Posts Tagged ‘ Kurt Weill ’

Gershwin sounds

George GershwinHaving spent the spring immersed in The Sound of Gershwin, I have come through without hating his music, which has to be some sort of achievement.  Indeed, the show introduced me to a whole host of songs I’d either never heard or had completely forgotten, and reminded me why I love some of the perennial favourites.  Here, then, is a highly subjective and personal baker’s dozen of Gershwin songs which are well worth getting to know.  Songs only, as Rhapsody in Blue rather goes without saying. 

13. I’d Rather Charleston. A delightful bit of ephemera from the Jazz Age, introduced by Fred and Adele Astaire in Lady Be Good and used to great effect in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Love’s Labour’s Lost.  It’s a great ‘battle’ duet with the singers each trying to persuade the other to do something – in this case, Fred wants Adele to study, but Adele just wants to Charleston.  The lyric is by Desmond Carter, which is a bit of a mystery to me, as the rest of the show’s score had Ira Gershwin lyrics.  Pointless, but great fun, and it makes wonderful music to dance to, oddly enough – surely it couldn’t have been an excuse for a routine?

12. How Long Has This Been Going On?  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how good a song this really is, and it should certainly be docked points for including the word ‘ninny’ in the lyrics (really, Ira, what were you thinking?), but Audrey Hepburn’s rendition of it in the film of Funny Face is absolutely charming.

11. I Got Rhythm.  This one doesn’t need much introduction, really, as it’s one of the Gershwin brothers’ best known songs.  From Girl Crazy, which also introduced But Not For Me, Bidin’ My Time, Treat Me Rough and Embraceable You, all marvellous songs, this song is the one which made Ethel Merman a star.  It’s worth tracking down her version just to marvel at the lung power on display.  It’s not a sophisticated song, but it makes me smile, and the introductory verse, including the immortal line “I’m chipper all the day” makes the song extra special, even if most people leave it out these days.

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Weill, not vile

Last week, I had the joyous task of creating a subject bibliography, my first assignment for my distance-learning MSc in Library and Information Studies.  The bibliography could be on any subject we chose, but could only cover material from the last five years and had to be arranged with a particular audience in mind.  Of course, I absolutely had to do this on a musical theatre subject, but the options are rather limited in this regard, as the only musical theatre people who tend to receive more than cursory academic attention are Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim.  I chose to compile a bibliography on the American theatre works of Kurt Weill, most famous for his German piece Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), source of ‘Mack the Knife’.  Why the American works?  Well, I don’t speak German, so I’ve always found it harder to connect with the works in that language.  Must try harder, I suppose.

This exercise was simultaneously fascinating and boring.  Searching for information can be interesting, and the hunt becomes a sort of game, but it can also be very frustrating to spend an age wrestling with a particularly high-profile data source only to find absolutely nothing of value.  I also discovered things about Kurt Weill that I never knew before, largely through use of the Kurt Weill Foundation‘s website, but also through reading extracts from some of the books and articles which I discovered.  I hadn’t known, for instance, that he provided music for a number of political pageants while in America, generally connected to his Jewish roots.  And I had forgotten that he’d been working on a musical version of Huckleberry Finn when he died, a concept that truly makes the mind boggle.

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