Just what is the “American Sound”? According to Leif Bjaland and the Sarasota Orchestra in their ingenious “Journeys to Genius” program, this country is a “musical melting pot,” using the resources of its many immigrants and pooling its musical genes with native cultures. At this past weekend’s “Inventing the American Sound,” a brilliantly conceived and executed performance by Bjaland, the orchestra, baritone Michael Redding, tenor Brad Diamond and pianist Jonathan Spivey, with consultant Steve Schlow and video editor Austin McKinley, the field was narrowed down to three central innovators: the sons of of Russian Jewish émigrés Moses Beilin, Moisha Gershowitz and Morris Kaplan.
Irving (Beilin) Berlin, George (Gershowitz) Gershwin and Aaron (Kaplan) Copland did more than Americanize their surnames. They Americanized this country’s music. And, in telling their stories, Bjaland brought their lives, backgrounds, commonalities and music to vibrant life through a vivid script with well-chosen musical excerpts and imaginative videos that made this one of the most powerful concert-narratives yet.
There is, indeed, an American sound. Our popular music — yes, even today’s —has roots that reach far into Russia, Africa and the great plains of this country. And our so-called “classical” music, with its melodies of perfect fourths and harmonies of open, parallel fifths, may have been born across the seas, but it’s the living, breathing flesh of America the beautiful.
The scant program, only four pages, devoted one entire side to copyright credits and, knowing the fine-tooth-comb eccentricities of the Berlin, Gershwin and Copland families and publishers, it probably took longer to obtain these permissions than to conceive, write, rehearse and perform the entire production.
Seeing Spivey’s hands superimposed over old black and white clips of New York; hearing a cleverly imagined conversation between Berlin and his music copyist trying to build just the right chord for a Berlin melody; watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing “Cheek to Cheek” and Al Jolson mouthing “Swanee” over live piano, orchestral and vocal performances and, finally, hearing all of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” in a superb reading, made 75 minutes of inspired musical communication worth the work.
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19 Longboat Key Fine Art Festival
9:00 am - 9:00 pm
23 A Wink and a Smile
5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
25 "Jazz at Two" with the Kevin Celebi Quartet
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
25 The Sarasota Ballet presents Program 7 | Johan Kobborg, Alina Cojocaru & Friends
A Cinderella story
A 10-week-old miniature pinscher puppy found a “happily ever after ending” at the Celebration of Pets April 12, at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds.
Pharmacy brings dose of medicine to Publix
The in-store pharmacy of Longboat Key Publix opened Monday, approximately 16 months after the completion of the new store at 525 Bay Isles Parkway, in the Shoppes of Bay Isles.
Golfer scores victory with less than a stroke
The Longboat Key Masters Golf Tournament, which took place March 28 through March 31, at the Resort at Longboat Key Club’s Islandside and Harbourside golf courses came down to less than one stroke’s difference between first-place winner Kevin Preston and second-place winner Michael Russell, of Longboat Key.