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Category Archives: Gershwins

For the First Time in Nearly a Century, Original Orchestrations of “La, La, Lucille”

The U-M Gershwin Initiative is thrilled to share the first-ever recordings of two songs from the recently rediscovered touring orchestration of George Gershwin’s first complete Broadway show — La, La, Lucille, a 1919 bedroom farce! These recordings of the rediscovered orchestrations, likely by Frank Saddler (1864–1921), were filmed live at our Gershwin 1924 Centennial Celebration at Michigan Theater. Based on our research, this was the first time they had been heard since 1926! You can read about the rediscovery in Associate Editor Jacob Kerzner’s post and in a recent University Record article. With its wistful rue, “Somehow It Seldom Comes […]

Happy 100th to Rhapsody in Blue! Videos and Program Notes from Our Rhapsody in Blue Centennial Concert

We were thrilled to be able to share our centennial concert for Rhapsody in Blue and the four Gershwin musicals of 1924 with so many people at Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on Sunday, February 11, 2024 — using George Gershwin’s own piano! It was amazing to have such a large and enthusiastic audience. Thank you so much to all who participated and to everyone who made it possible. Please read more about our program here! We are thrilled to share with you the video of Rhapsody in Blue in its original jazz band orchestration by Ferde Grofé using Ryan Raul […]

Ann Arbor Gershwin Centennial Festival 2024: “Rhapsody in Blue” and More…

February 2024 marks the 100th birthday of George Gershwin’s jazz piano concerto Rhapsody in Blue. To celebrate, the University of Michigan Gershwin Initiative in partnership with Ann Arbor’s landmark Michigan Theater (606 East Liberty in Ann Arbor) will host a Gershwin Centennial Celebration Concert on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024 at 4:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but requires an electronic, general admission ticket (reserve here). Please note: The start time for this event has been moved up to 4:00 p.m. A special feature of the concert will be the appearance of George Gershwin’s personal piano, a […]

Language in Porgy and Bess: The Challenge of Representing Gullah

Following Heather L. Hodges’s fantastic guest post about the Gullah Geechee culture that the Gershwins and Heywards portray in Porgy and Bess, we turn to one of the opera’s most contended aspects: its treatment of the Gullah language. In this post, our managing editor, Andrew S. Kohler, explores how the work’s text came to be so far removed from Gullah, and how future performances may approach the inconsistent libretto so as to give Gullah culture and language the respect they are due. The language of Porgy and Bess is a far cry from that of the Gullah community of Charleston […]

Introducing a New Series: The Past and Future of Porgy and Bess

Despite being among the most prominent operas of the twentieth century, and perhaps the Gershwin brothers’ most monumental achievement, Porgy and Bess occupies an uneasy place in US musical history. In this series, Managing Editor Andrew S. Kohler, Ph.D. and blog team leader Kai West explore the opera’s complex and at times problematic representations of race, gender, disability, and class, connecting Porgy and Bess to today’s conversations about social justice. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (1935), a collaboration with DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, contains many of the Gershwins’ most beloved numbers: “My Man’s Gone Now,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” […]

Frances Gershwin Godowsky: Her Untold Story

After years as a footnote in her famous brothers’ stories, this post shines a light on Frankie Gershwin Godowsky. Learn about her accomplishments, relationships, and legacy in our latest post! By Marlina Bowring Frances “Frankie” Gershwin Godowsky (December 6, 1906 – January 18, 1999), while frequently overshadowed by her older brothers George and Ira, was herself an accomplished musician and performer deserving of recognition. From a childhood career touring with a children’s troupe to appearances in Broadway revues and Parisian clubs to an album she released at nearly 70, Frankie remained in the public eye for most of her life. […]

All Manner of Merry Things: Hanukkah in the ‘20s

Ever wonder what Hanukkah in the Gershwins’ world was like? Turns out it was only just coming into its own as the celebratory holiday we know today. Let’s take a peek at this well-loved festival’s face in the 1920s… By Cassidy Goldblatt Prior to the ‘20s, Hanukkah as celebrated by America’s Jewish population was a rather humble holiday, centered around lighting the menorah candles in commemoration of the 2nd-century BC Maccabean Revolt and the Temple’s subsequent purification. But the 1920s saw the rise of new opinions about tradition and religious devotion. Victor Emanuel Reichert quoted a rabbi in 1927 speaking […]

“And His Lovely Wife, Ira”

By Sarah Sisk Ira Gershwin, Pulitzer-prize-winning lyricist and supplier of words to some of the most iconic songs in American musical history, may often be referred to as “the other Gershwin”, overshadowed by the popularity of his younger brother George. But while Ira may not always get the attention he deserves, the disparity in the Gershwin brothers’ respective notorieties has led to a sixty-year-running Gershwin joke—and of course poor Ira is the butt of it. The story goes that in the 1950s, a radio disk jockey, when playing a piece written by the Gershwin brothers, attributed the song to “George […]

Rhapsody in. . . who?

In today’s post, Frances traces some of the various transformations (or potential misprints) of the Gershwin family name. George and Ira’s father arrived in New York in 1890 still accompanied by his Russian Jewish name: Moishe Gershovitz. Moishe soon changed his name to the much more Americanized Morris Greshevin, as was frequently the custom with immigrants’ names upon arriving in America. Morris’s wife, Roza Bruskin, similarly became known as simply Rose. By the time of their union in 1895, their marriage license read “Gershvin.” In the 1900 US census, two years after George’s birth, Morris was back to using the […]

“Our Love is Here to Stay”: Language, Gender, Brotherly Love, and Sexual Politics

“ Love is Here to Stay” has been a celebrated jazz standard for more than six decades, and it is most often treated as a straightforward love ballad. However, the lack of gendered language in its lyrics opens up the possibility for alternative interpretations, as well as creative and political performances. By Megan Hill, Ph.D. The presence of gendered language (he/she/him/her, man/woman, etc.) in song lyrics provides the opportunity for people concerned with gender and sexuality politics to perform the song in order to make political statements, regardless of whether or not the song’s composer and/or lyricist had such politics […]

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