Monday, December 21, 2009

Okay, Maestro, we love you, but where's George?

The Savannah Philharmonic Chorus, conducted by the always effervescent Peter Shannon, brought holiday cheer blah blah blah, yappity yap yipperoo, etc., et al, and all that flippin' jazz. So goes what would be a normal review of the Chorus's "Carols In The Cathedral" show on Friday. The show was indeed excellent, all that and a keg of Allagash White (which, if you haven't ever tried it, But while Maestro Shannon and his legion of wonderful musicians have now conquered the tunes of Santa and The Lord, after successful previous conquerings of Beethoven, Mozart and other purveyors of the classics, it occurred that 'The Phil' has not yet taken on one of music's most important people, Gershwin.

George Gershwin is a great pianist and composer. Yes, he died 72 years ago, but I use the present-tense 'is' because George lives in our house. He is the imaginary friend of our daughter, the first-grader. He taught her how to play a good chunk of "Rhapsody In Blue" by ear on her keyboard, not to mention "Swanee." Thankfully, she hasn't tried to do a blackface Al Jolson performance at the elementary school yet. I often wonder what George truly thought when I made the mistake of recording the horrifically inaccurate biopic "Rhapsody In Blue" off of Turner Classic Movies. He must have lied and told the first-grader he was thrilled. She drew us a picture of George watching the hideous film exclaiming to her "Look! I'm on TV!" Useless fun fact: George in the movie was portrayed by Robert Alda, father of Alan Alda.

Despite the ignominious biography, Gershwin and his contemporaries were American music for much of the previous century. Shoot, in addition to the obvious Gershwin successes (Rhapsody, An American In Paris, Porgy and Bess), he was so good that he wrote "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off", "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "A Foggy Day (In London Town)" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It" in the last year of his life while suffering from excruciating headaches caused by the brain tumor that would kill him. So, Maestro Shannon, where's the concert with George? Or, for that matter, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and, of course, Mr. Mercer? Toss in some Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn if you want.

"The Phil and The Great American Songbook." Sounds like a show idea to me. At the Lucas Theater with some of the musical numbers performed on stage. Shoot, I'd even put on tap shoes for that one, and would bribe Stratton Leopold to put them on with me. I'd bet Stratton's money (since I don't have money) that we'd bring down the house, but not nearly as much as our wonderful orchestra conducted by the indomitable Mr. Clean. So, Maestro, you game?

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