Mercedes Ellington to be Honored Guest and Featured Speaker at Duke Ellington Study Group Conference in Amsterdam, 5/14-18
Mercedes Ellington, the renowned dancer/director-choreographer and founder and artistic director of The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts in New York City, will be an Honored Guest and one of the featured speakers at the 22nd International Duke Ellington Study Group Conference, which will be held May 14- May 18,2014 in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Ms. Ellington, granddaughter of the legendary American composer and musician whose more than 3,000 musical compositions make him the 20th century's most prolific composer, will discuss her relationship with "The Duke," as well as his growing popularity today, 40 years after his passing on May 24, 1974.
This year's Duke Ellington International Conference takes place 75 years after Ellington's famous second trip to Europe (April and May 1939), which took him to Amsterdam for a concert at the Concertgebouw, and 75 years after he started his collaboration with Billy Strayhorn. The Conference is being hosted by the Conservatory of Amsterdam (Europe's largest jazz school) in its beautiful new building and concert halls, in collaboration with the world-famous Bimhuis concert-stage, and the International Duke Ellington Study Group.
In addition to Mercedes Ellington, the program features keynote lectures by acclaimed writers on Ellington, including Harvey Cohen, David Schiff and Matt Cooper, concerts of among others, Black, Brown and Beige, by the conservatory big band under the baton of the renowned Ellington scholar David Berger, a commissioned arrangement for wind-ensemble of Such Sweet Thunder, a concert in the Bimhuis by Dutch Annual Jazz Award winner Oene van Geel, as well as a conference dinner in the prestigious Muziekgebouw aan het IJ (where King Willem-Alexander dined the evening of his crowning).
"I am delighted to participate in this year's 22"d Annual International Duke Ellington Study Group in Amsterdam," says Ms. Ellington. "I was very close to 'Uncle Edward' - the name my grandfather preferred to be called by family and close friends - and he tried to instill his values with me. I started the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts in 2004 to ensure that these values - his musical legacy and the term 'beyond category,' which he used to defme excellence - will live on."
Just this year alone, After Midnight, a big band musical featuring Ellington music and Ellington-arranged music in a tribute to Harlem's famous Cotton Club, opened on Broadway to positive reviews and garnered seven TONY Award nominations and three Drama Desk nominations; an SRO audience cheered the hundreds of students who participated in Arranging Ellington, concert of Ellington's sacred music, at Carnegie Hall this past March 23; and the Duke Ellington Center Big Band is finalizing plans for concert tours of France and the US during the upcoming year.
The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts (www.thedukeellingtoncenter.org) is a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) organization whose mission is to further Duke Ellington's creative legacy and his philosophy of human harmony 'beyond category.' The Center mounts performances marrying Ellington's music with other art forms, especially dance and theater; and also sponsors a variety of educational initiatives. As funding for the Arts and Arts Education continues to diminish, the Center's commitment to these areas strengthens. The Center furthers knowledge of Duke Ellington as a composer, lyricist, bandleader, performer, artist, and writer. The Center also strives to keep an historically accurate record of all things Ellington for the benefit of future generations. Among its goals, The DukeEllington Center plans on developing Duke Ellington's staggering number of musical compositions into multi-disciplinary theatrical presentations, and educational programs, to be performed in many different types of venues in many countries. By revisiting his many diverse compositions, The Center will be following in the example of Ellington himself by exploring new directions that will breathe new life and excitement into those exemplary works.