Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Concert Of Sacred Music, 50 Years Later

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra consecrated San Francisco's Grace Cathedral with the premiere of "A Concert Of Sacred Music" on September 16, 1965. The concert was filmed (above) by KQED, in partnership with San Francisco Chronicle jazz critic Ralph Gleason.

"I recognized this as an exceptional opportunity," Ellington wrote in his 1973 autobiography Music Is My Mistress. "'Now I can say openly what I have been saying to myself on my knees.'"

Read Jesse Hamlin's "Sanctified By Jazz: Music at Grace Cathedral."

25th Anniversary of Duke Ellington's "Concert Of Sacred Music" (Program Book Cover)

25 years later (1990), Jazz In The City (now SFJAZZ) presented the 25th Anniversary of Ellington's "most important work of his career" at Grace Cathedral, featuring The Duke Ellington Orchestra (dir. by Mercer Ellington), Brock Peters, Jimmy McPhail, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and special guest Bunny Briggs.

Grace Cathedral

And then 50 years later, SFJAZZ presented the 50th Anniversary of Duke Ellington's "Concert Of Sacred Music." What was different this time around? While the 25th Anniversary sought to recreate the music and exact program premiered by Ellington in 1965, the 50th Anniversary was a reworking, with all-new arrangements by acclaimed saxophonist, bandleader and longtime SFJAZZ Collective member Miguel Zenón.

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