Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gershwin Son Pens Anthem

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gershwin Son Pens Anthem

Article excerpt

A musical setting of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address will be a highlight of Gloria Musicae's Independence Day concert in downtown Sarasota.

The "Gettysburg Anthem" was composed by Alan Gershwin, a New York composer born in 1926 who believes himself to be the son of American icon George Gershwin.

The work, a nine-minute composition for solo tenor and ensemble, has its roots not just in Lincoln's famous speech but in a lost attempt by George Gershwin to write such a piece. Pianist Milton Rettenberg and George Gershwin got started on setting Lincoln's words to music, but it was never finished.

"Years later, Alan happens to be talking to Milt and felt inspired, decided 'I would like to start my own piece.' Milt plants kinda like a seed," said Chris Luginbiehl, Gershwin's agent and friend who will accompany Gershwin to Sarasota for the Florida premiere of the anthem.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that the anthem, written at least a quarter-century ago, moved from Gershwin's notebook to public performance. Through a convoluted series of events and phone calls, the anthem wound up being performed in 2009 at a Kennedy Center concert marking Lincoln's 200th birthday. The version Gloria Musicae will perform debuted in 2012 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

It was there that friends of Joseph Holt, music director for Gloria Musicae, alerted him to the piece.

"What's compelling about what Alan Gershwin's done is he's primarily set it as solo voice and ensemble," said Holt. "It's so straightforward and noble in its setting. Much like a great orator, whether that person is a politician or a preacher, it starts out calmly with simple statements and builds up to this dramatic conclusion, 'of the people, by the people, for the people.' It's a very comfortable and engaging score."

The anthem will be included in one of three sets of music to be performed on the Fourth of July: A civil War-era set with music by Stephen Foster and "When Johnny Comes Marching home;" a 1920s-40s set including music by the Andrews Sisters, a big-band salute, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and a medley of Irving Berlin tunes; and a patriotic set with a salute to the military and some of the best-known patriotic songs. …

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