Pianist Glazier’s Love for Gershwin is Here to Stay

December 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Pianist Richard Glazier speaks with Jeffrey Brown about his adoration for the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

JEFFREY BROWN: It was, says Richard Glazier, the 1943 film “Girl Crazy” that did it.

RICHARD GLAZIER, pianist: I saw “Girl Crazy” for the first time when I was 9 years old, and I just fell in love with the voice of Judy Garland and the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

JEFFREY BROWN: Movie musicals led the young Glazier to the piano, first classical training, and then a devotion to the music of a golden period of American songs, particularly the Gershwins, George the composer, Ira the lyricist.

RICHARD GLAZIER: It is so purely and uniquely American and represents us in our best light. To the older generation, these songs of George and Ira Gershwin evoke memories, evoke places, evoke times, evoke feelings. To the younger generation, they are discovering something completely new, and music and songs that are immortal and timeless.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now 47, Glazier performs their music for audiences around the world, recently here at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington. Glazier also conveys his enthusiasm by sharing his own personal story of a 9-year-old boy who decided to write a fan letter to Ira Gershwin.

RICHARD GLAZIER: What is a 9-year-old kid going to say to Ira Gershwin? And we wrote, dear, “Mr. Gershwin, may I please have a picture of George to hang in my room?” Where are we going to mail the letter? We don’t know where Ira Gershwin lives. We’re from Indianapolis, Indiana. Well, my aunt suggests that we mail the letter in care of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, I think 1 Lincoln Plaza, New York, New York, something like that, and ask them to forward the letter. Four months later, an 8.5-by-11 manila envelope arrives in the mail.

JEFFREY BROWN: A correspondence ensued, culminating in an invitation to visit Gershwin’s home in Los Angeles and play the piano where the brothers composed some of their most famous works. Glazier, sitting with us now in the Gershwin Room at the Library of Congress, was then 12.

RICHARD GLAZIER: He asked me to go over to play the piano. This is the piano where they composed “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “A Foggy Day,” “Loved Walked In,” “Shall We Dance, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Love Is Here to Stay,” not to mention “Porgy and Bess.” And I knew that when I went over to the piano.

JEFFREY BROWN: Ira Gershwin asked for the song “Embraceable You” from, yes, the film “Girl Crazy.” He then, and now we, got it.