necessarily know the ins-and-outs of live theatre, the stage manager is the one who keeps everything in order. Obviously the job is way more monumental than that overly-simplified description, but put another way, a production would probably disintegrate, dissolve and collapse in on itself in a rage of despair and chaos if not for their guidance.

Thank goodness for stage managers, and especially good ones!

Among that class is Megan Fae Dougherty who is currently working hard behind the scenes of The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer. As you know the musical is preparing to open on December 2, but thankfully I was able to catch Dougherty at a convenient time to ask her a few questions about herself and the show.

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Megan Fae Dougherty (center) with director Peter Moore (left) and assistant stage manager Samantha Diekman (right) at rehearsal for The Soul of Gershwin. Photo, Connie Shaver.

She let me know that she has been stage managing for much of her life, choosing the career in college at Bemidji State University. Although like so many theatrical artists, the seeds were planted long before by a high school director who pushed her into a stage management job in eighth grade. It was at Bemidji, however, that her break came when a professor needed a replacement stage manager right away. Already assigned as the show’s assistant stage manager she was ready to step in. The position was a seemingly temporary one, but of course fate turned it into something a little more permanent. She remained the stage manager and the rest was history.

After college, Dougherty moved to the Twin Cities and has worked with several different theatre companies around. Park Square has been a mainstay since 2011 when she worked on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Working with Joe Chvala and his Flying Foot Forum is another artistic home, especially when you know that Dougherty is a practitioner of the flow arts, which encompasses such endeavors as hula hoop, fire spinning and stilt walking. She is also a frequent stage manager with TigerLion Arts and was able to recently tour with their immersive walking play, Nature. 

Clearly whatever project Dougherty is attached to is bound to be unique, engaging and highly rewarding. The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer is no exception and she is excited for audiences to share in the music and storytelling the show has to deliver!

The Legacy of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

One of the most intriguing works of George Gershwin is the opera, Porgy and Bess, that he wrote along with his brother Ira and African American poet DuBose Heyward. Strikingly different from other major works such as Rhapsody in Blue or An American in Paris, the musical depicts the lives of the most downtrodden. In this case the people living in a rundown neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina.

The main character, Bess, is a woman trying to escape her past as a prostitute and drug addict. She is romantically involved with a criminal named Crown, who flees after committing a murder. This in turn, leads Bess to finding acceptance and solace in the arms of a crippled beggar named Porgy. When Crown returns, the pair have to make a stand.

Porgy and Bess, 1935

Porgy and Bess, 1935

You can tell from this description alone how vastly different it is from the Roaring ’20s that Gershwin is so famously associated with. As those previous orchestrations were products of their time, so was Porgy and Bess which premiered in Depression-era New York in 1935.

A “folk” opera, the work was seven years in the making and inspired by DuBose Heyward’s 1925 novel, Porgy. Now regarded as a classic and a standard in the American operatic canon, the initial run was deemed a commercial failure with mixed reviews. The New York Herald-Tribune, for instance, said that Gershwin’s ambition to include jazz and blues into a serious operatic score was “falsely conceived and rather clumsily executed…crooked folklore and half-way opera.” The run lasted four months and Porgy and Bess languished in mediocrity for decades until 1976 when the Houston Grand Opera produced the work to glowing reviews. This is when the piece secured its reputation as a classic.

It is amazing how perceptions can evolve over time, not just artistically but socially. One of the greatest merits of Porgy and Bess today, is conversely a reason for its initial short run. Gershwin was adamant that the show be entirely cast with classically trained African American singers. Of course this was a radical casting idea in 1930s America as the common practice was for a white performer to don blackface. Al Jolson, for example, had himself almost produced an adaptation with this idea in mind. Gershwin’s casting was brave and inspiring, giving work to dozens of African American performers on the mainstream Broadway circuit.

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The original 1935 production. Courtesy Photo.

 

That bit of history, in addition to the composition and songwriting of the piece, have made Porgy and Bess the fixture in American pop culture it is today. We all know the songs, “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.” Produced all over the world, the last Broadway revival was in 2012.

Fortunately you won’t have to trek across the globe or travel to New York City to experience those songs, you can just get on down to Park Square Theatre this December. Selections from Porgy and Bess as well as Gershwin’s other timeless tunes will be featured in the show, The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer Dec 2 – 31. I hope to see you there!

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Maggie’s Picks

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In Park Square Theatre’s upcoming musical, The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, Maggie Burton will play the Chazzan (Cantor). When asked “What is your favorite Gershwin tune to hear or sing (or both!)? And why?,” she answered:

I love just about everything Gershwin wrote.  I never get tired of listening to “Rhapsody in Blue,” so I guess that’s my favorite tune to listen to. Today, anyway. Could be something else tomorrow!

