Duke Ellington's
Sacred Concert

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American Rhapsody
by Z. Randall Stroope

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United We Stand
arranged by
Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse

Spring 2016 Concert Notes

Tina Johns Heidrich, Conductor
Joseph Jacovino, Jr., Accompanist
Jacqueline Gaudet, Mezzo-Soprano
Connecticut Master Chorale Brass and Jazz Bands

Sunday April 3, 2016 - 3:00pm
First Congregational Church, Danbury, Connecticut

- Soloist - CD & Clips -

These concert notes were prepared by soprano Ginnie Carey.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974

Sacred Concert
– Duke Ellington

Jacqueline Gaudet
– Mezzo-Soprano

Edward Kennedy Ellington was nicknamed "Duke" by a childhood friend because of his elegant clothes and manners. His parents were musical and he began piano lessons at seven, but wasn't really interested until he first heard ragtime in the summer of 1913. He began hanging out at a local pool hall, where the best ragtime pianists were playing and it wasn't long "before I could hear a tune and after a few moments I could reproduce it, often adding different variations. Soon I began to play for small dances and house parties".

From that beginning he became the man whose personal charisma, unique musical eloquence, and innovative use of the big band and orchestra made him the toast of America and Europe. Although many say that he was personally responsible for elevating jazz to a universally accepted art form, he always referred to his music as "American Music".

The life that he led in the world of jazz might not appear to be that of a man of deep faith, but those who were close to him knew of his daily prayer and Bible study in dressing rooms and hotels. He prayed before every meal and always traveled with a Bible or a book of religious meditations to read. He was hesitant when offered a commission to compose a sacred work to be performed in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, and concerned that they wanted a watered down version of his music, but agreed after assurances that they expected "an offering of his talent to Almighty God". When the propriety of combining jazz and religion was raised, Ellington's response was, "Every man prays in his own language, and there is no language that God does not understand."

The premiere performance of his Concert of Sacred Music in 1965 was hugely successful, and a recording of the second performance in New York won another Grammy Award for the already legendary jazz composer. The triumphant success of the following concert tour here and in Europe led to the creation of his Second Sacred Concert and then a Third Sacred Concert.

In 1969, Richard Nixon celebrated Duke Ellington's seventieth birthday with a black tie party in the White House at which he presented him with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the American government. The citation read, "In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke". Nixon himself played Happy Birthday on the piano, and later on in the evening Ellington improvised a tune for Pat Nixon.

His seventy-fifth birthday celebration was another very special occasion at the Alcazar in Paris, where Maurice Chevalier gave Duke his hat as a birthday gift!

Ten thousand people attended his funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, while twenty-five hundred listened outside on loudspeakers and thousands listened to the service as it was broadcast live on New York's all jazz radio station. Upon his death, Time magazine described his work as "the most distinctive single body of composition in all of jazz".

In 1999 he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize "for music commemorating the centennial year of his birth, in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz, and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture".

The Høybye/Pedersen Version

John Hoybe

John Høybye
b. 1939

In the midst of writing the Second Sacred Concert, Ellington said that he believed the project was the most important thing he had ever done. The concerts were a great success in New York City, Washington, D.C., Stockholm, London, Paris, Barcelona and the many other cities where they took place. Recordings were made, and the music was written out for the choirs, musicians and soloists, but they were not officially published as a whole.

In 1993, Danish choral conductor and composer John Høybye was asked to lead a large, international workshop on Ellington's Sacred Concerts. No score was available, so his solution was to arrange and orchestrate the music along with band leader, arranger and composer Peder Pedersen and have their complete score for orchestra, soloist, and chorus published. They selected the very best pieces from all three concerts and formed one superb Sacred Concert which was published in 2014.

Dante Galuppo

Dante Galuppo

Dante Galuppo
b. 1922

Our CMC Personnel Manager, Dante Galuppo, connects us in a unique, personal way to Duke Ellington. In 1938, as a sixteen year old high school student, he joined the Waterbury Civic Orchestra, which later became the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, as a trombonist for their second concert and continued to play with them until 1976.

In World War II, Dante served our country as part of the 98th Division Army Band. He was also the Personnel Manager for the orchestra from 1950 to 2011, and is still associated with WSO as their librarian. He has been the personnel manager for the CMC since our beginning and for the Waterbury Chorale since they began 47 years ago. He continues to work as a personnel manager for parades and band concerts as well and recently celebrated his 94th birthday.

Duke Ellington and his group performed to a full house with the Waterbury Civic Orchestra at the State Theater in Hartford in November 1952 and Dante Galuppo was invited to play trombone with the Ellington group on their part of the program. His improvisation was honored with a big thumbs up from the Duke!

Z. Randall Stroope

Z. Randall Stroope
b. 1953

American Rhapsody
– Z. Randall Stroope

Composer, conductor and lecturer, Stroope has published over 140 works and is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Oklahoma State University. Among many recent prestigious conducting engagements in the U.S. and Europe, he has conducted five performances at the Vatican in the past four years.

Dr. Stroope assembled this creative song cycle to celebrate the distinctive music of our American heartland and was inspired to use the jubilant Zion's Walls as a thread weaving its way through the pieces and binding them all together. This is the music that was sung in the homes, schools and churches of small towns and farming communities in the nineteenth century and it evokes the voices of the independent and diverse people who shaped our country. In addition to Zion's Walls, the medley contains Lord of the Dance, I Wonder As I Wander, With Alleluia, Sing a New Song, and God That Made the Earth and Heaven. Our Director, Tina Heidrich chose to add Followers of the Lamb and Shall We Gather at the River to the medley.

"May American Rhapsody stimulate audiences and performers alike to reflect more sincerely on the importance of the various seasons of the year and appreciate more fully the beauty of some of our own 'national' carols and traditional music."

Z. Randall Stroope

Sally K. Albrecht

Sally K. Albrecht
b. 1954

Jay Althouse

Jay Althouse
b. 1951

United We Stand
– arr. Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse

In the past, CMC has performed several numbers by this prolific husband and wife team, who both compose as well as arrange choral music. We won our third McDonald's Gospelfest competition with an Althouse composition, after which he dedicated Shout the News to us. We were honored to premiere this a cappella spiritual at our 2003 Holiday Prelude Concert.

United We Stand is a stirring patriotic medley created by this talented duo in which four beloved pieces of American music are skillfully woven together: Songs include Simple Gifts, America, the Beautiful, America and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

I would like to extend a special thank you to Robert Jones, who was Duke Ellington's tour manager outside the United States during the years of the Sacred Concerts, and his wife Marguerite for sharing their fond memories of the man they knew and loved and his music.

Ginnie Carey