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Posts Tagged Michael Paul Levin

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!

 

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

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

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