As for singing–an obvious answer for me would be “Summertime.”  It’s so beautiful and versatile. But another song I really enjoy singing is “By Strauss.”  It’s a fun, up-tempo waltz with clever lyrics that Gershwin wrote in the style of Johann Strauss, the composer known as the Waltz King. The song has been recorded by such diverse artists as Ella Fitzgerald and Kiri te Kanawa, which says a lot about the range of the Gershwins’ music and lyrics.

In our show, Gershwin alludes to the idea that good composers borrow, but great composers steal. He also says we might hear (in his music) something that we might not expect–something that he himself might not expect. “By Strauss” is a great example.

Join Maggie Burton and her fellow cast-mates, accompanied by a live band, at Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage from December 2 to 31 for a rousing good time! You’ll be singing and dancing out of the theatre!

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Maggie Burton’s Background:

Park Square The Soul of Gershwin (1999 and 2011) Representative Theatre Garden of Song Opera: Cendrillon;  Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera: HMS Pinafore; Minnesota Opera: Anna Bolena; Cross Community Players: Oklahoma; Morris Park Players: Sound of Music Training B.A., Music, University of Minnesota; M.M., Vocal Performance, University of Minnesota Awards/Other Soprano soloist with 1st John Sousa Memorial Band; Cantor/cantorial soloist for Jewish High Holy Days

From Gershwin to Springsteen

George Gershwin unnamed photographer in employ of Bain News Service (Public domain)

George Gershwin
unnamed photographer in employ of Bain News Service (Public domain)

From December 2 to 31, Park Square Theatre will feature The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer. It includes many Gershwin tunes that became part of the Great American Songbook, such as “Summertime,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You,” to name just a few.

What’s the Great American Songbook? It’s not an actual book of songs but the American classics or standards considered to be the most popular and of lasting value from 1920 to 1950’s Broadway shows, musical theatre and Hollywood musical film.

I wondered, though, what people would choose to be in the Great American Songbook today. In asking a slew of individuals from age 19 and up, I received choices that went beyond theatre and film. Here are some of their answers:

Anything by Sondheim. Definitely “Send in the Clowns” from his musical A Little Night Music.

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  I just like the lyrics. According to Cohen, the song “explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value.”

“Steal Away,” a spiritual.

“Jingle Bells.” It is a very beloved and fun Winter/Christmas song that can be sung enthusiastically by any age person without involving religion. It can be sung in rounds, can easily be acted out and even danced to! There is a nostalgic history to it from a time when horses and sleighs were necessary for winter travel, which is often reenacted for enjoyment today.

“I’ve Been Working On The Railroad.” Another fun song to sing for young and old alike. It has the cadence and rhythm of a work song for the railroad workers to keep a uniform pace to work together but also helps make the drudgery and toil of railroad building somewhat enjoyable. The song also gives memory to the important place railroads have in our history of connecting the lands and peoples of earlier times.

Last Saturday night the symphony put on a Frank Sinatra concert with one Steve Lippia singing.  Steve is based in Las Vegas where his show is a regular at one of the casinos, and he sounds very much like Frank Sinatra.  At the concert, Steve did not limit himself to Frank’s songs but did a wide variety of the Big Band-style songs. To pick out a favorite song from that group is, of course, nigh unto impossible but, nonetheless, “Last Night When We Were Young” would be my choice. It would be my choice because, as time goes by, its probably my generation who will still relate to that style of music and, in this case, the nostalgia that is the essence of the song. Notice the phrase “as time goes by.” As I recall, it is a title of another song. I might mention that playing the concert was very fulfilling because the music is so rich in harmonies, melodies, rhythms and the interplay between those elements. Today’s popular music seems so shallow by comparison.

First song that popped into my head: “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. You hear those first pulsing beats…it’s iconic!

 

Whether it’s Gershwin or Springsteen, truly great music is made to last. This December, don’t miss hearing the music from one of the greats: George Gershwin.

 

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What IS Klezmer?

Michael Paul Levin as George Gershwin

Michael Paul Levin as George Gershwin

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer will be on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage from December 2 to 31. I certainly know the name Gershwin, but I’m unfamiliar with the term klezmer. Perhaps you are, too.

As Vincent Hannam mentioned in his recent blog post “The Heart and Soul of Gershwin,” klezmer is a Yiddish word that means instrument of music (derived from klay, which means instrument; and zemer, music). Klezmer came from Ashkenazi Jews, who originated in Eastern Europe, and was intended to, via the violin, imitate the human voice, including the cries, wails and laughter, of the chazzan (cantor) in synagogue. The first klezmer tunes actually came from Hebrew chants in Jewish services.

