The 2013-2014 season's creative learning project shines the spotlight on Duke Ellington’s sacred music, some of the most ambitious and heartfelt music of his legendary career. Tying together elements of jazz and classical music with African American spirituals and gospel music, Ellington’s compositions crossed the lines dividing secular and religious genres, while punctuating the ever-expanding role of jazz in America and throughout the world. First heard during three historic concerts in the 1960s and 1970s, these legendary works will now be performed by hundreds of student singers and instrumentalists from New York City in collaboration with some of today’s brightest jazz soloists. In addition to preparing for the final concert, the student musicians explore jazz composition and improvisation, guided by some of the world class performers with whom they will share the Carnegie Hall stage.


An Unforeseen Tribute

During the last decade of his life, Duke Ellington wrote three Sacred ConcertsA Concert of Sacred Music (1965), Second Sacred Concert (1968), and Third Sacred Concert(1973). The program for his concert at Carnegie Hall on April 4, 1968, included selections from the second of those compositions.

The music, however, was overshadowed that night. Prior to the start of the concert, civil rights leader Robert Moses made an announcement from stage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot just an hour and a half earlier in Memphis. The concert continued as a dedication to the memory of Dr. King.

A program page from Ellington's 1968 Carnegie Hall concert before which the death of Martin Luther King Jr. was announced. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Learn more about Duke Ellington's music at Carnegie Hall


+ READ: The A to Z of Carnegie Hall: E is for Ellington 

Photography: Choir by Chris Lee

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