Program Notes: Mr Gershwin on Folly Pier

Mr Gershwin on Folly Pier
Mr Gershwin Returns to Folly Pier
Mr Gershwin Returns Again to Folly Pier

For several years in the mid-90s, I lived on Folly Island, just outside Charleston, S.C., in pursuit of Gershwin’s Porgy-geist. I met a number of old-timers who could still remember those six magical weeks that Gershwin spent on Folly in the summer of 1934.

One of them drew my attention to a spectacular party on Folly Pier on Saturday, 14th July, when Gershwin had helped adjudicate a bathing beauty competition. One of George’s co-adjudicators was the reigning Miss America, Marion Bergeron, who sang a selection of numbers with her band, The American Playboys. Much to the chagrin of the local pulchritude, Gershwin only had eyes for Miss America that evening; George danced tangos with her all evening and, at dawn, they strolled along the beach to watch the sunrise.

It was a scene that cried for Hollywood treatment. Or a piece of music.

Around this time I met Ken Radnofsky at a saxophone convention in West Virginia. Over time, the notion of Gershwin – Miss America – tangos gelled with Ken’s gentle perseverance, and so Mr Gershwin on Folly Pier was born. Fortunately, I had managed to record the recollections of one of the local ladies who had attended that memorable evening 60 years ago now.

In its original form, this short piece d’occasion is scored for solo alto saxophone and two accompanying sax quartets, either live or pre-recorded. For the first performance at the Hartt Conservatory in May 1994, Ken Radnofsky recorded all the parts, bar the solo baritone part.

I have since revised the piece for sax [or clarinet] and ensemble or chamber orchestra.

The piece is dedicated jointly to Ken Radnofsky and to Stephen Nolan, the owner of that musically haunted summer home of DuBose Heyward, Follywood.

Copyright Vincent Plush 1994