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I am sure most people who heard "Summertime" for the first time would be captivated by the song. I truly was and it remains an all-time favourite of mine.
The version I had listened to was likely Ella Fitzgerald's and Louis Armstrong's jazz version. It starts with lush symphonic sounds, then Armstrong interjects with his blaring trumpet solo and finally Ella Fitzgerald enters singing in her rich, silky, clear voice. For a young child, it was "WOW!"
The song started out as the aria for the opening scene of America's iconic opera, "Porgy and Bess". Gershwin based the composition on the African-American spiritual. In the opening scene, Clara sings it as a lullaby to her baby.
The song is a study in contrast and irony. The pace of the music is slow, quiet in one part and soaring in another. It begins evocative of the season but the languid atmosphere hides the harsh reality of Clara and her baby's lives. She tries to escape it for a while by complimenting baby on his good fortune of having fine parents. She ends her lullaby in the soaring notes of her hope for a different and better future and life for him. A mother's inextinguishable love and hope. One hears melancholy, defiance, consolation and desperate hope all in the song.
Summertime - the season - is also my favourite. The days are long and the living is easy. If you own a cabin by a lake and a canoe, cast a line and the fish will be biting. Start a BBQ and conversations with friends. Summertime living, but a millions miles away from Catfish Row.
Begging your indulgence, Andy.
I just wonder how many people, except for classical and opera aficionados, have heard "Summertime" sung as an aria.
I certainly listened to Ella Fitzgerald's "Summertime" and definitely know "Porgy and Bess" being an opera. But I didn't know that "Summertime" was the opening song of the opening scene. That is until I did my reading up and discovered how one aria from an opera transformed into the multitudinous covers that exist in all genres of music.
So thanks to you, Andy, I re-listened to the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong duet version, as well as her solo performance, Leontyne Price, Renée Fleming, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Billy Stewart, Chaka Khan, Nora Jones, Herbie Mann, Simon Gale, The Zombies, Sublime, even Lana del Ray and finally, the genius composer himself, George Gershwin on piano.
There is a rendition in every genre of music, in voice and instrumental. And the amusing thing is fans of the genre, or singer or band will stake that their idol's version is the best. ☺️
So I say to you, Andy, sincerely and gratefully, thank you for letting me re-visit "Summertime" and in so doing, led me to sample its delightful variations. 🙏🙂
An original composition by S.L.
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