The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

By NATALIA BAAGE-LORD

It was “music to my ears” for Carla Jablonski when she was asked to sing in an all-Gershwin performance at Caramoor
 
When singer Carla Jablonski was young, her father played George Gershwin’s classic American tunes. During that time, music filled her home, giving her fond memories of the melodies. When she was asked to participate in Caramoor’s Independence Day concert highlighting Gershwin’s songs, she could not stop smiling.

On Wednesday, July 4, the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts presents “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks,” its fourth annual celebration of America.

“It’s a day of celebration,” Ms. Jablonski said. “And what better way to celebrate than with an amazing quintessential American composer who can really capture Americans and relate to them.”

Gershwin’s pop tunes are fun, but he also had a distinctive voice, said Michael Barrett, Caramoor’s general director and chief executive. Gershwin also branched out to write symphonic work and operas. The “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” event includes his “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Porgy and Bess” and some of his other most notable works.

This year’s event will be performed by host Jamie Bernstein, guest pianist John Musto, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and vocalists Carla Jablonski and Darius de Haas.

Having performed at one of Caramoor’s past July 4 shows, singer Darius de Haas is excited to be back to celebrate Independence Day.
 
Mr. Barrett said that the “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” event has been a hit since its first year. But it is not only the music that draws people in, he said — everyone enjoys seeing fireworks crackle and blast their bright colors through the sky.

“Everybody loves fireworks; they’re amazing,” Mr. Barrett said. “And Gershwin is really at the top of our classical songbook of composers. He was not even 40 years old when he died, and he was just getting to this place where he was going to be a world-class serious composer who had all of his roots in American jazz and American theater. He really is, maybe, the most important young early American composer.”

As with Ms. Jablonski, Gershwin is also the favorite of Mr. Musto, who described Gershwin as a “performing composer.” He continued to say that whatever Gershwin played was well written and effective on stage.

“He’s up there with the greats,” Mr. Musto said. “When you think of his output, banging out tunes, he grew by leaps and bounds. He died at the age of 38. Imagine where he would have gone had he lived. That was a tragedy for all of us in music. Imagine what he would have produced. But what we have of his, we cherish and we love to play.”

Mr. de Haas deemed Gershwin to be “one of the greatest writers in the past several centuries,” noting that he was one of the best in the world in classic American song.

Pianist John Musto is looking forward to reuniting with his “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” colleagues, as they have performed together at past events.
 
“People like Gershwin are the standards to which we aspire to,” he said. “You want to have knowledge and sing it competently. His repertory is one of the best in American music. His songs are beloved. He was really tapped into the pulse of America. He was able to portray in his music what America was about. Everyone identifies with it. He really is the personification of great American writing.”

Similar to many singers, Ms. Jablonski grew up listening to jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Billie Holiday — all of whom, she said, were influenced by Gershwin.

“It’s wonderful to sing his songs because his lyrics are so beautiful,” she said. “He’s such a great writer of melodies. Your heart just wrenches over these ballads. Then there are these up-tempo swinging jazz tunes that make you want to get up and dance. He had that flexibility to capture both ends of the spectrum.”

Caramoor’s Independence Day event is a reunion for most involved. Mr. Musto and Mr. Barrett are longtime friends of nearly 30 years, and Mr. Barrett has been involved in three of Mr. Musto’s four operas. The guest artists have performed at Caramoor in the past, and have worked with Mr. Barrett or with each other, at other concerts throughout New York.

Coincidentally, Mr. Musto’s first performance at Caramoor was in July 2005, where he played a concert similar to “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” alongside Mr. de Haas.

“I’m so thrilled to be a singer and performer because you meet such amazing and talented people,” Ms. Jablonski said. “It’s always like a reunion. It’s always a happy occasion. It’s very exciting. It’s a small world, but there are certain people you always remember working with. And to have the pleasure and honor of working with them again is such a treat.”

Mr. de Haas expressed excitement to perform once again for Caramoor’s crowds, as they have always supported quality music, he said, most notably his past year’s “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” performance.

“Audience reactions have been great,” Mr. de Haas said. “I love performing at Caramoor. Audiences come with an enthusiasm and really want to listen to what is going on. They have always been extremely enthusiastic and loving, and I always look forward to it.”

Caramoor is located at 149 Girdle Ridge Road in Katonah. The “Pops, Patriots and Fireworks” event will begin at 8 p.m. in the Venetian Theater. Tickets cost from $30 to $70, and are half price for children under 16.

For more information, call 232-5035 or 232-1492, or visit www.caramoor.org.




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June 29, 2012

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’