An Evening with GEORGE$30 - $33
Saturday, October 6, 2018 7:30pm
One of the most significant and popular American composers of all time, George Gershwin played a prominent role in the colorful era of popular music; the so-called age of “Tin Pan Alley” (1890-1930) when popular music became big business.
Gershwin’s debut in the concert hall was “Rhapsody in Blue” for piano and jazz band, the first time jazz rhythms and blues-oriented melodies were used successfully within a classical framework. The composer’s last major work and most ambitious composition, the opera “Porgy and Bess” (1935) drew from popular and classical influences. Gershwin called it his “folk opera” based on a novel by DuBose Heyward about a ghetto in Charleston, S.C.
The Gershwin-Heyward collaboration would feature an all-African American cast of classically trained singers – revolutionary casting in 1930’s America. Porgy and Bess is considered to be among the most important American musical compositions of the 20th century.
Saturday, October 6, 2018 7:30pm at Sandusky State Theatre
Conversation with the Conductor 6:30pm
Carl Topilow, Music Director and Conductor
Firelands Symphony Orchestra, Full Orchestra
Michael Shirtz, Chorale Director
Firelands Symphony Chorale
Michael Preacely, Guest Artist – Baritone
Kishna Davis, Guest Artist – Soprano
Kathryn Brown, Guest Artist – Pianist
To Be Announced!
Birth Date: September 26, 1898
Death Date: July 11, 1937
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York
Place of Death: Hollywood, California
George Gershwin was one of the most significant American composers of the 20th century, known for popular stage and screen numbers as well as classical compositions.
George Gershwin, born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898, was the second son of Russian immigrants. As a boy, George was anything but studious, and it came as a wonderful surprise to his family that he had secretly been learning to play the piano. In 1914, Gershwin left high school to work as a Tin Pan Alley song plugger and within three years, “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em; When You Have ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em,” was published. Though this initial effort created little interest, “Swanee” (lyrics by Irving Caesar) — turned into a smash hit by Al Jolson in 1919 — brought Gershwin his first real fame.
In 1924, when George teamed up with his older brother Ira, “the Gershwins” became the dominant Broadway songwriters, creating infectious rhythm numbers and poignant ballads, fashioning the words to fit the melodies with a “glove-like” fidelity. This extraordinary combination created a succession of musical comedies, including LADY, BE GOOD! (1924), OH, KAY! (1926), FUNNY FACE (1927), STRIKE UP THE BAND (1927 and 1930), GIRL CRAZY (1930), and OF THEE I SING (1931), the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize. Over the years, Gershwin songs have also been used in numerous films, including SHALL WE DANCE (1937), A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937), and AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951). Later years produced the award-winning “new” stage musicals MY ONE AND ONLY (1983) and CRAZY FOR YOU (1992), which ran for four years on Broadway.
Starting with his early days as a song composer, Gershwin had ambitions to compose serious music. Asked by Paul Whiteman to write an original work for a concert of modern music to be presented at Aeolian Hall in New York on February 12, 1924, George, who was hard at work on a musical comedy, SWEET LITTLE DEVIL, barely completed his composition in time. Commencing with the first low trill of the solo clarinet and its spine-tingling run up the scale, RHAPSODY IN BLUE caught the public’s fancy and opened a new era in American music. In 1925, conductor Walter Damrosch commissioned Gershwin to compose a piano concerto for the New York Symphony Society. Many feel that the CONCERTO IN F is Gershwin’s finest orchestral work. Others opt for his AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1928) or his SECOND RHAPSODY for piano and orchestra, which he introduced with himself as pianist with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzsky in 1932.
In 1926 Gershwin read PORGY, DuBose Heyward’s novel of the South Carolina Gullah culture, and immediately recognized it as a perfect vehicle for a “folk opera” using blues and jazz idioms. PORGY AND BESS (co-written with Heyward and Ira) was Gershwin’s most ambitious undertaking, integrating unforgettable songs with dramatic incident. PORGY AND BESS previewed in Boston on September 30, 1935 and opened its Broadway run on October 10. The opera had major revivals in 1942, 1952, 1976, and 1983 and has toured the world. It was made into a major motion picture by Samuel Goldwyn in 1959, while Trevor Nunn’s landmark Glyndebourne Opera production was taped for television in 1993.
George Gershwin was at the height of his career in 1937. His symphonic works and three PRELUDES for piano were becoming part of the standard repertoire for concerts and recitals, and his show songs had brought him increasing fame and fortune. It was in Hollywood, while working on the score of THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES, that George Gershwin died of a brain tumor; he was not quite 39 years old. Countless people throughout the world, who knew Gershwin only through his work, were stunned by the news as if they had suffered a personal loss. Some years later, the writer John O’Hara summed up their feelings: “George Gershwin died July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”
Gershwin’s works are performed today with greater frequency than they were during his brief lifetime. His songs and concert pieces continue to fill the pages of discographies and orchestra calendars. The Trustees of Columbia University recognized Gershwin’s influence — and made up for his not receiving a Pulitzer for OF THEE I SING in 1932 — when they awarded him a special posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1998, the centennial of his birth.
