March 2021

George Gershwin

March 2021

George Gershwin

Part 1

George Gershwin is considered to be a very important American composer. He was born in New York City in 1898, and his parents had immigrated to this country from the part of the world that is now Ukraine and Lithuania. (Can you find this part of the world on a map?!)

George Gershwin's music became famous for the way that it combines the traditions of classical music, Jazz, and musical theater/Broadway.

One of his most famous pieces is called "Rhapsody in Blue." Although this piece features a piano as the soloist, the opening clarinet solo could be said to be the most famous part!

(If you want to listen to the whole piece, here is a great recording!)

Part 2

George Gershwin was a fantastic pianist; something that is clear from his compositions. But did you know there is actual video of him performing from 90 years ago!?

Check out this video of him performing one of his most famous melodies, "I've got Rhythm."

Part 3

Gershwin wanted to be thought of as a "classical" composer, but he's most famous for his popular songs. These songs were the biggest hits of his day, and many of them remain popular today.

Even some of his songs that were originally pieces of "classical" music ended up as popular hits! "Summertime," a song from his opera "Porgy and Bess" is a great example of this. It has been performed by countless singers throughout the past century.

Here's a beautiful version by one of my favorite musicians of all time: Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was a jazz singer, but she became quite famous for singing the music of George Gershwin in beautiful, jazz-inspired arrangements.

Part 4

If you asked me who my favorite musicians to listen to are, I would give you two answers: Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Both of these women were incredible jazz singers who frequently performed Gershwin's music.

Here's Sarah Vaughan singing Gershwin's tune "They All Laughed." George Gershwin wrote the music for this song, but did you know that most composers don't write the words for the songs they compose? Most of the words George Gershwin used were actually written by his brother Ira! George and Ira Gershwin made quite a team!

Part 5

As you saw in one of the earlier segments, George Gershwin was an accomplished pianist! Some of his most famous compositions are his Three Preludes for solo piano. They were composed almost 100 years ago in 1926, but they still sound fresh and jazzy to our ears!

This video features an amazing younger pianist (she's 25 years old) performing some highlights from the Three Preludes.

Part 6

In Part 2 we heard George Gershwin himself play a version of his famous song "I Got Rhythm." One of the things that makes Gershwin's songs so remarkable is that they have been performed constantly for almost 100 years in every style imaginable! For our last segment this month, let's listen to several other versions of "I Got Rhythm."

The original song was for a Broadway musical called "Girl Crazy" in 1930. This video is from the 1943 movie version starring Judy Garland!

Take a listen to this completely new version that the 1960s pop group The Happenings put together. Do you hear the same melody? What do you think George Gershwin would have thought hearing his song performed like this?

This version is quite short. How well do you know this song by now? Could you sing along? Or does this performer add some new surprises to the music?

Do you think that Fozzie Bear has rhythm?!

Did you enjoy listening to some of George Gershwin's music? He wrote so much more than what we've explored so far! I hope you listen to some more of his music!