Exciting music by two of America’s most beloved composers will be performed by the Tulare County Symphony for their first classics concert of the season, Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7:30pm at the Visalia Fox Theatre.
The program will feature Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.”
George Gershwin had already written “Rhapsody in Blue” and a Broadway show (which included the tune “Fascinating Rhythm”) when he returned to Paris in 1928, hoping to study with well known musicians. But the musicians turned him down, afraid rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style.
“An American in Paris” evokes the sights and energy of the French capital in the 1920s. Gershwin even brought back some Parisian taxi horns for the New York premiere, which took place on Dec. 13, 1928 in Carnegie Hall.
In 1951, MGM released the musical “An American in Paris,” featuring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. It won the 1951 Best Picture Oscar and numerous other awards.
Leonard Bernstein began batting around ideas for a musical retelling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 1949, but the show didn’t premiere until 1957. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes and focus on social problems marked a turning point in American musical theatre. Music included “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “America,” “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “Jet Song,” “I Feel Pretty,” “A Boy Like That,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Gee, Officer Krupke” and “Cool.” It was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 1957.
Four years later, Bernstein revisited his score and extracted nine sections to assemble into what he called the Symphonic Dances. He asked two master orchestrators, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin, to do the job of converting music composed for a pit-sized band to music designed for a huge symphony orchestra.
“Both Gershwin and Bernstein grew up influenced by jazz and really all types of American popular music,” said symphony music director Bruce Kiesling. “Jazz was really catching on, but other types of popular music were influencing these composers. Broadway songs, Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley were all the rage – the latter especially for Gershwin as a young man. Bernstein loved Gershwin’s music and recorded all of it, even conducting and playing the piano in ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ throughout his life.”
Tickets ($30 to $39.50) are available at the symphony office, 208 W. Main St., Suite D, Visalia, downstairs in Montgomery Square. Student prices are $10. Tickets are also available at 732-8600 and at www.tularecountysymphony.com.
Concertgoers are invited to arrive at 6:45pm to hear Kiesling give what is always a lively pre-concert talk about the concert. They are also encouraged to “Adopt a Musician” in the lobby of the Fox. Patrons who adopt a musician in the orchestra will receive a nametag to wear and will be invited to a year-end event to meet their adoptee.