KEY WEST, Florida — “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein’s “Key West–side story” is to be spotlighted for music lovers during “Remembering Lenny” and other offerings exploring the American musical icon’s work and the ways the island city influenced it. Spearheaded by Key West’s Impromptu Classical Concerts organization, the events celebrate the centennial of Bernstein’s 1918 birth.
According to Impromptu Concerts’ George Korn, Bernstein’s first published piece of music, “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano,” was written during his initial visit to Key West in 1941. He also began a ballet titled “Conch Town” and subsequently spent significant time on the island.
The celebration’s highlight events are scheduled Sunday, March 25, and Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27-28.
Activities are to begin with an Impromptu Concerts performance by visionary pianist Michael Brown and award-winning Spanish clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester. Featuring Bernstein’s “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano,” their showcase is set for 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 401 Duval St. Tickets are $20 per person and are available at keywestimpromptu.org.
Music lovers have a rare opportunity to hear recollections of Bernstein from friends and professional associates during “Remembering Lenny,” scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27-28, at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St. The evening also explores his special relationship with Key West.
Those sharing reminiscences of the legendary composer and conductor are to include Charlie Harmon, Bernstein’s last personal assistant and author of an upcoming biography, and conductor Charles Prince, who worked closely with Bernstein on projects including “West Side Story.” Their insights are to be followed by an opportunity for audience members to offer recollections.
The event also features the Key West premiere of Bernstein’s “Conch Town,” paired with commentary by composer and musicologist George Steel, who reconstructed the piece from Bernstein’s unfinished work.
Admission is free to this landmark event.
As well as “West Side Story,” Bernstein is well known for his score for the Academy Award–winning film “On the Waterfront” and Broadway stage collaborations including “Wonderful Town.”
Among other Key West commemorations of the Bernstein centennial is “Bernstein on Broadway,” presented Thursday and Friday, March 15-16, by Fringe Theater at The Studios of Key West. Fans can view the 1961 film "West Side Story," featuring Bernstein's iconic score, Monday, March 26, at Key West’s Tropic Cinema at 416 Eaton St.
In addition, Bernstein compositions are being featured at Impromptu Classical Concerts’ scheduled performances throughout the season.
Event information: keywestimpromptu.org
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Impromptu Concerts presents a performance by visionary pianist Michael Brown and award-winning Spanish clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester.
Among other Key West commemorations of the Bernstein centennial is “Bernstein on Broadway.”