1935: Porgy and Bess, the first great American opera, premieres on Broadway
On October 10, 1935, George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess premieres on Broadway.
Porgy and Bess began its journey to the Broadway stage in 1936, when George Gershwin wrote a letter late one night to the author of a book he was reading proposing that the two of them collaborate on an operatic adaptation. The African-American poet DuBose Heyward, author of the novel Porgy,immediately agreed to Gershwin’s proposal, but commercial commitments in New York prevented Gershwin from actually beginning work on the project for another seven years. In the meantime, singer Al Jolson attempted to mount a musical version of Porgy starring himself in blackface, but that effort foundered in 1932, leaving the way open for the Gershwin-Heyward collaboration that would feature an all-African American cast of classically trained singers—revolutionary casting in 1930s America.
Over the course of more than two years beginning in the spring of 1933, DuBose Heyward and the two Gershwins—George’s brother, Ira, joined on as co-lyricist in 1934—collaborated mostly by U.S. Mail, with only occasional face-to-face meetings. In this fashion, they nevertheless managed to create some of the greatest songs in American musical-theater history, including “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.”
The critics of the day were decidedly mixed in their reception of Porgy and Bess, however. While Olin Downes of The New York Times found “much to commend it from the musical standpoint,” composer/critic Virgil Thomson, writing for the New York Herald-Tribune, was less kind, calling Gershwin’s incorporation of blues and jazz influences into a “serious” operatic score to be “falsely conceived and rather clumsily executed…crooked folklore and half-way opera.”
Many of the songs had been cut from show between its trial run in Boston and its Broadway debut, however—a fact that may well have hurt Porgy and Bess with critics. In fact, the full George Gershwin score of Porgy and Bess would not be performed again until a triumphant 1976 revival by the Houston Grand Opera helped establish its current place in the standard operatic repertoire.
George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward died in 1937 and 1940, respectively, not knowing that the poorly-received Porgy and Bess, which premiered on this day in 1925 and closed some four months later, would later gain recognition as one of the most important American musical works of the 20th century.
American baritone Michael Preacely is a rising star on the operatic stage and is also known for a versatile singing ability and style that allow him to cross between genres from classical repertoire to pop, contemporary, and Broadway. He has received critical acclaim for many of his performances, including Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Scarpia in Tosca, Ford inFalstaff, Marcello in La Boheme, the High Priest in Samson and Delilah, and Porgy and Jake in Porgy and Bess. Mr. Preacely has performed with many major and regional opera houses and orchestras in the United States and abroad. Recently, Mr. Preacely completed a European tour of Porgy and Bess where he received great reviews for his performances of both Porgy and Jake. He also toured Russia in a concert series with New York-based Opera Noire, debuted with Opera Memphis in the role of Marullo with a Rigoletto Cover, and Opéra de Montréal in the role of Jake. Michael made his debut with the Butler University Symphony Orchestra opposite world-famous soprano Angela Brown in a beloved performance of the Porgy and Bess Suite. Michael has performed with Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company Philadelphia, Opera Memphis, Kentucky Opera, Cleveland Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, and Bohème Opera of New Jersey.
Mr. Preacely’s success on the concert stage has blossomed with some of the nation’s leading orchestras, including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Pops, the Cincinnati Pops, the Greater Trenton Choral Society, and the American Spiritual Ensemble.
Mr. Preacely has received numerous accolades. He was invited under scholarship to participate in the International Vocal Arts Institute with Joan Dornemann and the VOIC Experience with Sherrill Milnes and Friends. He was the First Place Graduate Winner in the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition at the University of Kentucky and the recipient of awards in various competitions such as the National Opera Association Vocal Competition Artist Division, the Fritz and Jensen Vocal Competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Currently, Mr. Preacely is working on the release of his first album, Spirituals and Hymns, followed by a series of concerts and recitals in various venues across the United States. Michael resides in Lexington, KY with his wife LeTicia and two sons, Joshua and Benjamin.
