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George Gershwin: An Extraordinary Crossover Musician

Did you know that George Gershwin distinguished himself in being a composer and musician who created music that belongs both in the realm of serious classical music and popular music? In the face of daunting disapproval from composition teachers, he persisted in creating “popular” music with the same level of care and commitment that classical composers of his day and the past did. He slaved over each music score, whether it be a popular Broadway tune or a large orchestral work for a symphony orchestra. Historian Milton Cross said this about Gershwin. He… “proved that there was artistic importance to the popular style, if treated with dignity and with conviction.” That’s precisely what Gershwin accomplished. The works of Gershwin, who only lived a meagre 39 years, impacted composers of his day and beyond. You can hear the influence of Gershwin’s music in works by Ravel, Kurt Weill and Aaron Copland. 73 years after his death, his music is as popular as ever with listeners, performers and composers dedicated to innumerable music genres. To illustrate this, have a listen to 3 renditions of Gershwin’s Summertime by a famous Jazz artist, a famous Rock artist and a famous Classical Artist.

Ella Fitzgerald: Jazz

Janis Joplin: Blues-Rock

Kathleen Battle: Classical

Something Howard and I love about Gershwin, aside from his wonderful music, is that he irrefutably proved that the divisions and barriers we create between genres of music are simply fabrications and conversations that we become attached to or make far too significant. It’s ALL music in the end.

Not only a supreme example of a crossover musician and composer, Gershwin was also a crossover artist between different art forms. Few know this, but Gershwin was a talented painter. In fact he was so talented that several distinguished art critics believed he would have become a great painter had he lived longer. This is Gershwin’s own self portrait.

George Gershwin Self Portrait

George Gershwin Self Portrait

This Thursday, Howard and I will be performing some of Gershwin’s most popular works – Summertime, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, and Howard’s own abridged arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue for solo clarinet.

Crossing Over – Dancing between Classical and Jazz
Howard Meadows, Clarinet – Craig Addy, Piano
Thursday, June 17, 2010- 7:30 pm in the St. Andrew’s-Wesley Narthex
1022 Nelson Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 1H8
(enter on Burrard Street at the entrance near the alley)

Tickets and information


Learn more about George Gershwin.

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