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Phoenix Chorale Performs Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert On the 50th Anniversary of Historic Performance in 1966

The Phoenix Chorale performs a historic concert of Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts at the same location where he originally performed his masterwork 50 years ago, at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Phoenix in 1966.

Performances of Phoenix Chorale- The Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert are November 12 at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm and November 13 at 3:00 pm at the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $32 Adult / $27 Senior & Military / $13 Student and can be purchased at or by calling 602-253-2224.

These performances will be comprised of selections from Ellington's Sacred Concerts, composed during the latter period of his career and which he toured across the United States with his big band from 1965-1973.

Artistic Director Charles Bruffy has long hoped to present this concert, a pivotal piece for choir and big band, a fascinating fusion of jazz, choral music, and spirituality. The Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale will be joined by Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center's 16-piece Jazz Ensemble. Leading up to the performances, the Phoenix Chorale will be hosting several community events, including lectures, film screenings, an art exhibit at Olney Gallery, and Ellington themed performances at The Nash.

"Since I started with Phoenix Chorale, I've passed by the original Ellington poster hanging in Trinity Cathedral, amazed that he performed this groundbreaking piece with his renowned band in Phoenix in 1966. Trinity Cathedral and the Phoenix community had incredible foresight to host these sacred works all those years ago. And now, to be able to perform this piece 50 years to the date of the original concert, it will truly be surreal," - Charles Bruffy, Artistic Director, Phoenix Chorale

From 1965-1973, Duke Ellington composed three "sacred concerts," declaring them to be "the most important thing I have ever done." Ellington took these concerts on tour across the United States, accompanied by his full jazz band, a choir, solo singers and a tap dancer. As these concerts were so dear to him, he spared no expense for performances, often personally subsidizing the costs. In fact there is an account of him spending $8,000 of his own money to bring the concert to a poor congregation.

The original concert held at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Phoenix occurred during the height of civil rights movement and was somewhat controversial at the time. It was sponsored by several important leaders in the Phoenix community including Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Roca, (Lewis and Roca,) Senator & Mrs. Barry Goldwater and Governor-Elect and Mrs. Jack Williams.

Ellington's pivotal work defied characterization, with choral writing unprecedented both for jazz and choral repertoire. It was described by jazz critic and author, Gary Giddons, as "Ellington bringing the Cotton Club revue to the church," which caused consternation amongst the more traditional-minded members of congregations across the country.

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