Played by professional musicians called klezmorim, klezmer originally consisted mainly of spirited dance melodies as well as some plaintive, reflective tunes for celebratory communal events, such as weddings. Klezmorim (and entertainers in general) were not highly regarded in Jewish society due to their secular nomadic, unconventional lifestyle, but they were respected for their virtuosity and diverse repertoire. A band usually included at least two violinists, with the most accomplished one serving as bandleader, backed by a bass or cello and other typical instruments, such as clarinet, drum, hammered dulcimers, trumpet, trombone and accordion.

As with other aspects of European Jewish culture, the Holocaust nearly decimated the tradition of klezmer music since it was passed down aurally through the generations. Surviving musicians helped revitalize the music, and musicologists worked to record their repertoires.

Traditional klezmer was influenced mainly by Romanian music but also present were Greek, Ukranian, Polish, Hungarian and Turkish influences. When European Jews immigrated to the United States, they brought klezmer with them, but it’s popularity steadily waned as Jews adopted mainstream culture. However, American klezmer grew in stature with hits from Jewish composers, such as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers and, yes, George Gershwin, who incorporated jazz and even gospel into their sound.

The cast and musicians of Park Square Theatre’s The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, besides performing some truly terrific American classics, will also impart a slice of musical history that you may not already have known. My whole family and I plan to kick back, perhaps can’t help but move some body parts while seated and otherwise enjoy the ride when we see the show in December.

Hope to see you there!

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Sources: Klezmer from en.m.wikipedia.org; Klezmer music by Mark S. Slobin from www.britannica.com; Klezmer Music 101 by Megan Romer from worldmusic.about.com; What is Klezmer Music? by Becky Weitzman from tepel.org

And Still I Rise

Excerpts from the Academy of Achievement’s interview with Maya Angelou on January 22, 1997, at High Point, North Carolina (www.achievemt.org/auto doc/page/ang0int-8) , with full text of Angelou’s poem from Famous Inspirational Poem (www.familyfriendpoems.com):

Is there any one poem or verse that you’ve used to sustain you through challenges or adversities or difficulties?  Well, yes. Some of them are mine, of course. “And Still I Rise,” which is a poem of mine that is very popular in the country. And a number of people use it. A lot of black people and a lot of white people use it.

Nina Simone: Four Women at Park Square Theatre, 2017

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiest upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

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Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

The Liar Rehearsal

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

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Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Education Program - Audience

So there is that poem, and it goes on. And then, a poem just for women, which is called “Phenomenal Women,” and I love the poem. I wrote it for black women, and white women, and Chinese women, and Japanese women, and Jewish women. I wrote it for Native American women, Aleut, Eskimo ladies. I wrote it for all women. Very fat women, very thin, pretty, plain. Now, I know men are phenomenal, but they have to write their own poem.

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Photo credits (top to bottom):

Regina A. Williams in Nina Simone: Four Women by Petronella J. Ytsma; scenes from The House on Mango Street, The Liar and A Raisin in the Sun by Connie Shaver; student matinee audience; The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer and Flower Drum Song by Petronella J. Ytsma

Current and Upcoming Productions:

A Raisin in the Sun, October 28-November 20 (tickets also available for purchase to Student Matinees November 1-December 22), Andy Boss Thrust Stage

The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, December 2-31, Proscenium Stage

Flower Drum Song, January 20-February 19, Proscenium Stage

Nina Simone: Four Women, February 7-26, Andy Boss Thrust Stage

Hope and Inspiration

One cannot help but be reflective after Election Day, and one thing that I’ve been thinking about is the role of theatre arts in society as a source of hope and inspiration.

In my work at Park Square Theatre, both as blogger and daytime usher, I get to witness firsthand some of the dynamic changes occurring within the Minnesota scene as Elders begin to hand off responsibilities to a younger generation, as organizations soul-search on how to remain relevant to their audiences and as they ever strive to fulfill their missions–all while trying to stay financially afloat to be able to come back to do it all over again season after season. What I have discovered is that a theatre is a place of service, and those who work in one are more likely than not following a calling. The theatre “bug” is not foremost a pursuit of fame and fortune (though the latter would be a welcomed help) but a dedication by those involved to work for the greater social good.

While at Park Square Theatre, I get to brush shoulders with living Minnesota theatre history–the people who have been the shakers-and-movers of Twin Cities theatre for decades, not much in the limelight but still tirelessly dedicated to bringing quality live theatre to you from behind the scenes. To name just a few, there are Artistic Director Richard Cook, who co-founded and built up Park Square’s stature in its Saint Paul community; Education Director Mary Finnerty, who created what is likely the strongest theatre education program for middle- and high-school students in the state; photographer Petronella J. Ytsma, who can tell you photoshoot stories that span the change of photo-technology; and newly hired Group Sales & Community Engagement Manager Linda Twiss, who has likely, unbeknownst to you, already touched some aspect of your theater-going experience in Minnesota through the years.

