In 2024, we celebrate the centennial anniversary of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a composition that revolutionized American music and bridged the gap between classical and jazz genres. Premiered on February 12, 1924, at Aeolian Hall in New York City, this piece has since become a cornerstone of American musical heritage, embodying the exuberance and innovation of the Jazz Age.

Gershwin, a Brooklyn-born composer and pianist, was just 25 when he wrote Rhapsody in Blue. The piece was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman for a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music,” intended to showcase the evolution of American music. Gershwin’s ability to blend classical elements with jazz idioms resulted in a composition that defied traditional categorization, capturing the spirit of a rapidly changing America.

The premiere of Rhapsody in Blue was a landmark event, attended by an eclectic audience of musicians, critics, and socialites. From the iconic opening clarinet glissando to the dynamic interplay of piano and orchestra, the composition captivated listeners with its bold and innovative sound. Gershwin himself played the piano solo, delivering a performance that highlighted his virtuosity and deep understanding of both classical and jazz techniques.

Over the past century, Rhapsody in Blue has been performed and recorded by countless artists, each bringing their unique interpretation to the piece. Its enduring popularity is a testament to Gershwin’s genius in creating a work that is both distinctly American and universally appealing.

Rhapsody in Blue will be the centerpiece of Northern Lights’ Festive Fourth Concert with Aurora native and NLMF Artistic Director Veda Zuponcic as piano soloist.