Rhapsody In Blue (& Pink)
George Gershwin’s musical career began at age 11, when he began to tinker on the secondhand piano his parents purchased for his older brother, Ira; at 15 he dropped out of school and began his career, playing piano in night clubs and penning early compositions.
In his early 20s, George Gershwin was a favorite composer for producer Paul White’s annual “Scandals” series on Broadway, where he met conductor Paul Whiteman, the pit conductor for the series in the early 1920s.
In January, 1924, Whiteman approached young George Gershwin to compose a “concerto-like” piece for a jazz-style concert scheduled for mid-February, 1924. After penning the first notes on a train ride to Boston, Gershwin completed the composition he called “American Rhapsody” in just five weeks – eight days before its February 12 debut. The name was changed to “Rhapsody in Blue,” a suggestion by his brother, Ira, who noted that many of the current modern art pieces featured a color in their titles.
Paul Whiteman’s band performed “Rhapsody in Blue” onstage at New York’s Aeolian Hall, in a performance entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Ironically, the performance was intended as an educational event to introduce symphony music to a wider audience.
The experiment worked, having secured George Gershwin’s position as a serious composer, and his “Rhapsody in Blue” as one of the world’s most recognized works of jazz symphony music. In its first three years, the piece was performed 84 times by Whiteman’s band, and more than one million copies of “Rhapsody in Blue” were sold to the masses.
Since 1924, “Rhapsody in Blue” has been featured in countless movies, cartoons, television programs and more, and it is one of the most popular of all American concert compositions.
It is appropriate, therefore, that “Rhapsody in Blue (& Pink!),” written and orchestrated by John Whitworth (father of GMDT’s assistant artistic director, Ashleigh Whitworth), is performed by our company’s pre-professional dancers, providing a comedic, educational opportunity that carries on with George Gershwin’s original intent to offer a wider appreciation for symphony performance – and ballet.
“Rhapsody in Blue (& Pink!)” will be performed as part of our “An Evening With George” performances, March 22 – 24, 2013.