‘Rhapsody in Blue’ opens Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2016-17 season

c1_rhapsodyRhapsody in Blue, which launched composer George Gershwin’s career, inaugurates the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2016/17 season, which welcomes to town Marcelo Lehninger as the new music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. The Brazilian-born conductor will be on the podium later this season.


Associate conductor John Varineau will lead the opening concerts of the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series at 8 pm Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16th and 17th, in DeVos Performance Hall (303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Spectrum Health is the Concert Sponsor.


In its earliest days, jazz was the music of brothels and bars in the “red-light” districts of cities such as New Orleans. But in the Roaring 20s, bandleader Paul Whiteman commissioned songwriter George Gershwin to write a piece merging classical music with elements of the newly emerging sounds of jazz.


The sensational premiere of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924 in New York City brought jazz from the streets and the speakeasies into the symphonic concert hall and elevated the song plugger from Tin Pan Alley into the ranks of serious composers.


That same year, George Antheil, the original “Bad Boy of Music,” caused a minor scandal when his propulsive A Jazz Symphony was premiered at Carnegie Hall. Hear for yourself what caused all the fuss in New York City in 1927.


Americana continues with Aaron Copland’s Suite from Appalachian Spring Suite, drawn from his music for the ballet that celebrates the simple life of pioneers in the 19th century as they build a house, witness a wedding and treasure the gift to be simple.


Rounding out the program is the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe by French composer Maurice Ravel, who later became a great admirer of jazz himself. Unlike Copland’s setting in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, Ravel’s musical tale is set in a country side in ancient Greece where the shepherd, Daphnis, woos his beloved Chloe with the help of the mythological god, Pan.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS box office, weekdays 9am to 5pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)


Tickets are also available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10am to 6pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at GRSymphony.org.


Full-time students of any age may purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360-eligible concert.