Millions of ears otherwise unfamiliar with the sound of the American Jazz Age would recognize George Gershwin’s published work. In 1987, United Airlines licensed his 1924 hit, “Rhapsody in Blue,” as its signature commercial orchestration.
When George died of a brain tumor in 1937 at 38, it ended his intensive, 12-year creative collaboration with Ira writing music for Hollywood and Broadway.
But Ira didn’t die until 1983 at 86.
So, George’s many unpublished melodies just sat in Ira’s closet until then – music written, but never played.
I learned this tidbit on Saturday night from Andrew Litton, the Colorado Symphony’s artistic adviser, who conducted and performed some of Gershwin’s hits and recovered melodies at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver.
As the symphony lifted those fresh Gershwin tunes from page to stage during the concert, I also heard an echo of my little boy, Ray, saying his name for the first time in mid-April.
My laptop computer usually sits on our kitchen counter, and it frequently “falls asleep” into a random slide show of family photos pulled from the hard drive after 15 minutes of inactivity.
To watch it, Ray stands on a cream-colored step stool painted with a calf snuggling next to the mama cow – both of them with big eyes and batty eyelashes.
So, there stood Ray to say “Ray” – the name we gave him on his birthday, when the Down syndrome diagnosis covered him like a mask – and I glanced at the screen to see what photo prompted him to speak.
The image reflected him with Pat Winders, his physical therapist at The Sie Center for Down Syndrome at the Children’s Hospital in Aurora.
Ray walks now.
Someday I will hear the song, not just the snippets, and I will give Ray a standing ovation.
For now, though, it is enough to note Ray’s closet – each of us also has the kind without skeletons – and to wait for him to share those melodies.
All of the parents relaxed eating their chips, fruit salad and sandwiches because a tall fence enclosed the yard and kept the little ones safe from the street.
He often comes around me like fog, like a boy with no meow on cat paws.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at Mellskog@msn.com or at 303-746-0942.