Duke Ellington Orchestra ‘Sacred Concert’ – Westminster Abbey 24th October 1973 009
Pages 8 and 9 of a programme for a Duke Ellington concert at Westminster Abbey, in aid of the the United Nations, 1973. Page 8 profiles Duke Ellington, putting extra emphasis on his religious upbringing.
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Duke Ellington, one of Americaâs greatest composers, has always resisted the idea that music can be rigidly separated into categories. Now, in his 70s, his talent has received such public recognition as a Doctorate of Music at Yale and other academic distinctions, membership of the American National Institute of Arts and Letters, the French Legion d'Honneur, and Americaâs highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom â presented to him at the White House during a party for his 70th birthday.
In the Abbey today, Duke Ellington fulfils the simple purpose embodied in Psalm 150: âPraise ye the Lord with all kind of instrumentsâ. His view of religion is a simple one, owing nothing to theologians. He has been a devout Christian since his church-going childhood, when he went twice every Sunday â once with his Baptist mother, and once with his Methodist father.
His earliest appearances were in the Washington True Reformers Hall, and it was as long ago as 1943 that he made his affirmation in the suite "Black, Brown and Beigeâ. In the words of the song âCome Sundayâ: âLordy, Lord of love, please look down and see my people through".
Duke Ellington has been leading jazz orchestras for fifty years, and for most of them his have been the best in its field. His instrumentalists are the top performers. They come and go but they are always the Dukeâs men, and it is his music they play, composed for their special talents.
Many of his suites spring from the experience of his tours all over the world. He writes for films, ballet, musicals, and his sacred concerts. His scores, like his discography, would fill volumes.
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington. D.C.. on April 9th, 1899, was nicknamed âThe Dukeâ in earlv childhood, and was a professional piano player while still at high school. He formed the "Dukeâs Serenadersâ in 1923, and "The Washingtoniansâ in 1924. By 1927 the Duke Ellington Orchestra was firmly established and resident at the Cotton Club in New York. He made his first European tour in 1933 In 1939. the late Billy Strayhorn, arranger, collaborator, amanuensis and life-long friend of the Duke joined the band, and wrote the famous signature tune âTake the A Trainâ. In 1943 there was the series of concerts at Carnegie Hall, in 1956 a triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival, and in 1958 another visit to this country. This time the Duke met the Queen, and wrote a song for her.
Since then he has been a frequent visitor, between tours of America, Russia, Africa, Europe and the Far East. His sacred concerts have become an important and, to him. essential part of his itineraries, and are not confined to any particular form of Christian worship.
The Sacred Concerts date back to 1965, and have been performed, among other places in San Francisco, New York, Coventry Stockholm, Paris and Barcelona. JEAN DELANEY â EVENING STANDARD.
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