Uniquely New Orleans – The Classical Tradition and Jazz

img_490x0_16422471_10154913746088419_1289510130775325392_oA concert presented by The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
Cathedral-Basilica of St Louis, King of France, New Orleans

When was the last time you went to a symphonic concert that included the music of Charles Gounod, Dezsö Antalffy-Zsiross, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Jelly Roll Morton, George Gershwin and Gioachino Rossini? Well, if you were in New Orleans on the night of February 15, you would have certainly have been one of the hundreds who crammed into St. Louis Cathedral for this free, SRO concert. This series, a collaboration between The Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra, examines different perspectives of local music and musicians. This concert, the eleventh in a series that gets better and better, examined the influences and cross-connections between early local jazz and what was happening on the other stages in the early 20th century.

The setting was St. Louis Cathedral, certainly a majestic and appropriate venue on most levels (Psalm 98:4: “Make a joyful noise …”), if not others (acoustically). Maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto conducted the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and local actor Vernel Bagneris (remember “One Mo’ Time” from years past?), the reincarnation of Jelly Roll Morton (a role he was born to play) was the “master of ceremonies.”

Vernel Bagneris

Vernel Bagneris

The conceit was that Jelly Roll, the self-proclaimed “Originator of Jazz,” returns to share some of his observations on influences (for instance, opera as performed at the French Opera House in New Orleans) and explain threads that connect 19th century European music (ballet music from Faust and the overture to La gazza ladra) to New Orleans jazz (Morton’s own “Fingerbreaker”) to New York (Gershwin’s overture to “Strike up the Band” and “Rhapsody in Blue”; Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” and Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs for Solo Clarinet and Jazz Ensemble”), with Negro spirituals, played on the Cathedral’s massive organ, as re-imagined by Hungarian Antalffy-Zsiross thrown in for good measure. All of this was beautifully tied together by excellent program notes written by concert originator Dr. Alfred Lemmon, director of THNOC’s Williams Research Center.

Performers included a student (Emmanuel Arakélian, an organ student at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris), young professionals (Ronald Joseph, piano, a product of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school; Christopher Pell, Julliard graduate and principle Philharmonic clarinet), and seasoned professionals (James Dapogny, piano and the aforementioned Bagneris). All were excellent, but the standout for me was the incomparable Germaine Bazzle, who gave a dazzling scat-infused “Just One of Those Things” by this local legend (by the way, her 85th birthday is soon and, yes, the audience sang “Happy Birthday”).

Germaine Bazzle

Germaine Bazzle

The concert, streamed live and filmed, and will come out on CD later this year as a gift to those who support this series. Cole Porter sums it up quite well:

It was just one of those nights
Just one of those fabulous flights
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings
Just one of those things.

Lake Douglas

3 Responses to “Uniquely New Orleans – The Classical Tradition and Jazz”

  1. Oh, would I have killed to be there! Can’t wait for the CD.

    and thanks for the thorough and mouth-watering description.

  2. Oh what a night, Lake…..I join Jack in wising I was there as well. Your descriptive was sheer heaven. I felt as close to being there as I could, thanks to you…..Now, will count the days until the CD comes out.

  3. Dear Lake,

    This is a love letter to you for writing and communicating with great passion such a magnificent night that could only happen in New Orleans. I am so sorry we missed this and thank you for letting our readers know…these kinds of experiences are the magic of New Orleans. Thank you! xxoo

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