Avalanche Orchestra Celebrates 100th Anniversary of George Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE At Suny College of Optometry

The 22-piece international orchestra was led by Artistic Director and Conductor Louis Arques. Joining the orchestra was y Broadway Performer, Mary Callanan.

By: Feb. 15, 2024
Avalanche Orchestra Celebrates 100th Anniversary of George Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE At Suny College of Optometry
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The 100th Anniversary of George Gershwin's iconic Rhapsody in Blue was celebrated by Avalanche Orchestra at SUNY College of Optometry.

The College's 42nd Street Campus once housed Aeolian Hall, the concert venue where Gershwin debuted Rhapsody in Blue on February 12, 1924. The 22-piece international orchestra was led by Artistic Director and Conductor Louis Arques. Joining the orchestra was Broadway Performer, Mary Callanan.

Kaleidoscope of Sound: A Tribute to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was an updated presentation of the 1924 program. The original audience was a mix of bohemians and flappers, composers and opera stars. In 2024, the audience included SUNY Optometry students, faculty, supporters of the college and the orchestra, in addition to students from The Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School, compliments of a generous gift from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind. "The very next day the staff and students were raving about the experience.," said Dr. Leslie Jones, Executive Director for the FMDG Music School. "The narration and history lesson were creme de la creme. It makes such a difference for all audience members, but especially those with vision loss."

A sense of history and excitement was in the air as opening remarks were delivered by SUNY Optometry President, Dr. David A. Heath. "If these walls could talk, they would share the vast history and many stories that have happened in this building," Dr. Heath stated. He spoke about the current occupants of the building, from the 60,000 patient visits per year at The University Eye Center to the hundreds of licensed eye doctors that have been educated at SUNY Optometry. Dr. Heath went on to note that even the title of the evening's program was a nod back to the Rhapsody composer himself, stating, "Gershwin is quoted as saying that he heard Rhapsody in Blue as a 'musical kaleidoscope of America - of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.' Tonight, we bring together a true kaleidoscope of community members from the musicians to the students and friends who joined us."

Mr. Arques took to the stage introducing the audience to the world of music circa 1924. He said that this centennial celebration honored the original night's program from 100 years ago, but with some minor modern additions and adjustments. Some of the variations from that evening in 1924 included having a guest vocalist, with Ms. Callanan performing a few later Gershwin standards like Someone to Watch Over Me and I Got Rhythm.

The final two selections of the evening both debuted on that same night in 1924, with Suite of Serenades followed by the iconic, Rhapsody in Blue as the closing number. The instant standing ovation at the conclusion of the rhapsody was lengthy and enthusiastic. This energy carried over into the post show reception as guest mingled with the artists in the College's art gallery space.

The evening not only celebrated the heralded piece of music that has become a part of American culture, it also showed the strong bond that music and vision have, and the undeniable ability to bring all communities together for an unforgettable and historic evening. The SUNY College of Optometry Foundation served as producer and primary sponsor of the historic event.

 


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