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George Gershwin Onstage at Yeshiva College, 1930

by Shulamith Berger on 2024-02-21T13:42:00-05:00 in Archives & Special Collections | 0 Comments



This week marked the 100th anniversary of the premiere of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which was part of the concert, "An Experiment in Modern Music," in 1924. The piece, which Gershwin described as “a musical kaleidoscope of America," captivated audiences.

When the Yeshiva College Women’s Organization organized a concert to benefit the Students’ Maintenance Fund, they carefully curated a program with top-tier musicians of the day: the brothers and sister of the Compinsky trio, noted classical violinist Toscha Seidel, and for the pièce de résistance, George Gershwin himself, playing his Rhapsody in Blue.



The benefit concert was scheduled for May 27, 1930, in the two-year-old Yeshiva College Auditorium, later renamed Lamport Auditorium. On May 9, 1930, Gershwin wrote to the Women’s Organization with questions about the upcoming performance and whether he would play Rhapsody in Blue in the version for one piano or two. His presence on the program was contested, however, by Toscha Seidel, who withdrew from the concert two days before it was scheduled. His irate letter stated, “I venture to remark to you that it is not my custom to be an assisting artist to anyone, particularly to a jazz composer.”

Despite these tantalizing clues, what took place at the concert, and who performed, is still a mystery. One thing is crystal clear: the concert was billed as the “first annual concert” but no concerts followed. Nonetheless, the Yeshiva College Women’s Organization has continued to provide help for needy students, and to raise funds for Yeshiva, for over a century.



Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger

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