Gershwin is Here to Stay


Just a few words from Dad before Callum’s review…

Just as this performance of Rhapsody in Blue by the Canton Symphony and Gerhardt Zimmermann was Callum’s first experience of it live, mine was also with the CSO and Zimmermann over 30 years ago, and it was just as unforgettable. I kept programs, news clippings, and reviews for every CSO concert I attended back then, and I found quite a few from that 1982 concert featuring the Rhapsody (from Zimmermann’s second season here in Canton). Here’s the program, and just like every other piece I heard the CSO play under Zimmermann in those days, these all became instant favorites, especially Schubert 4.


And here’s part of the review. I remember Hollander swinging Gershwin’s rhythms like I’d never heard them swung before (or since… at least until Marcus Roberts started touring his version with his trio).


Now on to Callum…

This concert was full of great experiences. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I know I’ve said that about many other Canton Symphony concerts, and those still are, but this is just another one to add to the list. Plus I’ve been to a Rush concert, I went to see the King’s Singers and met them, and I’ve seen a lot of Cleveland Orchestra concerts. But this concert fits right along with them. It was just as awesome as those.

In the beginning, right before it started, the announcer said “Welcome our special guest, George Gershwin,” and then a video of Gershwin playing the piano started right after that on a big screen behind the musicians. I thought that the rhythm he was playing was really cool. Like I talked about in the last blog about the rehearsal, Mr. Cole, the guest pianist, started playing with the video, and then kept going. I thought that was really cool and interesting, and he’s a great pianist. He also told good stories in between the pieces and songs, and that made it even more interesting.

Then the tap dancer, Danny Gardner, came from backstage as Fred Astaire, and he danced and sang with Mr. Cole and the orchestra playing. Like Maggie and I said before, Mr. Gardner is an amazing dancer, and he’s also a great singer. The first time that I ever saw a tap dancer was on the Dick Van Dyke show, and ever since then I’ve wondered how in the world tap dancers dance like that.

Then Sylvia McNair, the main singer, came out and sang The Man I Love with the orchestra and Mr. Cole. Her voice was amazing. I’ve never heard anything like it. It was so beautiful. I also thought it was really cool that she said great things about the Canton Symphony near the end of the concert. That really means something coming from someone like her who has traveled around the world and sung with so many great orchestras and conductors.

They sang a couple more great songs, and Mr. Cole also sang, and his voice was amazing too. I was amazed that he could sing so well and play so well at the same time. I told my dad during the concert that I have trouble talking and playing the piano at the same time, so I can’t imagine singing and playing like he does. And he was playing really complicated music on the piano when he was singing.


Then Mr. Cole and the orchestra played one of my many favorite pieces on the concert (actually I think every piece was my favorite). I think it was most people’s favorite, too. It was his Rhapsody in Blue. When I was younger, I used to watch Fantasia 2000 all the time, and one of the pieces in it was Rhapsody in Blue. There is a different video that goes along with every piece. One of the parts in the video for Rhapsody in Blue showed a subway train, and when I was listening to a CD of it before the concert I noticed that part of it kind of sounds like a train. So I thought it was cool when Mr. Cole said that Gershwin basically wrote this piece while he was riding on a train, so I think that’s probably why that part sounds like a train.

It starts with a clarinet solo, and in the concert, the clarinetist stood up while he played it. In some parts, you could really hear the trombones play, and they sounded great. Then there was a part with a really inconsistent beat, and that was cool. Mr. Cole sounded just amazing. They showed his hands on the screen the whole time, and it was amazing how fast he was playing. I could also see that he was crossing his hands at some parts. This has always been my favorite piece by Gershwin. This is the first time I’ve heard it live, and it’s even more awesome to hear it played by the Canton Symphony and Mr. Cole, especially with Mr. Zimmermann conducting. They’re all fantastic.

I couldn’t wait until the song “Slap that Bass” because we heard it in rehearsal, and I LOVED IT. They played it after intermission with Mr. Gardner singing and dancing, and it was so much fun. The bassist from the orchestra sounded great playing it, too. They also did the song Love is Here to Stay, and that’s one of my favorites too, because it’s my mom and dad’s favorite Gershwin song. They had a jazz band play it at their wedding reception and it’s on their wedding video, so I remember it from that. They also did the last movement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F, and it must be really hard to play, but Mr. Cole sounded fantastic, and the orchestra sounded great, absolutely great. We sat next to two really nice ladies, and they liked the concert so much that they were thinking about getting season tickets next year.

I could not believe that they did this concert in one rehearsal. Since I went to that rehearsal, and I took my sister Maggie, then I got to share the experience with her. I forgot to mention in that blog that when we first got there and sat down, Maggie noticed that there weren’t really any people there, and she asked me “How come there isn’t really anybody here for this concert?” She thought at first that we went to a concert, not a rehearsal.

Ms. McNair, Mr. Cole, and Mr. Gardner go around and perform the same pieces with different orchestras, and this was Mr. Gardner’s last time in the group, because he has other stuff to do. So I bet he is pretty sad about leaving, but he’s probably looking forward to what he might be doing next. I’m sure it will be worth looking forward to, because he’s so good. I got to meet them after the concert and they were all very nice. Mr. Cole signed a CD for me of him playing Gershwin, and I’ve been listening to it while doing this blog basically the whole time, and it’s awesome. I really love it. He plays so well, it’s just amazing. It would be nice if he could maybe perform with the orchestra again sometime. I would also like to play Gershwin someday.


One of the stories Mr. Cole told was about the reason he started playing Gershwin. He said that he was about 7 when he saw a movie about Rhapsody in Blue, so he went to the library and asked for books about Gershwin, and the librarian gave him one that she said was the best. The author was from the same town that he was. So when he was 15, he went to New York City where the author was living. He searched in the phone book for the author’s name, and called him hoping it was him. It was, and he invited him over. When Mr. Cole went, the author asked him to play some Gershwin. After he played, the author said that he sounded a lot like Gershwin. Mr. Cole said that one phone call had changed his life. The same kind of thing happened to me. We went to a few Canton Symphony rehearsals a couple years ago and after one of them Ms. Boyer* asked if we might think about doing a blog about the orchestra. And that is how I started doing the blog, and it shows how many opportunities can open up by just talking to someone or calling someone.

(*Lisa Boyer, the CSO’s Director of Education and Community Engagement)

I think that it was really sad that George Gershwin died so young. He died of a brain tumor when he was 38. His brother Ira lived a lot longer than he did. I wonder what he would have written if he continued to live longer. I think he would probably write really awesome stuff. If he did continue to live longer, then this concert wouldn’t be the same.

It was awesome to have these three amazing musicians perform with the Canton Symphony. I’m really sad that there’s only one more MasterWorks concert this season, even though there will be other great concerts, like casual concerts and the kids concerts for my sisters. I’m sad, but I know everybody will enjoy the last MasterWorks concert. They’re playing Wagner and Stravinsky, and it’s going to be great. I also can’t wait for next season to start already. I’m looking forward to every concert, but I’m really looking forward to them playing Holst’s Planets, Bela Fleck playing here, and André Watts coming back.


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