NMHU Jazz Choir performs Gershwin and more

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By The Staff

‘Swonderful to hear a medley of Gershwin show tunes. ‘Smarvelous to hear Nita Lujan sing “My Man’s Gone Now” from Gershwin’s opera, “Porgy and Bess.”

Other favorites, including Christmas songs, will set toes tapping when the Highlands Department of Music’s Jazz Choir presents “Gershwin and More” on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Ilfeld Auditorium. Andr Garca-Nuthmann will direct with Elizabeth Bunch at the piano and Mike Campbell on drums.

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898. His Russian immigrant parents bought a piano for his elder brother Ira, but George was the one who played it. As it turned out, Ira’s talent lay in writing clever, singable lyrics. Interested in music from age 10, George went on to receive training in piano technique and music theory in the classic European tradition. His first commercial success was in the popular music vein with “Swanee” in 1919. In 1924 he began collaborating with brother Ira on musical comedies. That same year he composed his first major classical work, “Rhapsody in Blue.”

In 1935 Gershwin wrote the music for his “folk opera,” “Porgy and Bess.” It was based on the novel “Porgy” by Du Bose Heyward and the play of the same name by Heyward and his wife Dorothy. The music incorporates blues and jazz themes that are found in African American music, and the cast is always comprised entirely of classically trained African American singers, with a few minor speaking parts by Whites.

The opera was not widely accepted at first, but finally became part of the Metropolitan Opera Company repertoire. Gershwin was influenced greatly by 20th- century French composers, especially Maurice Ravel, with whom he shared a great mutual admiration. Gershwin asked Ravel to give him piano lessons, but when Ravel found out how much Gershwin earned, he said, “How about you give me some lessons.” In 2005 it was estimated that George Gershwin was the wealthiest composer of all time. Many of his songs and classical works are still sung, played and hummed, 70 years after his death of a brain tumor at the age of 38.

Soloists will also include Joseph Chavez, Nita Lujan, Kaitlyn Sinclair, Devin Barad, Karliz de Marco, Betty Thompson, Joe Cooney, Werner Muller and Victoria Evans.

General admission is $10, with $5 for faculty, staff and senior citizens. Students with valid I.D. will be admitted free. For information call 454-3014.