With the help of new technology, Jeff Hellmer, director of jazz studies at the Butler School of Music, will share the stage with George Gershwin during a performance with the Dallas Wind Symphony on Feb. 14.
Using software developed by Zenph Sound Innovations, a Yamaha Disklavier PRO piano will re-create a 1924 recording of Gershwin performing “Rhapsody in Blue.” Hellmer will lead the Dallas Wind Symphony in performing alongside Gershwin on the Yamaha Disklavier PRO. Zenph has labeled this innovation in live music performance a “re-performance.”
This concert will be the first time that Gershwin’s re-performance will be synced with live musicians and heard by a live audience. “The new context allows people to hear Gershwin play one of the best pianos available in a fine concert hall with excellent musicians accompanying the re-performance,” said Hellmer.
Hellmer has used Yamaha Disklavier pianos in his teaching and performance, but this will be the first time he combines a more refined version of the Disklavier with synchronous software. Despite the software’s capabilities, Hellmer has become intimately familiar with Gershwin’s interpretation of “Rhapsody in Blue” so that he can coordinate the live performance with the piano.
“The number of collaborations of this sort are increasing through the work of Zenph and other companies. While re-performances will never replace live musical performance, the technology is certain to expose many people to ‘live’ music that they would never hear otherwise,” Helmer said.
The partnership between Hellmer and Gershwin will continue that night with the ensemble’s rendition of “I Got Rhythm.” There will also be a short video with rare footage of Gershwin performing the famous song, and the video will be synchronized with the programmed piano. The ensemble will go directly into a live arrangement of the piece, where Hellmer will take over the piano from Gershwin. Hellmer will also perform Gershwin’s Concerto in F.
Hellmer plans to record the music in August with the Dallas Wind Symphony for an upcoming album. He has been a pianist and conductor with the Dallas Wind Symphony for six years and is a member of the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers.