By RAYMOND A. WHITE
Ira Gershwin was the family historian. So says Mark Trent Goldberg, executive director of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts. Perhaps it was a sense of history that prompted Ira in the early 1950s to begin collating and annotating the Gershwin papers -- George's music and his own lyrics -- and sending them to the Library of Congress. It is hardly surprising to learn from Mr. Goldberg that it was Ira who convinced his mother, Rose, to bequeath the scores for Porgy and Bess and George's major concert works to the Library of Congress, where they would receive appropriate curatorial care and would be available to future generations of scholars.
While Ira was sending archival materials to the Library of Congress, he continued to devote his attention to his ongoing occupation with matters Gershwin. Ira needed to keep available for his own use his correspondence files, photographs, programs, business records and other documents. Mr. Goldberg recalls that the spacious Gershwin house in Beverly Hills became a veritable business office, increasingly crowded with business files and music materials.
Following Ira's death in 1983, Leonore Gershwin, known to her friends as "Lee," furthered and enlarged his efforts on behalf of the Gershwin legacy. She has been characterized as "generous with imagination," a favorite description of Mark Goldberg's. Moreover, she wanted to ensure that this work would continue after her own death. To that end, she established the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts. One of her wishes, said Mr. Goldberg, was that the trusts have an office to handle the day-to-day business concerning licensing, royalties and other requests. Today in Beverly Hills, Mr. Goldberg and his assistant, Camille Kuznetz, devote their time to this work. With the aid of Lawrence Stewart (Ira's assistant from the early 1950s until the late 1960s), they also are cataloging the archival materials that remain in their custody.
The "West Coast Archive," as it is sometimes known, owes much to a number of individuals: not only Ira himself, but others including Lee (who said she helped to paste clippings into the Gershwin scrapbooks), singer Michael Feinstein (whose initial task was the creation of a catalog of Ira's recordings), Robert Kimball (artistic adviser to the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts), and Mr. Goldberg, Ms. Kuznetz and Mr. Stewart. The collection comprises some 3,000 photographs (including family images that date back to the turn of this century), programs dating from 1914, Ira's correspondence, music scores and parts, librettos, LPs, 78s, 45s, acetate discs, CDs, reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, film and videotape, business papers, awards and citations, memorabilia, Ira's personal library and artwork by both brothers.
Says Mr. Goldberg, "One of these days, when we no longer need a business office, all of that material will come to the Library of Congress. The two collections will be merged." When that happens, the Library of Congress and the American people will have yet another opportunity to benefit from the Gershwins' generosity.