These concerts are the most important thing I have ever done.
— Duke Ellington

One night only! Join the Chorale and the incredible Kansas City Jazz Orchestra for this thrilling performance in Helzberg Hall. The critic Gary Giddins has characterized these pieces as "Ellington bringing the Cotton Club revue to the church." 


Friday, March 31 AT 8PM

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
1601 Broadway Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64108




Black and Tan Fantasy
The opening piece follows the contour of the sacred song "The Holy City" recast as a minor mode 12-bar blues. The growls, shouts, and moans of the trombonist and trumpeter, as evocative of an African American sanctified church service as a Harlem rent party, contribute the piece's ambiguous message: Is Ellington's "Holy City" the biblical Jerusalem referred to in the original son'g chorus, or the raucous, mixed race "black and tan" Harlem speakeasies to which Ellington's title refers? "Black and Tan Fantasy" is an important exploration of the porous boundary between the sacred and the secular that fascinated Ellington throughout his career.

Praise God
Written to feature Harry Carney on sax, this piece exemplifies one of Ellington's most distinctive traits as a composer: his ability to write music specifically to feature individual players' strengths.

The dissonance and vocal leaps in the vocal line of "Heaven" evoke something otherworldly, which Ellington juxtaposes with instrumental interludes that evoke urban soundscapes here on earth.

Lord's Prayer
The a capella setting of "The Lord's Prayer" seems on its face a stylistic departure from his familiar big band, but his unique harmonic language is still present, as are a number of gripping, unexpected twists and turns in the setting's melodic contour.

Whether Duke Ellington intentionally evoked Roach and Brown's Freedom Now Suite is unclear, but from the outset Ellington clearly demonstrates his familiarity with the soulful hard bop aesthetic that shaped jazz's Afrocentric reconnection with its roots in the African American blues tradition.


The Shepherd
The piece's principal melodic motive bears a striking resemblance to "Moanin'," Bobby Timmons' iconic 1958 hard bop anthem.

The Majesty of God

Come Sunday
In this piece, Ellington crafted, in his own words, "a parallel to the history of the American Negro." Toward that end, the piece presents celebratory narrative of racial uplift, the ideology advanced by Alain Locke, W.E.B. DuBois, and other notable black intellectuals and artists during the Harlem Renaissance.

David danced before the Lord
Composed for tap dancer Bunny Briggs, this piece is a celebratory re-casting of the "Come Sunday" melody that sets the biblical text (2 Samuel 6:14).

Almighty God


Praise God and Dance-Finale

Employing an episodic structure common to jazz "rhapsodies," it moves between scenes which employ different tempos, moods, and jazz idioms. Latin rhythms figure prominently in several sections, offering an allusion both to jazz's past, pointing to the "Spanish tinge" of jazz's roots in the Caribbean port city of New Orleans and to jazz's future as a broadly diasporic, even global, form of musical expression

Program notes by Dr. Christopher J. Wells; edited by Ryan Downey and for length.