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Celebrating the King of Swing: A Festival for Benny Goodman’s 100th Birthday

Week-long celebration September 22-29 highlights Goodman’s close ties to Yale, with concerts of classical and jazz repertoire
August 28, 2009
Goodman relaxes in a rehearsal in Yale's Woolsey Hall in 1985.

Goodman relaxes in a rehearsal in Yale’s Woolsey Hall in 1985.

The Yale School of Music presents Celebrating the King of Swing: A Festival for Benny Goodman’s 100th Birthday. This series of concerts and other events explores Goodman’s enduring contributions to music, both classical and jazz.

On Tuesday, September 22 at 8 pm in Sprague Hall, YSM presents The Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman, a concert of music commissioned and/or premiered by the legendary clarinetist. While many people are aware that Benny Goodman made forays into classical music, they may not realize that he was in fact a major player.  Goodman is known predominantly as a jazz musician and bandleader who helped usher in the Swing Era of the 1930s and ’40s, but he was deeply involved in commissioning, performing, and recording a sizeable body of classical works—many of which have become standards of the repertoire—by some of the 20th century’s greatest composers. The program will feature several of these works, including Bartók’s Contrasts, Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata, Alan Shulman’s Rendezvous, Morton Gould’s Benny’s Gig and Recovery Music, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. The program will be repeated at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall on Saturday, Sep. 26 as part of the Yale in New York series.

Under the artistic direction of clarinetist David Shifrin, who also directs the Chamber Music Society at Yale and the Yale in New York concerts, The Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman will showcase many of the gifted faculty, alumni, and students of the Yale School of Music. Faculty performers include Shifrin himself, who will be the soloist in the Copland Concerto, violinists Ani Kavafian and Wendy Sharp, cellist Ole Akahoshi, and pianist Wei-Yi Yang. Alumni clarinetists will come from around the country to participate.

Before the concert, Maureen Hurd ­– a clarinetist, Goodman scholar, and professor at Rutgers University – will give a talk on Goodman’s classical career. Admission to the lecture, which will take place at 7:00 pm in Sudler Hall (next door to Sprague Hall), is free.

Celebrating the King of Swing: A Festival for Benny Goodman’s 100th Birthday highlights the great clarinetist’s long-time connection with Yale. Goodman collaborated with Yale performers and composers throughout his life and performed at the university many times throughout his career. Yale awarded him an honorary Doctor of Music in 1982, and Goodman chose the university as the custodian of his extensive archive. The festival is composed of four concerts that range from small combo jazz to big band to classical. After the Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman on September 22, The Don Byron Quartet performs on Thursday, September 24, in a tribute to the “chamber jazz” that Goodman popularized with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Bigger than Life: The Big Band Music of Benny Goodman features the Yale Jazz Ensemble under Thomas C. Duffy and clarinetist Vincent Oneppo on Tuesday, Sep. 29. Throughout the week, the Gilmore Music Library will display highlights from the Benny Goodman archives.

Events in Celebrating the King of Swing

The Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman
Tuesday, Sep. 22 at 8 pm in Sprague Hall
Featuring music commissioned or premiered by Benny Goodman. Music by Morton Gould, Allan Shulman, Francis Poulenc, and Aaron Copland. Performances by faculty, alumni, and student artists. David Shifrin, clarinetist and artistic director. Tickets $20-$28 / Students $10.
Pre-concert lecture at 7:00 in Sudler Recital Hall (next door to Sprague Hall) by clarinetist and Goodman scholar Maureen Hurd.

Don Byron Quartet
Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8 pm in Sprague Hall
Music associated with Benny Goodman, including the famous “From Spirituals to Swing” Carnegie Hall concert. Don Byron, clarinet & tenor saxophone; Bryan Carrott, vibraphone; Kenny Davis, bass; Eric Harland, drums. Tickets $20-$30 ($10 students).

The Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman
Same program as Sept. 22 concert
Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 pm in Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall. Presented by Yale in New York. Tickets at www.carnegiehall.org.

Bigger Than Life: The Big Band Music of Benny Goodman
Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 8 pm in Sprague Hall
Thomas C. Duffy directs the ensemble in a selection of big band arrangements by Fletcher Henderson, Mel Powell, and others from the Benny Goodman Archives. With clarinetist Vincent Oneppo. Tickets $10 / Students $5.

Display of items from the Benny Goodman Archives
Gilmore Music Library, Sterling Memorial Library

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