The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. has opened a room dedicated to the Gershwin brothers -- composer George, who died in 1937 at age 38 and whose centennial is being celebrated this year; and lyricist Ira, who died in 1983 at 86.
According to published reports, the room contains furniture and memorabilia ranging from George's grand piano to Ira's typewriter. In addition, a video kiosk gives visitors the opportunity to hear music from the Gershwins' Broadway shows and to scrutinize musical scores, correspondence and other documents.
In the past the Library of Congress has devoted rooms to historical and literary figures, but this is the first time that songwriters have been honored with a room.
In conjunction with the room dedication, a four-day series of seminars and concerts on George and Ira Gershwin and other songwriters of their era, "The Gershwins and Their World," was held at the Library of Congress in March 1998, with participants including William Bolcom, Joan Morris, Michael Feinstein, David Garrison, Jonathan Tunick and Rob Fisher -- as well as octogenarian Anne Wiggins Brown, the original Bess in Porgy and Bess, who reminisced about the landmark 1935 opera.
Much of the collection in the Gershwin Room was given to the Library of Congress by Ira after George's death in 1937; additional items were given in the '80s by Ira's widow, Leonore, and by other family members. The original documents in the exhibit, which is open during regular Library of Congress hours, 10 AM to 5 PM Mon-Fri., will be changed several times a year to avoid damage to the light.
-- By Rebecca Paller