Learning about George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”.

We started with a little online listening fun on George Gershwin, provided courtesy of Classics for Kids with a worksheet to match. Or boot. Or something along those lines.

Since the “Rhapsody in Blue” caused quite a stir when it was first performed in 1924, I thought we would explore it in depth a little bit. To learn more about George and his famous rhapsody, Max read and discussed Matt Naughtin’s Program Notes for Gershwin’s “Rhapsody”. It provided a context for what was so revolutionary about the Gershwin’s piece and how it helped to “make jazz respectable” by bringing it into a concert hall.

We reviewed musical details about his piece using the handout/worksheet I’ve uploaded below, which includes all the details I discovered about this piece and it’s relation to “American” music, as well as the musical innovations introduced with the first performance of the “Rhapsody in Blue”.

Then Max spent some time writing in his journal about something “secret that concerns Gershwin” while I weeded the garden with the girls. Again. A day’s weeding is never done.

ACOUSTIC VS. ELECTRIC RECORDINGS

Then we discussed the difference between the original 1924 recording, which is an acoustic recording. This original recording is as close as we can come to being present at Whiteside’s musical revolution on that magical evening. You can listen to this acoustic version as well in two parts for free online at the Internet Archive.

Then in 1927, Ferde Grofé re-orchestrated the song, and Gershwin again recorded it with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. With a slower tempo and much better sound quality, this became the most popular version of the song. Listen to it online and compare the difference between the way the two recordings sound.

1927 Recording

We talked about which one we preferred and how the original version is not the one that became famous. Then we talked more about jazz- its history, its meaning, and its development over time.

Since Max couldn’t get enough of George, we watched the old-timey tale of the “Rhapsody” below, which also includes a version playing in the background.

We wandered around the following places due to our fascination with Mr. Gershwin, whom we learned was also a very good tap dancer, according to his brother, Ira Gershwin.

Ira Gershwin talks about his brother, George (YouTube)
Jazz Learning Unit Playlist (Spotify)
The Official George and Ira Gershwin Website

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