Composers Datebook

with host John Zech

Monday, September 16

Duke Ellington plays Grace Cathedral

Synopsis

On today's date in 1965, this notice appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle: "Opening Today: Sacred Concert — Duke Ellington with a company of 75, including musicians, singers and dancers, at 8 p.m., Grace Cathedral, Nob Hill."

Duke Ellington's First "Sacred Concert" raised some eyebrows at the time — but proved a big success. The Chronicle's review the following day was titled "Duke Swings at Grace Cathedral," and reported the performance (quote): "appeared to leave many of the audiences discomfited, nervous, or edgy, not completely willing to accept the idea that the wild sound of a sax should pierce the austere heights of the Episcopal cathedral's nave.

"It's all very strange," a high churchman commented during intermission, "but oh, lordy, it's fascinating!" The point of the performance, according to Grace Cathedral's dean, the very Reverend C. Julian Bartlett, was that any offering to God is sacred, whatever its form."

Ellington himself commented as follows: "It has been said once that a man who could not play the organ or any of the instruments of the symphony accompanied his worship by juggling. He was not the world's best juggler, but it was the one he thing he did best, and so it was accepted by God. For my part, I regard this concert as the most important thing I have ever done."

Music Played in Today's Program

Edward "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) Come Sunday Duke Ellington and his orchestra RCA/Bluebird 6641

Additional Information

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