And now for something completely different

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George Gerswhin
George Gerswhin

AND now for something completely different’, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. That’s a little quotation that fits the bill nicely for our concert on Saturday 11th July, for after our many decades of singing the likes of Bach, Handel, Mozart or Haydn we have none other than the 20th century American composer George Gershwin.

Gershwin? Really? Yes, really, and the main reason why our choir’s ever alert committee and musical director have struck off down this particular path is because Gershwin undeniably wrote some good music… and we only like to sing good music.

But surely we should stick to the mainstream ‘classical’ choral repertoire that is our bread and butter, I can almost hear some of you saying. Well, that ain’t necessarily so, because choirs like ours must occasionally shake off tradition and refresh themselves with something new – something with new harmonies, new melodies and new, fascinating rhythms. Otherwise we might go a bit stale.

Gershwin controversially championed the music of the black population, especially in his opera Porgy and Bess, but he was only following the lead set by Dvorak, who openly admired ‘black music’ when in America in the 1890s and had borrowed from the emotions of the ‘negro spirituals1’ for his celebrated symphony From the New World. He was roundly attacked for doing so by the musical intelligentsia of the day, who displayed the violent racist opinions that still rock ‘the land of the free’ well over a century later.Fortunately Gershwin was also about dance, frothy stage musicals with superb songs and the attempted fusion of popular and classical traditions in pieces such as his endearing Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. In other words there is a lot to enjoy and that is what we are going to do on July 11th, the very date on which Gershwin died back in 1937 at the early age of 38.

So if dancing in the aisles rocks your boat, July 11th’s the night. We’re back to Bach next time!

Tickets are available online, click here, from Choir members, Visitor Centres in Torquay, Newton Abbot and the Torbay Bookshop in Paignton and can be reserved for collection on the door by telephone: 01803 846058 (Jennie Litt).

Tickets are also available on the door – £12, Under 19 – Free of charge.

(Written by Mike Thompson – President of the South Devon Choir)  for more information about the ‘negro spiritual’ musical genre


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