ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY (2)On February 28, 1943, George Gershwin’s PORGY AND BESS opened on Broadway with Anne Brown and Todd Duncan.

Actually, Gershwin’s first version of the opera, running four hours (counting the two intermissions), was performed privately in a concert version in Carnegie Hall, in the fall of 1935.

I’ve never seen a Broadway show (although there was a time I held season tickets to the Music Theater of Wichita).  In 1943 I wasn’t born yet, so obviously I could not have seen Porgy and Bess on Broadway at that time, but I do like to listen to the songs from this show.

As I was learning to play the piano, as well as playing hymns, once in a while I played show tunes.  This is one of my favorites, but I admit I like “The King & I” and “South Pacific” too.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I like all musicals – on Broadway or off.  I even like some that are way WAY off-Broadway!  Give me a good solid storyline with good solid characters, add a little drama and some snappy music, and I’m hooked!

Porgy and Bess is about the residents of the Charleston tenement known as Catfish Row.  Nobody is rich by any stretch of the imagination, and everyone is struggling to survive.  Porgy is disabled and uses a cart to get around.  Bess has dealings with some shady characters, but eventually seeks shelter with Porgy.  She knows a good guy when she meets him.

Of course, any great show on Broadway is going to be remade on the big screen – and this one definitely made it there – a few times.  The most memorable movie starred Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Brock Peters and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong made a recording of the songs from Porgy and Bess in 1957, but it was held and released along with the 1959 movie.  It’s truly some of Gershwin’s best work, and with a duo like Fitzgerald and Armstrong, how could it have failed?  No way would the album fail.  I love that Gershwin used this subject matter and wrote it as an opera.  It’s pure genius!  I feel the same way about “West Side Story.”   I’d describe either show as oxymoronic, theatrically speaking.  I wish I had a mind like Gershwin – with enough irony and interest to capture the world long enough to watch a four-hour show.  Wow!   Sometimes I can’t get folks to read a ten-second poem I’ve written.  Sigh.

Oh, the plot thickens toward the end…  but just in case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending for you.  You should rent the 1959 film for movie night this week.  🙂

 

 

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GUY FAWKES DAY

TL 11-5 GUY FAWKES DAY

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!”
― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta    

King James I was king of England in 1603.  He was an avid Protestant and began persecuting Catholics.  He forbid them from practicing their religion and punished them if they did not convert to the Protestant church.

A radical group of Catholics decided to take action against the king.  They became known as The Gunpowder Conspirators.  They devised a plan to blow up the British Houses of Parliament and planned to do so when the king and his supporters were in the buildings.

The plot was foiled on November 5, 1605 when thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were found in Parliament’s basement.  Guy Fawkes, the leader of the conspiracy, was arrested and tortured until he confessed.  He was arrested just as he was about to ignite the gunpowder!

People in England celebrate GUNPOWDER DAY with fireworks and bonfires.

Why do we celebrate this day?  Is it because we applaud Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators for trying to end religious persecution?  Maybe we appreciate the government’s successful discovery of the plot, which ultimately saved many lives.  I choose to celebrate the end of all religious persecution!  May we all worship in the way we choose!

Wow – I’m glad things went the way they did, aren’t you?  That would have been one big BOOM for sure!  So celebrate religious freedom today with fireworks and bonfires.  Celebrate all things that make us independent and happy!  😀