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Nobody knows how many times George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” has been performed before live audiences since it was first played on February 12, 1924, at a special jazz concert.
Gershwin himself was at the piano at that first performance at Aeolian Hall on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. In November, 1923, Bandleader Paul Whiteman had first asked Gershwin to compose the piece for the February concert, but Gershwin refused, saying there was simply not enough time.
The legend is that Gershwin was playing billiards at the Ambassador Billiard Parlor on Broadway at 52nd Street the night of January 3, 1924, when his brother Ira told him that a rival composer was working on a special jazz composition for the concert. Gershwin decided to take up the challenge, but only five weeks remained until the concert date. Gershwin claimed to have imagined the entire score during a train ride from New York to Boston.
The first orchestral performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” in New Albany will take place this coming Sunday afternoon, April 28, at 2:30 p.m. at the New Albany Civic Center.
The Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Byess, will perform “Rhapsody,” which has become perhaps the best known orchestral composition by an American composer. Yoonie Han, a young pianist from South Korea, will be at the piano. She studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and at Juilliard in New York City. She was selected from hundreds of pianists around the world as one of thirty pianists to compete in the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
This will be the fifth New Albany performance by the Tupelo Symphony in as many years. These performances are made possible by charitable donations from individuals and organizations in Union County. The New Albany-Union County Symphony League (NAUC) is the organization sponsoring these performances.
Donations for this year’s TSO performance are being solicited at this time. Individual donations for $100, $250 and $500, made payable to NAUC, may be sent to BNA Bank or dropped off at the UCDA office next door.
Tickets for the August 28 New Albany performance of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra are on sale now at the UCDA office on Bankhead Street. Reserved seating on the main floor is $15. Balcony seating is $10. The performance will begin at 2 p.m. For further information call the UCDA at 662-534-4354.