Downtown Music Publishing will now represent the George Gershwin repertoire, handling both publishing and catalog marketing. The agreement, made with both the Hodowsky family and Heyward Memorial Fund, includes Gershwin's work on Porgy and Bess (co-written with Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward) and such classic songs as "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Love is Here to Stay," and "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
The agreement also puts Downtown in control of more than 300 unpublished Gershwin works—including unused material from the films Shall We Dance and A Damsel in Distress—and songs posthumously co-written with Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys musician and songwriter wrote two "new" songs (with Scott Bennett) from unfinished Gershwin fragments for his 2010 album Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.
The announcement comes as a major operatic revival of Porgy and Bess is being readied at New York's Metropolitan Opera, scheduled for this September. Adapted from the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward's play Porgy and DuBose Heyward's novel of the same name, Porgy and Bess was not a great success when it premiered on Broadway in 1935. A 1976 production by Houston Grand Opera ignited public interest in the piece, which has been primarily produced by opera companies in the years following.
Two revisions intended to give the piece an edition designed for musical theatre companies have subsequently been assembled. Trevor Nunn's adaptation, which reverted to dialogue from the original play and novel versions of the stories in place of the opera's recitative, played a brief run in London in 2006. Diane Paulus directed a second musical theatre adaptation, with an adapted book by Suzan-Lori Parks, on Broadway in 2011, a production that starred Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald.
“In thinking about the next home for these celebrated works, we wanted a focused, creative and energetic music publisher, shares Jonathan Keidan, great-nephew of Gershwin and trustee for the Gershwin/Godowsky trust. "Downtown understands both the importance of nurturing these American classics, ensuring that they remain beloved and relevant today while also finding new ways to bring them to the next generation of Gershwin fans.”
“The George Gershwin catalog ... features not only some of the most iconic songs in the Great American Songbook, but represents the building blocks of popular music," says Downtown Music Holdings CEO Justin Kalifowitz. "To be entrusted with these legendary works—which remain as culturally relevant today as ever—is a true honor and a testament to our team."
One of the most prolific and celebrated composers of early Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, George Gershwin created such celebrated Broadway scores as Lady, Be Good, Oh, Kay!, Girl Crazy, Porgy and Bess, and the Pulitzer-winning Of Thee I Sing. The shows that Gershwin directly worked on go largely unperformed today (with the exception of Porgy and Bess and Of Thee I Sing), but a number of newly-created Gershwin jukebox musicals—including My One and Only, Crazy For You, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and An American in Paris—have kept his song catalog alive on Broadway.