Skip to comments.Duke Ellington's Sacred Music Holds Sacred Place in Seattle's Jazz Community
Posted on 12/26/2009 11:33:13 AM PST by nickcarraway
In 1965, the Pulitzer Prize's three-member music jury voted unanimously to award Duke Ellington a special citation for his prodigious contributions to American music, an award unceremoniously rejected by the Pulitzer's 14-member advisory board.
The 66-year-old Ellington handled the snub and resulting controversy with customary aplomb. "Fate is being kind to me," the Maestro said. "Fate doesn't want me to be famous too young."
In truth, Ellington had his eye on loftier concerns. On Sept. 16 of that year, the Duke Ellington Orchestra premiered "A Concert of Sacred Music" at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the first of three Sacred Music programs that he considered his most important work.
These days there's little argument about Ellington's status as a singularly creative force in 20th-century music, but compared to his beloved standards and ambitious longer suites with Billy Strayhorn, his Sacred Music is rarely performed.
In Seattle, however, the Sacred Music canon is woven firmly into the city's cultural scene, a tradition that enters its third decade today when Earshot Jazz presents the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra at Town Hall with the Northwest Chamber Choir, tap dancer Alex Dugdale, gospel singer Nichol Veneé Eskridge and the suave jazz and blues crooner Everett Greene (who tours with the Basie Orchestra).
"It's a magnum opus with some 50 people on the stage," says Earshot director John Gilbreath, who notes that the production's scale makes it an unlikely choice for an annual undertaking.
"It's not a commercial endeavor, but you do it because it nourishes the soul. The music is so reverent and hip at the same time."
Considering that there's no corresponding series in San Francisco, New York City or London (where the music was first presented), Seattle isn't an obvious location for the nation's longest running production of Ellington's Sacred Music.
(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com ...
Glad to hear about this. I’ve been a fan of Ellington’s for many years and had never heard of this work of his.
That said, having lived in the city of Seassholes for 10 years, I have to be suspicious of some sort of leftist spin from any “cultural” event the city sponsors.
Wow. I am a big fan of the Duke and Billy Strayhorn, but this is news to me.