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Duke Ellington - Sacred Concert
plus Brazilian Songs of Nature - arrangements by Roland Perrin

Saturday, 09 June 2018, 19:30
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London SW1X 9DQ

 
 
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington DC to two talented musical parents and started to study the piano from the age of seven.   He wrote his first composition at 15 and declined an art scholarship in order to start playing professionally two years later.  He earned the nickname Duke for his suave, slightly aristocratic demeanor and his classy, gentlemanly manners, having been brought up in a cultured, middle-class household.   He spent most of his life in New York, notably as bandleader of his jazz orchestra that he led for over 50 years until his death in 1974.  Ellington and his band gained a national profile through their appearances at the Cotton Club whilst it was based in Harlem.   He wrote thousands of songs for screen, stage and songbooks and created one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in Western music, playing what he referred to as just "American music" rather than the more generic genre of jazz.
 
It was rare for Duke Ellington to express any association with the church through his music.  However, in the mid 1960s he was asked to write for a series of concerts that would be performed in churches across the US.   In the end he wrote three Sacred Concerts and such was the way that each one was written, parts of one could be interchanged and used in another, to the extent that Ellington, together with his musicians, would only decide upon the contents of a concert immediately before each performance.   It's probably why there is no complete score of all three Sacred Concerts.
 
In 1993, the Danish composer and conductor John Høybye (left) was asked to lead a large, international workshop on Ellington’s Sacred Concerts.  As no score was available, he decided to arrange the music along with compatriot Peder Thomas Pedersen and to have a complete score including orchestral parts and choral arrangements published.  It takes elements from all three original works and is the version most widely performed these days.
 
Fellow American and jazz pianist/composer Roland Perrin (right) spent most of his childhood roaming the planet with his itinerant family. It is not surprising therefore that he developed a global view of music.  Although he studied and continues to investigate classical music, gaining a BA in composition at York University, it is through his practical experience of jazz and world music, viewed from a classical mindset, that he also found his voice as a composer.  It is said that his music combines world music grooves, jazz improvisation and structures in the European symphonic tradition.  Eventually settling in London and working as a session pianist in the jazz/world music scene, Roland has toured and recorded with many international musicians.
 
His contribution to this concert is a set of arrangements of Brazilian songs written originally by Brazilian jazz musicians. 


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