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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 […]

Blue Monday: A Compositional Crossroads

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 first of a three-part series devoted to Blue Monday—delves into the creation and short life of the work and explores its place in Gershwin’s compositional development. At the peak of his career, George Gershwin was a versatile and successful composer of movie scores, popular songs, musicals, and concert pieces. But the fifteen-year-old boy who dropped out of school to be a song-plugger didn’t become an opera composer overnight. While the […]

“A House of Many Mansions”: Undine Smith Moore and the Fight for Black Music

“Black music is a house of many mansions. Blacks have many musics and some of them relate in an extremely universal way to the human condition,” said Undine Smith Moore, who believed strongly in the power of Black music to reveal the innermost parts of the human heart, mind, body, and soul. This post is a celebration of her life as a Black woman in America, a legacy of bravery and persistence that lives on through her music. Known to many as the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Undine Smith Moore (1904–1989) forged a remarkable career in composition and music […]

NOI+F’s New Recording of Concerto in F

The University of Maryland’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F) is back at it again with the release of a new album of American music featuring our critical edition of George’s Gershwin’s Concerto in F, performed by renowned pianist and Gershwin interpreter Kevin Cole! The album also includes performances of Joan Tower’s Sequoia, John Harbison’s Remembering Gatsby, and Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 5 under the direction of conductor David Alan Miller. Cole and Miller’s masterful performance of Gershwin’s concerto, edited by Tim Freeze, has already gotten national praise; check out Howard Reich’s review of the album for the Chicago Tribune, in […]

I Got Starlight: Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Songbook

Ira Gershwin once declared, “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.” Indeed, the Gershwins owe much of their enduring success to vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996), whose clear tone, seemingly effortless improvisational skills, and tremendous popularity earned her the nickname “The First Lady of Jazz.” Fitzgerald’s accessible yet powerful interpretations of the Gershwins’ music helped repopularize it over twenty years after George’s death, further cementing their compositions in the Great American Songbook. Launched to fame by her 1938 recording “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” Fitzgerald recorded over 200 albums during a robust, nearly 60 year-long career. […]

NOI+F’s An American in Paris

We are delighted to share that the University of Maryland’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F) has released a new album of American music featuring our critical edition of George’s Gershwin’s 1928 tone poem, An American in Paris! The album, titled Bernstein, Gershwin and Copland, also includes performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Songfest and Aaron Copland’s An Outdoor Overture under the direction of conductor James Judd. Judd’s performance of An American in Paris offers particular fidelity to the insights gleaned from Gershwin’s 1929 recording of the work that informs our edition. Find or stream this recording and others by the National […]

Rhythm Changes: Expanded Scope and Educational Mission for the Gershwin Initiative

As students, musicians, professionals, scholars, and human beings, we at the Gershwin Initiative / American Music Institute are committed to engaging and honoring marginalized voices within American musical cultures. To that end, we will enlarge our educational mission and platform to use our work as a vehicle for learning about, amplifying, and celebrating diverse musical voices. This will be reflected through expanded digital content here on our research blog and social media feeds, with a focus on the work of BIPOC creators and performers. The Gershwin Initiative’s focus is on preserving and celebrating the legacy of George and Ira Gershwin […]

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. […]

Doin’ Time: The Coast to Coast Transformation of “Summertime”

Between the Metropolitan Opera’s new production and Lana Del Rey’s recent song “Doin’ Time,” we’re hearing about Porgy and Bess everywhere these days. But how did “Summertime” end up on Top 40 radio? This post explores the rich afterlife of Gershwin’s famous aria, from early recordings to Sublime’s ska-punk interpretation, and its most recent appearance in pop star Lana Del Rey’s sixth album. By Sophia Janevic The aria “Summertime” from the American opera Porgy and Bess (1935) is perhaps composer George Gershwin’s most recognizable tune—so ubiquitous, in fact, that it has been reworked into a SoCal pop anthem. But how […]

Announcing the Gershwin Initiative’s “Alfred and Jane Wolin Managing Editorship”

Join us as we express our thanks to Alfred and Jane Wolin for their generous gift to the Gershwin Initiative. The Gershwin Initiative is pleased to announce the “Alfred and Jane Wolin Managing Editorship.” Supported by a three-year gift, the named position assures the continuation of this key leadership position and thus the continuing productivity of the George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition. “I am so grateful for the Wolin’s generous support,” said professor Mark Clague, director of the U-M Gershwin Initiative. “Their gift recognizes not only the importance of the Gershwin Critical Edition to the brothers’ legacy and American […]

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