Saturday, April 7, 2012

"George Gershwin, Part Two" from Voice of America

Ira and George Gershwin

VOICE ONE:

I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we continue our report about the life and music of one of America's greatest composers, George Gershwin.

(MUSIC: "Rhapsody in Blue")

VOICE ONE:

As we reported last week, George Gershwin published his first song when he was just eighteen years old. During the next twenty years, until his death, he wrote more than five hundred more songs. He also wrote an opera, and music for piano and orchestra.

Many of George Gershwin's songs were first written for musical plays performed in theaters in New York City. These comedies, with plenty of songs, were a popular form of entertainment in the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties.

Ethel Merman
One of Gershwin's musical plays, "Girl Crazy," introduced a young singer named Ethel Merman. She became one of the most celebrated performers in America. In the play, Ethel Merman sang a song George Gershwin wrote just for her. It was called "I Got Rhythm. "

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Many songs that George Gershwin wrote for musical plays and movies have remained as popular as ever. Over the years, they have been sung and played in every possible way -- from jazz to country.

One example is the song, "Someone to Watch Over Me." It was written for the nineteen twenty-six musical "Oh, Kay!" Here is a modern version of the song, sung by Willie Nelson.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

In the nineteen twenties, there was a debate in the United States about jazz music. Could jazz, some people asked, be considered serious music?

In nineteen twenty-four, jazz musician and orchestra leader Paul Whiteman decided to organize a special concert to show that jazz was serious music. George Gershwin agreed to compose something for the concert before he realized how little time he had to do it. The concert was just a few weeks away. Gershwin got busy. And, in that short time, he composed a piece for piano and orchestra. He called it "Rhapsody in Blue."

VOICE TWO:

Gershwin himself played the piano part of "Rhapsody in Blue" at the concert. The audience included some of the greatest classical musicians of the time. When they heard his music, they were electrified. It seemed to capture, for the first time, the true voice of modern American culture. Today, we can still hear Gershwin playing "Rhapsody in Blue." An old mechanical piano recording has been reproduced exactly on this recording.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

"Rhapsody in Blue" made George Gershwin famous all over the world. Several hundred thousand copies of the printed music sold immediately. Gershwin was satisfied that he had shown that jazz music could be both serious and popular.

Porgy and Bess
Gershwin also wrote an opera, "Porgy and Bess. " It was based on a book by DuBose Heyward. It is a tragic love story about black Americans along the coast of South Carolina.

"Porgy And Bess" opened in Boston, Massachusetts, in nineteen thirty-five. Audiences loved it. But most critics did not know what to think of it. It was not like any other opera or musical play they had ever seen.

Gershwin was not affected by the critics' opinions. He believed some of his greatest music had gone into the opera. He said he had created a new musical form -- an opera based on popular culture. Here is the song "Summertime" from a later production of "Porgy and Bess" in nineteen fifty-two. Leontyne Price, who played Bess, sings the song.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Another well-known Gershwin piece is "An American in Paris. " It is a long tone poem for orchestra. Its first public performance was by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in nineteen twenty-eight. Here is a modern recording from "An American in Paris."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Once again, opinion was mixed. Most people loved "An American in Paris," as they loved all of Gershwin's music. Some critics liked it, too. They called it happy and full of life. Others hated it. They called it silly and long-winded. Still, it remains one of his most popular works.

VOICE TWO:

An American in Paris
George Gershwin died in nineteen thirty-seven, just days after doctors learned he had brain cancer. He was only thirty-nine years old. Newspapers all over the world reported his death on their front pages. Everyone mourned the loss of the man and all the music he might have written. George Gershwin is still considered one of America's greatest composers. His works still are performed by many singers and groups. They are probably performed more often than any other serious American composer.

VOICE ONE:

Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg was one of the people who praised George Gershwin. Schoenberg said Gershwin was a man who lived in music and expressed everything through music, because music was his native language.

(MUSIC: "Rhapsody in Blue")

VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

1. George Gershwin wrote approximately this number of songs during his career:
a:  one hundred
b: one hundred thousand
c: five hundred
d: five thousand

2. This singer, one of George Gershwin’s favorite performers, sang, “I Got Rhythm” ____________________ .
a: Willie Nelson
b: Nelson Mandela
c: Ethel Merman
d: Ethel Waters

3. George Gershwin collaborated with a jazz orchestra leader in a famous 1924 performance in New York City. This jazzman was _______________________ .
a: Paul Whiteman
b: Nikki Black
c: Ella Fitzgerald
d: Louis Armstrong

4. The song that Gershwin contributed to the 1924 New York City performance was called, ______________________ .
a:  "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
b: “Beat It”
c: “Rhapsody in Blue”
d: “Call Me”

5. At this performance, George Gershwin accompanied many famous classical musicians of the day. Gershwin played ____________________ .
a:  the accordion
b: the piano
c: the violin
d: the radio

6. “Porgy and Bess” is a fine example of ______________________ .
a: a musical comedy 
b: an overture
c: an opera
d: beans and rice

7. The main characters of “Porgy and Bess,” which created a great controversy, were
a: dinosaurs from the center of the earth 
b: African Americans from the Carolina Coast
c: George Washington and his wife Martha
d: Benito Mussolini and members of the Italian Fascist Party

8. Classical composer Arnold Schoenberg stated that George Gershwin’s native language was ______________________ .
a:  music
b: Spanish
c: Yiddish
d: Esperanto

9. George Gershwin died in 1937 at the age of only 39 _______________________ .
a: of alcoholism
b: of a drug overdose
c: in an automobile accident
d: of brain cancer

10.George Gershwin’s musical creations were noted for their ____________________ .
a: originality
b: religious themes
c: extreme length
d: failures

Judy Garland sings "I Got Rhythm"



Days can be sunny, with never a sigh
Don't need what money can buy
Birds in the trees sing their day full of song
Why shouldn't we sing along?

I'm chipper all the day, happy with my lot
How do I get that way? Look at what I've got

I got rhythm, I got music
I got my man
Who could ask for anything more?
I got daisys, in green pastures
I got my man
Who could ask for anything more?

Old man trouble
I don't mind him
You won't find him 'round my door
I got starlight
I got sweet dreams
I got my man
Who could ask for anything more ?


Willie Nelson - "Someone to Watch Over Me"


There is somebody
I'm longing to see
I hope that she
Turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me
I'm a little lamb
Who's lost in the wood
I know I could
Always be good
To one who'll watch over me
Although she may not be the girl
Some men think of
As pretty
To my heart
She carries the key
Won't you tell her please
To put on some speed
Follow my lead
Oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me
Although she may not be the girl
Some men think of
As pretty
To my heart
She carries the key
Won't you tell her please
To put on some speed
Follow my lead
Oh how I need
Someone to watch
Over me
Someone to watch
Over me



George Gershwin, Part One

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