Program Notes
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Program Notes - Winter Concert

Theme: Gee Whiz

"Oh, Lady Be Good!" (1924)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

"Oh, Lady Be Good!" was introduced by Walter Catlett in the musical Lady Be Good in 1924. The musical starred Fred and Adele Astaire, and ran for 330 performances. Ella Fitzgerald had a hit recording in 1947, noted for its scat solo. [CJ]

 

"The Man I Love" (1924)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

"The Man I Love" was originally part of the 1924 score for Lady Be Good as "The Girl I Love." The song was deleted from that show as well as from both Strike Up the Band (1928), where it first appeared as "The Man I Love," and the 1928 Ziegfeld hit Rosalie after tryouts. It became the basis for the 1947 film The Man I Love, starring Ida Lupino and Bruce Bennett, and was featured prominently throughout. As with many songs from this period, it became more famous as an independent song than one attached to a particular Broadway musical. It is included in the 2015 musical An American in Paris. [CJ]

 

"Fascinating Rhythm" (1924)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

"Fascinating Rhythm" was also part of the 1924 score for Lady Be Good. The song was introduced by Cliff Edwards, Fred Astaire, and Adele Astaire. Cliff Edwards, also known as "Ukelele Ike," is best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the Disney film Pinocchio (1940). The Astaires also recorded the song in London in 1926 with George Gershwin on the piano. [CJ]

 

Episodes for Horn and Orchestra (2016)
James Goodwin (b. 1952)

This piece is a one-movement overture, written in the spring and summer of this year. The composer, pleased with his daughter's accomplishments on the French horn, desired to write a solo piece for her to play with orchestra. Mr. Goodwin had written many pieces for school bands, military bands, community bands, and bands with orchestra, but he had not written a piece specifically for orchestra. 

The piece shows off some of the possibilities available on the French horn. Utilizing three main themes, which are woven together in various ways, the piece unfolds slowly and quietly with the first theme, which is mostly diatonic and in C minor. Suddenly the orchestra is alive, and the solo horn enters with the second theme, which is similar to the first but more angular and agitated. The orchestra then has the opportunity to repeat the theme, separate from the horn. A prominent glissando in the harp signals the start of the next section and the third theme, which is played by the solo horn. This theme is in Eb Major, much slower and sweeping in nature. The composer compares it to an ocean scene with waves of music in the background. The orchestra performs part of this melody alone but it is finished by the solo horn. 

This leads into a strong, fast section in C minor with the orchestra horns and trombones playing an ominous and expanded version of the second theme, while the solo horn adds interest in the background playing the first theme. After a sudden transposition upward, the music reaches a climax, and the horn plays a cadenza. The second angular theme returns, but ends in a more jubilant fashion. This signals the closing section, which utilizes parts of both the first and third themes in the triumphant key of C Major. [James Goodwin]

 

"I Loves You Porgy" (1935)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

"I Loves You Porgy" was originally a duet, introduced by Anne Brown and Todd Duncan, in the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Gershwin called it a "folk opera" even though it had no genuine folk tunes in it. He researched the style and wrote his own folk tunes so there would be unity to the work. [CJ]

 

"Summertime" (1934)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward (1885-1940) [co-credit is sometimes given to Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)]

Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period. Gershwin had completed setting DuBose Heyward's poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera.

The song is sung several times throughout Porgy and Bess. Its lyrics are the first words heard in Act 1 of the opera, sung by Clara as a lullaby. The song theme is reprised soon after as counterpoint to the craps game scene, in Act 2 in a reprise by Clara, and in act 3 by Bess, singing to Clara's now-orphaned baby after both its parents died in the storm. [CJ]

 

"I Got Rhythm" (1930)
Music by George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)]

The song came from the musical Girl Crazy and was introduced by Ethel Merman, to near-riotous applause, in her first Broadway musical appearance. It is Broadway lore that when Gershwin first heard saw her opening reviews, he advised her never to take a voice lesson. "I Got Rhythm" was originally written as a slow song for Treasure Girl (1928) but was not published until is inclusion in Girl Crazy in 1930.

As usual, George Gershwin wrote the melody first and gave it to Ira to set, but Ira found it an unusually hard melody for which to create lyrics. He experimented for two weeks with the rhyme scheme he felt the music called for, sets of triple rhymes, but found that the heavy rhyming "seemed at best to give a pleasant and jingly Mother Goose quality to a tune which should throw its weight around more." Finally he began to experiment with leaving most of the lines unrhymed. "This approach felt stronger," he wrote, "and I finally arrived at the present refrain, with only 'more-door' and 'mind him-find him' the rhymes." He added that this approach "was a bit daring for me who usually depended on rhyme insurance."

Ira also wrote that although the phrase "who could ask for anything more?" is repeated four times in the song, he decided not to make it the title because "somehow the first line of the refrain sounded more arresting and provocative." [CJ]

 

Piano Concerto in F (1925)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)

Composed one year after Gershwin's more famous Rhapsody in Blue, also written for piano and orchestra, the Piano Concerto in F was more controversial. Commissioned by Walter Damrosch, who conducted the premiere of the rhapsody, this piece was more formal, yet still included jazz elements, which had been critically accepted in the freer form of a rhapsody, but less so in a concerto. The Concerto premiered at Carnegie Hall with the composer at the piano.

The concerto was originally titled New York Concerto and Gershwin began its composition in July of 1925, completing it in late September of that year. Whereas Ferde Grofé orchestrated Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin, in the interim, studied orchestration and did the Concerto by himself.

The Piano Concerto in F is not in strict classical form. Gershwin admitted: "[the first movement] is in sonata form - but…" The second movement is slow and although it follows a song form in classic rondo fashion, it is, at its heart, a large blues piece for piano and includes a delightful solo for muted trumpet. The third movement is a spirited rondo bringing back themes from the earlier movements, ending with a "grandioso" return of the opening movement's main theme.

Although the concerto's structure is classically influenced, the soul of it is jazz. It is the energy derived from these jazz elements that have fascinated listeners since its premiere. Gershwin called the third movement an "orgy of rhythm." [CJ]