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Orchestra, piano virtuoso entertain with Gershwin
Piano virtuoso Jack Gibbons is one of the fortunate individuals who gets paid to do what they love. What he loves is performing the music of George Gershwin.
Gibbons was featured on several numbers, including two encores, Tuesday with the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra during its season-opening performance paying tribute to 20th-century American composer Gershwin. An audience of 749 attended the concert at the Bedell Performance Hall on the River Campus.
Trained as a classical musician during his youth in England, Gibbons said he was hooked on Gershwin music the first time he played Concerto in F, one of the Gershwin pieces he performed with the orchestra.
"I absolutely fell in love with him," said Gibbons, who also performed Gershwin's signature composition, "Rhapsody in Blue" with the orchestra.
Gibbons has performed on the stages of world-renowned venues such as the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York and the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Albert halls in London. He said he performs more in the U.S. than abroad, and that more than half his performances feature Gershwin music.
"He's the main focus of my playing," Gibbons said.
Dennis Seyer, a performing arts promoter who was instrumental in bring Gibbons to Cape Girardeau, said Gibbons is unique among pianists performing Gershwin music because he plays the way Gershwin played. Gibbons listened to old 78 rpm records of Gershwin and painstakingly transcribed each note, a monumental effort considering that, according to Seyer, "Gershwin used all 88 keys."
Judy Cureton of Cape Girardeau was present when Gibbons appeared in Cape Girardeau in 2005 and was impressed with his performance.
"He's quite amazing the way he can put together the pieces from listening to the Gershwin works and put it together the way it should sound," Cureton said.
For many others in the audience, it was the composer that drew them to the concert.
"I thought George Gershwin wrote the most beautiful music I had ever heard," said Corine Daugherty of Cape Girardeau.
Conducted by Southeast Missouri State University music professor Sara Edgerton, the orchestra opened the performance with "Crazy for You Overture," which includes snippets of "I Got Rhythm" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." After the next selection, "Lullaby," featuring only the string section, Gibbons took the stage and joined the orchestra in performing Concerto in F.
Following an intermission, the orchestra performed two of Gershwin's most famous compositions. "Porgy and Bess, Selections from Orchestra," was followed by the return of Gibbons for "Rhapsody in Blue."
For an encore, Gibbons diverted from the Gershwin theme for a rousing solo performance of Russian-American pianist Vladimir Horowitz's arrangement of the John Philip Sousa patriotic classic, "Stars and Stripes Forever." As a second encore, he played "I Got Rhythm."
The performance was the first of six during the symphony's 10th anniversary season, which continues through May.
518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO