Every kid has an idol. An actor. A rock star. The president.
But when Richard Glazier was growing up, he looked up to a much more mature brand of public figure: composer. And some of America’s most legendary, to be exact.
At 9 years old, Glazier began listening to the music of George and Ira Gershwin, soon writing fan letters to the surviving Ira.
In 1975, at age 12, he met Gershwin in Beverly Hills, a meeting that “sealed the fate of my life,” he said.
And now, decades later, Glazier is bringing his passion for the Gershwins’ music to cable television. His program, “From Gershwin to Garland: A Musical Journey with Richard Glazier,” will air on Pittsburgh’s WQED Sunday, June 27, at 5 p.m.
Glazier was immediately rapt when he first heard “Rhapsody in Blue,” happening upon an old 78 rpm record in his aunt’s cabinet. Even at 9, the music spoke to him in an indefinable way.
“When something touches inside, it’s hard to intellectualize it,” said Glazier. “The music touched me at a deep place when I was a young child.”
The 30-years-in-the-making documentary sees Glazier explaining his connection to Gershwin through narrative and pictures, interspersed through musical performances of Gershwin songs on piano, illustrating Glazier’s transition from young fan boy to, as his Web site states, “one of today’s foremost interpreters of the American Popular Songbook.” Glazier studied piano performance and began performing his one-man musical program “Gershwin — Remembrance and Discovery” in 1996; he toured playing the music of Gershwin — and that of Gershwin’s era — ever since.
His career, then, is inspired by some of the foremost creators of the American Popular Songbook.
“[The Gershwins] represent what this country is all about — a melting pot. George immersed himself in Yiddish theater, ragtime, black culture and Western classical music,” said Glazier. “All of those voices synthesized into his unique American voice. He wrote pop songs one day and songs for the concert hall the next.”
“His songs spark a romance inside of us,” said Glazier. “Many of our older relatives courted each other to these songs. They’ve woven their way into the fabric of what America is.”
Glazier remembers fondly his first meeting with Ira 35 years ago, during which he played George’s old piano while Ira sung along.
“He was a very kind, warm, quiet individual who did not demand a lot of attention when he was in a room,” said Glazier. “He never fully recovered from the death of his brother (who died in 1937). He became a human yahrzeit candle for George.”
Glazier filmed his program last summer, and has been selling it on DVD as well as broadcasting it on local cable networks since.
“It’s a wonderful feeling that [the show] is a success,” said Glazier. “It was a risk. Everything in life is a risk. But you don’t know until you put it out there.”
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)