MORE INFORMATION: http://www.michaelpreacely.com/
Kishna Davis, soprano, is widely acclaimed throughout the United States and Europe for her performances in opera, with orchestras and as a solo concert artist. Her operatic roles include the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica (Juilliard Opera), Sister Rose in Dead Man Walking (Baltimore Opera), Nedda in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci (Opera Memphis), the title role in Puccini’s Tosca (Metro Lyric Opera of New Jersey), Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (Indianapolis Opera), Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème (Metro Lyric Opera, Connecticut Grand Opera), Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (New York City Opera, John de Main, conductor; Opera Company of Philadelphia, Indianapolis Opera, Virginia Opera, Memphis Opera), the title role in Verdi’s Aida (Metro Lyric Opera), Medoro in Handel’s Orlando, and concert scenes from Verdi’s La forza del destino and Dvořák’s Rusalka, (the latter three at the Altenburg Opera Festival in Germany). She was a member in the Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera where she sang the role of the Countess in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, subsequently appearing in the same role at Western Opera Theatre. As a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, Ms. Davis sang the title role in Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah, conducted by James Conlon, and also appeared there as Musetta. She performed Diedre Murray’s jazz opera, The Running Man, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
She has frequently performed excerpts from Porgy and Bess with orchestras in the United States, including at Wolftrap with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony under Yuri Termirkanov, Cleveland Orchstra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bobby McFerrin, and the Oregon, Pacific, Phoenix, and San Francisco symphonies. She has also performed songs from Porgy and Bess abroad, including Martinique, on tour with the Morgan State University choir in Prague, with the Chicago Sinfonietta during the ensemble’s European tour, and recently in Rome and Siena under Yuri Termirkanov. She was also the feature soprano soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic. Other performances with orchestras have included concert performances of arias from Kurt Weill’s opera Street Scene (Phoenix Symphony), André Previn’s song cycle Honey and Rue (Annapolis Symphony), and the soprano solo in Leslie Dunner’s Songs of a Motherless Child with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as with the Dallas, Baltimore, and Annapolis symphonies. Other concert appearances have included the soprano solos in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Missa Solemnis, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music (Cleveland Jazz Fest), various arias from oratorios by Handel (Marin Alsop conducting the Colorado Symphony), Maria’s songs from West Side Story (Spokane Symphony), and appearances with the Evansville Philharmonic and the Sunshine Pops Orchestra in southwest Florida. Ms. Davis also returned for the second year as soprano soloist for the New Year’s Eve Gala, at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra. She has frequently performed Holiday concerts with the Ft. Wayne Philharmonic and Greenville Symphony.
Ms. Davis, a winner of the Baltimore Opera Competition, is a graduate of The Juilliard Opera Center, where she received her master’s degree in music. In addition, she holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Morgan State University.
Kathryn Brown has performed around the globe as concerto soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. She is widely hailed for her interpretations from Mozart to Gershwin, as well as her premieres of the New Music of today. She gave her New York Recital Debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and has also appeared in concert at New York’s 92nd Street Y. She has been featured on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, Cleveland’s Severance Hall and the German Embassy, the Philips Collection, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
International highlights include concerts at Prague’s Rudolfinum Hall, the University of London, and the National Theatre in Ghana, Africa. She has appeared on Columbia Artists’ Community Concert Series and performed an extensive tour of Sweden, Africa and Estonia as winner of the United States Information
Agency (USIA) Artistic Ambassador Program.
A recipient of the Darius Milhaud Prize, Kathryn Brown is an advocate of contemporary music and has recorded and premiered works by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Keith Fitch, David Tcimpidis, Margaret Brouwer, Michael Hersch and Matthias Pinscher.
Kathryn Brown has performed extensively as a chamber musician. Pianist and co-founder of the Myriad Chamber Players, (a seventeen-member ensemble comprised of musicians of The Cleveland Orchestra and international soloists), Ms. Brown’s chamber music credits also include performances at the Marlboro Music Festival in collaborations with members of the Guarneri String Quartet and Beaux Arts Trio. She has also performed with the Cavani String Quartet, members of the Lincoln Center Chamber Players and The Verdehr Trio. She was featured with Dmitri Ashkenazy on Ravinia’s Rising Stars series, and has collaborated with many musicians from the world’s leading orchestras. Brown also performed at Carnegie Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra as orchestral keyboardist under the baton of Christoph von Dohnanyi. She has been featured on the British Broadcasting Network, the PBS Artistry of… series, Chicago’s WFMT Radio,and NPR’s Performance Today. Brown’s discography includes releases on the Telarc, New World, Albany and Crystal labels.
An accomplished singer and recitalist, Kathryn Brown’s performance highlights include premieres at Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as feature roles at the Aspen Music Festival and Tanglewood Music Center.
Kathryn Brown is an enthusiastic supporter of the education of young musicians and presents master classes, lectures and is a frequent juror of competitions nationally and internationally. She has performed and taught at numerous summer festivals. This past summer’s festival schedule included Pianofest in the Hamptons and the inaugural Silk Road International Keyboard Festival in Quanzhou, China. Kathryn Brown’s principal teachers include Paul Schenly, Deborah Moriarty, Maria Curcio, Ralph
Votapek, YongHi Moon and Julian Martin. Kathryn Brown currently serves as Head of the Piano Department and Keyboard Division at The Cleveland Institute of Music.