The Gershwin Project I: English Strunsky
Back in 1991, after Richard Wolinsky interviewed Deena Rosenberg, author of Fascinating Rhythm, a book about Ira Gershwin’s lyrics, along with Michael Strunsky, trustee for the Ira and Lenore Gershwin Trusts, Richard embarked on a radio documentary on the life and work of George and Ira Gershwin. For a variety of reasons, the documentary never came into existence, but several interviews were recorded along the way.
A chance meeting with Michael Strunsky in late 2015 led to the decision to digitiize, edit and air and post these interviews, now heard for the very first time anywhere. These recordings will eventually find their way to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection in the Library of Congress.
The Gershwin Project Part One: English Strunsky (1908-2003), Michael Strunsky’s father, was Ira Gershwin’s brother-in-law, and was close to both George and Ira, and the Gershwin family, and at the time of this interview, on August 25, 1992, was at the age of 83 one of the last surviving people who personally knew and spent time with George Gershwin. Ira lived until 1983, and his wife, Lenore, English’s sister, died in 1991. English himself would go on to live another eleven years. Sitting in for the interview, though not heard on the recording, was English Strunsky’s wife, Lucy. According to Michael Strunsky, this is the only extant recording of English Strunsky’s voice, which means this is the only recording of English telling the story of the first performance of “An American in Paris.”
Deena Rosenberg’s excellent book, Fascinating Rhythm, is currently out of print, but obviously there are several biographies of George and Ira Gershwin that you can still find. You can get more information through an internet search, and of course, there’s Wikipedia. Reconstructions of Gershwin shows are available via CD or digitally, as are recordings of George himself, both via piano roll and his radio show. An American in Paris, currently on Broadway, closes on October 2nd, 2016 after over 600 performances. You can contact the various Gershwin trusts by going to Gershwin.com.
Photo of the Gershwin- Strunsky-Paley clan in 1926.
English Strunsky, age 14. is in the back row, right of center. George Gershwin, who organized the photo, is lying down in front.