Then there are our Future–the younger generation who also carry on the vision and mission. In my two seasons at Park Square Theatre, I have watched House Manager Amanda Lammert rise to Audience Services Director and, as such, clear the path for  millennials, such as Jiffy Kunik to become Performance Supervisor, Adrian Larkin to become Lead House Manager and Ben Cook-Feltz to become Ticket Office Supervisor. Our stage managers, such as Jamie Kranz, Megan Dougherty, Laura Topham and Lyndsey Harter, tend to be young female leaders with sure hands on each production that they oversee. My own fellow blogger, Vincent Hannam, is so clearly a Student of Life through Theatre; I get to see him grow not just as a theatre artist but as a wholehearted human being as I blog alongside him. And I have interviewed so many up-and-coming theatre professionals, from actors to designers, working with such intensity and creativity in their chosen fields. To be amongst such passionate young people, committed to theatre as a social cause is a constant source of hope and inspiration.

Park Square's A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Connie Shaver.

A scene from A Raisin in the Sun (Photo by Connie Shaver)

And this fall I am witnessing the fruits of the prior year’s labor to carefully select this season’s plays, culled from suggestions by theatre professionals, theatre goers and volunteer script readers–all committed to fulfilling Park Square Theatre’s mission. The whole process is a mixture of intentionality and serendipity, resulting in a breathtaking season of anticipation and high hopes that we got it right. This season, we started out with The Liar and The Realistic Joneses, both in their own ways guiding us to what is true and real. Then came The House on Mango Street and currently A Raisin in the Sun, both uplifting the human spirit in the face of adversity. In December, we look forward to The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, a style of music brought to us by Jewish immigrants.

Park Square Theatre’s mission is “to enrich our community by producing and presenting exceptional live theatre that touches the heart, engages the mind, and delights the spirit.” It is theatre in service to the common good and, by extension, a source of hope and inspiration. To all.

Note: We have a very limited number of tickets available for A Raisin in the Sun evening and weekend performances through November 20. But you may now purchase tickets for weekday student matinee performances through December 22. (You would be watching the play with school groups.) Student matinee tickets cost just $25.

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Tickets for The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer evening and weekend performances are available through December 31.

To order, call 651.291.7005 or go to parksquaretheatre.org.

The Heart and Soul of Gershwin

What do you think of when you hear Gershwin? Right now I only mean the literal name – George Gershwin. Do you think of iconic songs such as “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris”? How about the great opera, Porgy and Bess and it’s classic “Summertime”? Okay, now what else do you think about (again, about the man himself). Do words like “New York”, “jazz”, “immigrant”, “Great American Songbook” and “Roaring ’20s” float through your imagination?

They’re all floating about in my head and I’m just a millennial who’s about to live through a whole new ’20s!

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

 

Speaking of which, now what images are appearing in your mind? I bet it is the 1920s, the decade with which Gershwin will forever be linked. In a post-war world, the United States suddenly took the lead in cultural influence, where our figures of pop culture took on Olympian status. Athletes, aviators and artists were now more popular than any stuffy politician or war hero. Jazz, sex and money seemed to be the cultural touchstones of the era with a soundtrack composed by George Gershwin.

Born in New York City in 1898, to Roza and Jakov Gershowitz, Jewish immigrants from Russia. He had three siblings named Frances, Arthur and Ira (who would become his equally famous writing partner). The children grew up in the Brooklyn tenements and were unwittingly influenced by the cultural melting pot that surrounded them at the turn of the century.

All of this culminated in 1924 when Gershwin was commissioned to compose a jazz concerto that became Rhapsody in Blue. The piece and that opening clarinet glissando immediately established him as a serious composer at the fine age of 26.

Four years later, his next major work premiered, An American in Paris. Inspired by the years he had spent in Paris (probably the next most artistically scintillating city after New York City) he said, “My purpose here is to portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere.”

He went so far as to include Parisian taxi horns into the composition.

With the dizzying heights reached by Gershwin and the country, it seemed poetic that the only way to go was down. The extravagance of the ’20s fizzled into the bleakness of the ’30s. The country may have been depressed but Gershwin was as busy as ever, composing a the folk opera, Porgy and Bess. A failure at the time, it is now regarded as a true American masterpiece, noted for it’s cast of classically-trained African American singers. Of course this was an extremely bold move at the time and thankfully one Gershwin was willing to make.

The work unfortunately proved to be his last, for what came after is again, almost poetic. In 1937 he suffered a  brain tumor and died.  The events were devastating as Gershwin was only 38 and seemingly poised to start a new chapter in his already stellar legacy.

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Now this winter, Park Square Theatre takes up the mantle of that legacy with The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer. That last word, a Yiddish one, means “instrument of music”. How fitting then for a man who was an instrument of so many talents.

 

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