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The Life and Music of George Gershwin

a lecture-performance by pianist Michael Arnowitt

George Gershwin remains the most beloved composer our country has yet produced. His music, full of congenial melodies and lively rhythms, has appealed to generations of listeners worldwide. Pianist Michael Arnowitt explores Gershwin’s life, from his early days writing popular songs on Tin Pan Alley and the Broadway stage, to his composing of major works uniquely blending jazz and classical music.

In the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties, Gershwin was a national celebrity, a symbol of American youth and energy along with Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth. But Gershwin’s life took a right-angle turn when he aspired to compose more serious orchestral pieces, including a risky project to write an opera set in the American South, to be performed with an all-black cast. Based on a 1925 novel by DuBose Heyward, “Porgy and Bess” was ultimately premiered in 1935 two years before Gershwin's death. The anecdotes of this talk vividly portray the era’s colorful characters of the arts and entertainment worlds of New York City, Paris, and Hollywood.

Michael Arnowitt will perform at the piano and discuss Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, and I Got Rhythm. He will also help explain how some of Gershwin's great melodies were put together, and explore George’s personal relationship with his lyricist brother Ira, taking a look at their tunes Fascinating Rhythm and They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

Testimonials from past sponsors:

“Gershwin was spectacular! Thank you for a superb performance. It was just wonderful. You keep getting rave reviews. The program attracted people far and wide – we had a big crowd, 220 people. We are so appreciative to have brought this extraordinary presentation to our community. It was just a magical evening. So thank you very, very much for giving it your all.”
      – Mark Skinner Library, Manchester

“We had 200 persons attend Michael Arnowitt’s talk and performance on ‘The Life and Music of George Gershwin.’ We had anticipated a big response based on his previous appearance in the library and the popularity of the subject. We were glad we were able to move the program into a theater.
    Michael has an unassuming demeanor and everyone responded to his stories of George and Ira Gershwin filled with fascinating bits of history and humor. His musical examples were simple and clear. When he played Gershwin’s music, the theater lit up with the smiles.”
      – Ilsley Public Library (Middlebury

Approximate duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes

As an alternative to the lecture-demonstration format, Michael Arnowitt also offers a standard all-Gershwin concert performance, titled “Gershwin at the Keyboard.” Click here to read a description of that program.