3+picc.4.4.4 / 220.127.116.11 / Timp. / Drum Set (or 2 Perc.) / Pno. Solo / Str.
Rhapsody in Maize and Blue (Orchestral version; transposing score)
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In the summer of 2013, I was asked to compose a short work on the occasion of the University of Michigan’s historic partnership with the Gershwin family. The deal was like this: the University would release the first critical edition of George’s orchestral works, as well as all collaborative output between George and Ira. In addition, both George and Ira’s complete works would be opened up exclusively to Michigan students and scholars for study, performance, and many other purposes. The partnership is an incredible honor and privilege for the school, and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute; Gershwin has been perhaps the biggest musical inspiration in my life, and my maniacal desire to learn “Rhapsody in Blue” and the “Concerto and F” propelled much of my piano studies throughout my early teens.
Happily, the request was a creative one befitting its subject: to compose a mash-up of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and the University of Michigan’s fight song. An inveterate composer of mash-ups (in college, I penned such titles as “Indiana my Toxic Love Jones,” drawing on John Williams, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears), I couldn’t have been happier. I finished the chamber arrangement of the “Rhapsody in Maize and Blue” in July, quickly leading recording sessions to get YouTube-worthy audio primed for the University’s press release of the partnership.
In early September, I was asked by Kenneth Kiesler to contribute a full orchestral arrangement for the University Symphony Orchestra’s concert with Audra McDonald. The orchestral version is significantly expanded from the vignette-like chamber version, including much more development/intertwining of the main themes and a fight-song-befitting, bombastic ending.