The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Balcombe presented an irresistable combination of music, song and dance celebrating the musical career of George Gershwin at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on Sunday afternoon.
Often regarded as the greatest of the popular music composers and recognised for bringing the jazz style to the piano concerto, Gershwin successfully bridged the gap between concert hall and Broadway.
The concert opened with a Gershwin medley that included Strike up the Band, Fascinatin’ Rhythm and Lady Be Good.
The London Symphony Orchestra played a variety of Gershwin music, from the very well known compositions such as Swanee and Embraceable You (one of my favourite pieces) to the lesser known such as Promenade (Walking the Dog). Promenade, itself was a piano recital featuring guest pianist Viv McLean. McLean was also featured on the iconic Rhapsody in Blue which was definitely the high point of the performance for the audience.
The presentation also featured several dance numbers. While ballroom dancers, Elza Opelte and James Wilson danced a quickstep, Viennese waltz and slow foxtrot to songs such as I Got Rhythm and Shall We Dance. Tap was represented by Danielle O’Reilly and Jacob Bradford who danced to songs such as Somebody Loves Me and Swanee.
Vocal duties for songs were in the capable hands of Rodney Earl Clarke, (who had a very rich baritone voice), while soprano, Katie Birtill delivered a jazzy style for some songs. The audience particularly enjoyed Katie’s rendition of Summertime and Rodney’s interpretation of It Ain’t Necessarily So from the opera Porgy and Bess.
While the smartly attired orchestra (looking resplendent in their white jackets and black trousers) were exceptional, a special mention must go to Howard McGill who played the clarinet solo at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue. .
The cheering from the crowd demonstrated that as the show’s title suggests we are all still Crazy For Gershwin.
For me, the highlight of the concert was undoubtedly hearing Gershwin’s music performed live. A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon!