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Category Archives: Music

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 […]

Rediscovering La, La, Lucille

In this post, Associate Editor Jacob Kerzner describes discovering materials that had been thought lost from George Gershwin’s first full musical, La, La, Lucille (1919), and some of the challenges of preparing the new critical edition. For our recordings of the rediscovered materials, please see this post. As the world celebrates the centennial of Rhapsody in Blue, many are marveling at the 25-year-old George Gershwin’s accomplished musicality. His rise to fame began four years earlier in April 1920 when Columbia Records released Al Jolson’s performance of his and Irving Caesar’s song “Swanee,” selling an estimated two million records.[1] But just […]

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 […]

Gershwin Centennial—100th Anniversary “Rhapsody in Blue” Edition Now Available

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s iconic concerto fusing classical music and jazz, The George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition at the Univeristy of Michigan has published musicologist Ryan Raul Bañagale‘s landmark scholarly edition of the original 1924 jazz band version of Rhapsody in Blue, orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. The publication now makes the work’s full original musical notation—as it likely sounded when it was first premiered—available to Gershwin fans, music students, scholars, and performers. A signal voice in the American musical imagination, the melodies of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue were first heard on February 12, 1924 […]

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’,” […]

Dr. Eva Jessye: The Grand Dame in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dr. Eva Jessye had a special relationship to the University of Michigan and to the city of Ann Arbor. Join blog team member Sophia Janevic as she spends a day in Jessye’s archive, currently housed at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and speculates on what its materials can tell us about Dr. Jessye’s vibrant life. This is the final installment of a 3-part series on Dr. Eva Jessye. In part 1, we explored Jessye’s early life and her achievements as a choral director and composer, while part 2 chronicled Jessye’s work as the longtime choral director of The […]

Jazz Opera? Problems of Genre in Blue Monday

While it was never particularly successful, George Gershwin’s 1922 one-act “jazz-opera” Blue Monday played an important role in bridging the gap between his popular style and classical compositions. This post—the final installment of our three-part series devoted to Blue Monday—explores just what a “jazz-opera” might be and delves deeper into the cultural implications of these stylistic elements in Gershwin’s work. Content Warning: This post contains a quotation of an offensive racial slur. As discussed in the initial post of this series, George Gershwin’s Blue Monday was cut from the George White Scandals of 1922 after opening night. Still, this short […]

The Persistence of a Flop: Revivals and Re-imaginings of Blue Monday

While it was never particularly successful, George Gershwin’s 1922 one-act “jazz-opera” Blue Monday played an important role in bridging the gap between his popular style and classical compositions. This post—the second in a three-part series devoted to Blue Monday—chronicles various efforts to revive and record the piece since its brief stint on Broadway, and examines the ways these productions dealt with the racially and culturally offensive aspects of the show. Content Warning: This post contains a quotation of an offensive racial slur. George Gershwin composed his one-act “jazz-opera” Blue Monday for the George White Scandals of 1922, but it was […]

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