Jazz Ensemble to honor Gershwin with historic performance


Photo credit/ Photo credit: Alex Weidner

Byran Cowan from Wallenpaupak High School practices for the George Gershwin Festival.

Kyle Clouse, Correspondent

Marywood University’s student jazz ensemble will be celebrating the timeless classics of American musician and composer George Gershwin as the theme of this year’s spring jazz festival.

The George Gershwin Jazz Festival will be held at Marywood’s Sette La Verghetta Center for Performing Arts on March 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Admission is free and open to both students and the general public.

Under the direction of Jazz Ensemble Conductor Thomas Heinze, university students will be performing alongside faculty players, alumni, and special guests.

Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies and faculty performer David Jumper, will also be assisting in the orchestration of the performance as well as performing with the faculty band.

“This festival offers something for everyone,” said Jumper.

The two-night event will pay tribute to the legacy and influence of Gershwin through performance of his original jazz instrumentals “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris” as well as arrangements inspired by the music of Gershwin’s Southern opera “Porgy and Bess.”

The festival will commence with a historic performance of the original “Rhapsody in Blue” written for jazz band and solo piano.

The jazz ensemble will be played in its entirety by a performing band of twenty-three musicians replicating that of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, who recorded the song with Gershwin in 1924. The performance will also feature Marywood’s Music, Theater, and Dance Department Co-Chair, Dr. Rick Hoffenberg, playing solo piano.

Conductor Heinze explains that this performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” is “so historically significant” because the song has rarely been performed live in its original form. “This is how the original ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ was played, and meant to be performed,” said Heinze.

Besides jazz instrumentals, the festival will also feature jazz style vocal arrangements inspired by a variety of original Gershwin melodies.

Marywood alumni Lea Beth Evans and Jessica Dunleavy will be returning to the stage to sing Gershwin inspired arrangements that were recorded by American songstress Ella Fitzgerald. Another Marywood alum, Christopher DiMattio, who previously played at last year’s Cole Porter Jazz Festival, will also be returning to sing Gershwin arrangements made famous by Frank Sinatra. Dimattio is senior vice president for investments at First National Community Bank in Dunmore.

For more information on the George Gershwin Jazz Festival as well as other upcoming events hosted by Marywood’s Music, Theatre, and Dance Department visit http://www.marywood.edu/mtd/events/ or call 570-348-6268.