When I did my retirement home tours, feisty tunes were more well-received than the melancholy Prelude no. 2 in C# minor. Everybody knew Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” plus a truckload of Hoagy Carmichael favorites.
So, looking back, I should have thought twice about featuring this musical gem as my opener. (as lackluster as it was without color coating at the time)
About Prelude #2:
Published in 1927, the work was first performed by George Gershwin in a concert at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City. A challenge to play, it doesn’t fit easily under the fingers because of large note spans, and it requires a tasteful amount of tempo rubato of a bluesy, moody character.
Part of a Prelude trio, the composition is framed by the more spirited #1 and #3.
Try romancing the over 75 crowd with a somber tune of obscure identity and you’re not going to get a call back anytime soon.
Inevitably, the old folks gave a shout out for “Edelweiss” and the complete Sound of Music medley. Next on the charts was “Bicycle Built for Two,” followed by “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
“Stardust” and “Skylark” were big winners, along with “Heart and Soul.”
But if the piano bench ate into sacred dining room table space, there were grave consequences. I can’t forget the day I tumbled into the lap of a wheelchair bound resident who promptly opted out of lunch, taking her place mat with her.
Others turned down their hearing aids below O frequency.
A few at the homey ranch-style facility were more respectful.
“Hans” and “Kirsten” greeted me warmly whenever I turned up for my monthly gig at Paradise Found Retirement. Ironically, Hans had been a Basso Profundo in the Berlin Opera during the war years, and his wife, whom he met in Norway, was herself an accomplished pianist who lived across the street from the country’s celebrated composer, Edvard Grieg.
In the presence of this acculturated pair, my 40′s jam session quickly morphed into a full fledged Classical concert, that is, after most diners had retired to their rooms to freshen up before BINGO.
And that reminds me of the gig I did over at Carrington Point before the piano crumbled under my fingers. The sad circumstance of a Young Chiang with blank and chipped notes, forced me to haul my digital keyboard and other gear a considerable distance. Thankfully, the booking was short-lived.
So I could say with confidence, that residents at the POINT who were walker-bound and accompanied by nurses’ aides, liked Gershwin’s Prelude no. 2. In fact, the last I’d heard, some were asking after me, hoping I would come back to do an afternoon of George G., playing all THREE preludes.
Unfortunately, I never returned, though I recorded some tunes for the old folks and sent them along on a cassette.
Finally, this writing would be undeserving of praise without sharing two riveting Gershwin performances:
Yeol Eum Son plays George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.”
Irina Morozova delivers a sizzling “I Got Rhythm!”