From the Library: Arlen, Gershwin and More

Today the spot­light falls pri­mar­i­ly on the music of the 30s and 40s, and we are fea­tur­ing two par­tic­u­lar com­posers: Harold Arlen and George Gersh­win, along with some of the peo­ple they col­lab­o­rat­ed with and some lat­er music linked to them in some way.

The name Harold Arlen (left) may not bring a great deal to mind, here in the sec­ond decade of the 21st cen­tu­ry, but men­tion the names of a few of the songs he wrote or co-wrote and you’ll imme­di­ate­ly realise we’re talk­ing about a unique and tal­ent­ed musi­cian. Born in Buf­fa­lo, NY, in 1905, he wrote his forst well-known song, Get Hap­py, in 1929. With Ted Koehler, he wrote Stormy Weath­er in 1933; the same year he wrote It’s Only A Paper Moon with E Y Har­burg and Bil­ly Rose. Then in 1938 he was hired by MGM to write the songs for the film ver­sion of The Wiz­ard of Oz.

He lat­er col­lab­o­rat­ed with John­ny Mer­cer on sev­er­al hits, includ­ing Accen­ti­ate the Pos­i­tive and That Old Black Mag­ic. In 1954 he col­lab­o­rat­ed with Ira Gersh­win, writ­ing the song The Man That Got Away for the musi­cal A Star Is Born. Arlen was a big favourite with jazz musi­cians, and we’ll hear some jazz inter­pre­ta­tions of his com­po­si­tions today.

George Gersh­win (right) was born in 1898 and was both a pop­u­lar and clas­si­cal music com­pos­er and pianist. Many of his songs and pieces are jazz and pop­u­lar stan­dards today. His first song was pub­lished in 1916, when he was only 17. The same year he start­ed work­ing for the Aeo­lian Com­pa­ny and record­ed a great many rolls for these instru­ments and for repro­duc­ing pianos. Gersh­win’s first major clas­si­cal work, Rhap­sody in Blue, was writ­ten in 1924 and orches­trat­ed by Ferde Grofe. While in Paris he wrote An Amer­i­can In Paris, which also became pop­u­lar. He wrote the “folk opera” Por­gy and Bess in 1935. He sad­ly died of a brain tumour at the ear­ly age of 38.

Today’s pro­gramme includes a great many pieces by these two com­posers, along with some of the hits of the 30s and 40s. We’ll also hear oth­er mate­r­i­al from some of the names already men­tioned, includ­ing Judy Gar­land and John­ny Mer­cer — and many more great songs and tunes.

From the Library is pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme now at http://main.radioriel.org — or click here to link straight to your play­er if your brows­er is set up to do so. Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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