Glacier Symphony’s ‘Gershwin Gala’ kicks off new year

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Russian pianist Natalia Lauk will be a special guest with Glacier Symphony.

Glacier Symphony rings in 2019 with an elegant “Gershwin Gala” featuring the music of the great American composer, George Gershwin, in two concerts at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. The program features a 45-piece orchestra under the direction of conductor John Zoltek with guest pianist Natalia Lauk.

“This will be a fantastic opportunity to indulge in an all-Gershwin program and experience a fun night out with friends,” Zoltek said. “Our slightly pared-down symphony orchestra will offer a program of Gershwin’s best-loved music including “An American in Paris Suite,” “Cuban Overture,” “Crazy for You Overture” and “Summertime.”

For the grand finale, Lauk will join the orchestra for a rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue” (orchestrated by Ferde Grofe’), one of Gershwin’s most beloved pieces and a true American masterpiece that blends jazz, blues and early 20th-century styles together in a danceable piano concerto form.

The gala will offer cabaret-style seating along with refreshments, beer and wine available to purchase. Theater and balcony seating is also available.

“This will be a lighthearted and unique musical experience ... expect some musical surprises including jazz improv from a few of your favorite orchestra musicians and more,” Zoltek said.


Though many of Gershwin’s compositions were written as Broadway show tunes, early in his career he focused on classical orchestrations. He asked the French composer Maurice Ravel to teach him, but in a rejection letter Ravel said, “Why become a second-rate Ravel when you’re already a first-rate Gershwin?” Gershwin then wrote the musical “An American in Paris” followed by “Of Thee I Sing” which, in 1931, was the first musical comedy to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He famously noted that “Life is a lot like jazz — it’s best when you improvise!”

Gershwin wrote an estimated 500 songs over his short life that ended in 1937 at age 38. His most ambitious composition was “Porgy and Bess.” It was a box office failure at its debut in 1935 in the middle of the Depression, but now is considered one of the most important American operas of the 20th century.


Pianist Natalia Lauk comes from a lineage of classical Russian pianists and piano instructors. She was born and raised in Siberia, Russia, and completed her Master of Musical Arts degree in piano solo performance, collaborative piano and piano pedagogy at the Krasnoyarsk State Institute of Arts in 2000. She moved from Siberia to Idaho in 2011, where she started a private piano studio and now collaborates in the Department of Music at Idaho State University teaching piano, and performing occasionally with the Idaho State Civic Symphony.

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