Pianist and singer Michael Feinstein, who has been dubbed the ambassador of the Great American Songbook, is unquestionably at the top of the list of great interpreters of American standards. This fact alone would give him credibility in presenting a show completely dedicated to the works of George and Ira Gershwin, as he will be doing live in concert at Strathmore's Spring Gala on Saturday night.
But Feinstein has an even greater connection to these men of music -- in 1977, he had the distinct pleasure of working directly with lyricist Ira Gershwin as his assistant. He did that for six years, and a perk of the association was access to numerous unpublished songs written by the team of brothers. This, for him, was heaven.
"The Gershwin sound and the music of George Gershwin was a revelation to me when I first heard that music as a kid," said Feinstein, who began playing piano at 5 years old. "It was the first time that I had a specific and palpable connection to the music of one composer, and it was life-changing. 'Rhapsody in Blue' was something that moved me deeply ... and the lyrics of Ira were something I discovered later as I became more mature. And so the Gershwin sound has been with me practically all of my life."
Saturday's show at the Strathmore is called "The Gershwins and Me," an offshoot of his book, released last October, by the same name.
|2013 Spring Gala at Strathmore|
|Michael Feinstein: The Gershwins and Me|
|» Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda|
|» When: 9:00 pm. Saturday|
|» Info: $36 to $105; 301-581-5100; strathmore.org|
|Orchestra tickets are reserved for those purchasing gala dinner packages. For more information, contact Bill Carey at 301-581-5135. Single tickets include access to Strathmore's exclusive after-party.|
"I wanted to put together something that would be slightly more anecdotal, because of all the memories that came back, and stories that I collated for the book," he continued. "I realized that, particularly with the Gershwin canon, people love hearing the stories and the background. ... The response of the audience has been volcanic in their enthusiasm and appreciation. So that's exciting for me."
While Feinstein does not want to give away too much of the material he will present in his show, he plans playing a medley of Gershwin songs that were introduced by Fred Astaire in his films.
"Their relationship was so close and that gives me the opportunity to put the songs into a different context," he pointed out. "I think that makes them fresh and fun for the audience."