Duke Ellington described his "Sacred Concert" as "the most important thing I have ever done". The multi-movement work was commissioned in the mid-1960s and performed with Ellington's own orchestra and various soloists in churches in the USA and Europe.
Ellington's own performances always differed. The order and questions of interpretation were always determined shortly before the performance; musicians and soloists excelled in improvised solo passages. Ellington never wrote a score; it was not until 1993 that John Høybye and Peder Pedersen reconstructed a version of the score which, although intended mainly for choirs, contained the full vocal lines and harmonies.
The movements of "Sacred Concert" are based on traditional gospel songs and the songs of black cotton-picking slaves. The good news of freedom, brotherhood and the mercy of God run like a thread through the lyrics. In this year's music project of the Gymnasium Bäumlihof, around 150 students will perform Ellington's masterpiece together with 15 students from the Basel Music School (Jazz Department) and five professional musicians. The Big Bäumli Band, a large choir, vocal soloists and around 10 dancers will accompany the audience through the "Sacred Concert" with musical, scenic and dance elements.
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