Have you ever heard a piece of music so moving that it made you cry? Not necessarily because it was a sad piece, but because it stirred something so deep and true within your soul? That’s how I feel about the work of George Gershwin, particularly his amazing composition of An American in Paris. Written in 1928, the symphony continues to enjoy incredible popularity and recognition, helped along by Gene Kelly’s 1951 cinematic masterpiece.
Last night, I was fortunate to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performance of this work. Under the direction of visiting conductor Leonard Slatkin, the CSO played an amazing program featuring Barber’s The School for Scandal “Overture,” Schuman’s “Symphony No. 6,” and Bates’ “Violin Concerto” (stunningly delivered by Anne Akiko Meyers). However, when the opening notes of that unmistakable Gershwin sound reached my ears, nothing else mattered. Immediate murmurs of recognition and sighs of happiness emanated from fellow audience members, and I found myself dancing in my seat. Literally, it was all I could do not to jump up and down in time to the score. Somehow, that didn’t seem like appropriate symphony conduct, even if it was my first time attending the CSO.
As I soaked in the warmth of those notes, I couldn’t help envisioning the magnificent Gene Kelly choreography (created with a slightly altered arrangement of the original Gershwin piece). What I wouldn’t give to perform those steps onstage with a live orchestra. You can bet I’ll be the first in line for tickets to the expected Broadway staging…and first in line for any local auditions! In the meantime, I suppose I’ll have to cope by rewatching my remastered DVD…Until then, here is a clip from the ballet: