This creative learning project shined 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 were performed by hundreds of student singers and instrumentalists from New York City in collaboration with some of today’s brightest jazz soloists including Jimmy Heath, Sean Jones, and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In addition to preparing for the final concert, the student musicians explored jazz composition and improvisation, guided by some of the world class performers with who they shared the Carnegie Hall stage. Three high school students were selected to perform their arrangements of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” which was performed on March 30, 2014 at Carnegie Hall.
The project culminated on March 23, 2014, with a Carnegie Hall performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, featuring 250 New York City high school singers, Lala Hathaway, Nicole Cabell, Rufus Bonds, Jr., Sean Jones, Vincent Gardner, Jimmy Heath, Ken Peplowski, Jason Samuels Smith and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra.
Ellington's Sacred Music is generously underwritten by Martha and Bob Lipp. Lead support for Ellington's Sacred Music is provided by The Irene Diamond Fund.Additional support is provided, in part, by an endowment grant from The Irene Diamond Fund.