Rhapsodies in Blue

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Upbeat tempos and quirky twists to the traditional orchestra sound flow out of the Alys Stephens Center in downtown Birmingham once a month. Now, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra plans to bring these lively sounds to the University of Montevallo with its performance of Rhapsodies in Blue Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

“The ASC is our home, and we are proud of it and feel very lucky to have it. But, just as we are creating musical performances that go outside of the box of traditional symphonic music, we also like to take the orchestra itself out of Birmingham and beyond,” said Conductor Justin Brown.

This performance is part of ASO’s initiative to reach a wider audience. The ASO regularly performs at the ASC in downtown Birmingham, but the orchestra also performs a series at Samford University and numerous shows at local churches and schools. They will perform one program at the University of North Alabama this spring.

Alan Goldspiel, department of music chair at UM, said the colorful performance will be a treat for the entire community.

“Anytime you can have a world class orchestra come to your doorstep you would be foolish not to take advantage of it,” Goldspiel said. “In this particular case, you will enter into an historic space and get to hear, in one hour’s time, the music of two of America’s greatest composers.”

The jazz and blues sound of this performance strives to reach a greater audience, Brown said.

“My goal is to explore all kinds of genres, going beyond what is traditionally seen as the symphony orchestra repertoire, and delving into edgy zones between ‘classical’ and other genres,” Brown said. “At the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, we created the Symphony 7 series to whet the whistle of those who wouldn’t ordinarily come out to a symphonic performance.”

The night’s selections include Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” variations, “Rhapsody in Rivets” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” as well as selections from Ellington’s “The River.”

Goldspiel said this music is quintessentially American.

Ellington not only blended together jazz and classical orchestra sounds for American ears, but influenced the world as well, Goldspiel said.

He said many will recognize Gershwin’s popular sounds from modern-day commercials and numerous movies.

Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, who made her debut in 1997 with the New York Philharmonic, will join the ASO and conductor Justin Brown for the performance.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 general admission and $7 for students.