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Oregon Family Magazine

Oregon Festival of American Music 2015: "Rhapsody In Blue" Opening Gala Concert

On February 12, 1924 at Aeolian Hall on 42nd Street, Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra presented An Experiment in Modern Music. Whiteman mounted the concert to demonstrate to the attendant New York musical establishment (which included the likes of John Phillip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff) how "to make a lady out of jazz", as he put it at the time, by showing how the apparently horribly discordant new music (which he represented through the squawks, wild rhythms and general hokum of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's 1917 "Livery Stable Blues") contained important elements of what he termed "the true form of jazz" that, for all its flaws, could at the very least be "a stepping stone which will make it very simple for the masses to understand, and therefore, enjoy symphony and opera." The program opened with the ODJB abomination and progressed through a series of refinements, culminating with, first, the premier of George Gershwin's brilliant tone poem Rhapsody in Blue, and, finally, Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance. Whiteman was no fuddy-duddy. Much of his career was dedicated to championing to mainstream America, if in somewhat toned-down form, the explosive, powerful and extraordinarily fruitful threads of popular music that were coming together in the 1920s. He hired the best of the new generation of "jazzing" musicians; he toured America endlessly, called himself "the King of Jazz", and constantly pushed the boundaries of his audiences; he commissioned Rhapsody In Blue; he introduced us to Bing Crosby; he made a jazz film. And his effort with that 1924 "purely educational experiment" gives us an important contemporary perspective on the cultural caldron that is the subject of Oregon Festival of American Music 2015. Jesse Cloninger opens OFAM 2015 joined by the Emerald City Jazz Kings, guest pianist Ted Rosenthal, and a host of OFAM's veteran vocalists for an evening that pays tribute to Whiteman's effort that night with a like overview concert that excludes (sorry) Elgar, includes "Livery Stable Blues" and a command performance of that original, 1924 version of Gershwin's masterpiece, but then offers our own "90 years hence" view of what the age was all about!

Date & Time

August 11, 2015

8:00PM - 10:00PM

More Info

Event Website



All Ages Performing Arts & Dance Downtown Eugene