Mercedes Ellington Joins The Production Of “Sacred Concerts” At The Tishman

 The New York Choral Society, New York’s pioneering symphonic chorus that explores unique collaboration and dynamic repertory, announced earlier today the addition of Mercedes Ellington.

To the cast of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, November 18 and 19, 2022, at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School (30 minutes from Harlem). 

A work that has not been staged in a concert hall setting in New York City in 35 years due to the magnitude of the production, the evening combines elements of jazz, classical music, choral music, spiritual, gospel, blues, visual art, and dance, and will be free for all ages.

Mercedes, who is Ellington’s only granddaughter, will reprise her role of the production’s Narrator, which she performed in 2014 in Laurent Mignard Duke Orchestra’s performance of The Sacred Concerts at La Madeleine in Paris.

A work that is beyond category, Ellington believed Sacred Concerts to be his most important and meaningful work, leaving audiences with a positive message filled with sentiments of love, hope and freedom.

The evening features acclaimed jazz vocalist Brianna Thomas, baritone and composer Milton Suggs, painter James Little, whose work was on display in the 2022 Whitney Biennial, Broadway performer Daniel J. Watts, most recently seen in Hamilton and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, the New School Studio Orchestra, and more than 100 voices of The New York Choral Society under the baton of David Hayes and Keller Coker. 

Bridging together the chorus with jazz vocalists backed by a jazz orchestra and joined by live dance and projections of Little’s abstract works, reflective of the moods, sentiments, tempo and narrative of Ellington’s work, the evening resonates with movements of social justice and understanding, creativity and cultural expression. 

The song selections of Sacred Concerts span across works that were written between 1965 and 1973 and were written with a clear mission to create music that appealed to his entire fan base; long-standing jazz aficionados, casual pop music lovers, those who simply enjoyed hearing his colorful stage dialogue, and those he wanted to hear the Ellington band live for the first time. It became a successful endeavor to heal divisions and unify the community, and those sentiments continue to resonate today.

Additionally, the partnership between The New York Choral Society and The New School College of Performing Arts will work to provide concert-related programming to New York City’s performing arts high schools and community-based social service organizations to explore the message of this music to unite and inspire.

“It has been more than 3 decades since Sacred Concerts was performed in a larger scale concert hall, and now is the time for a reconsideration of the power and relevance of this music” says Music Director David Hayes. “The magnitude of this production is evident, and we are pleased to start our 2022-2023 season in such a profound way that offers audiences across generations and musical interests a lively and inspiring mix of music, dance, and visual art to discover this exceptional music by a well-known figure in America’s cultural history,” he continues. Ellington was driven by bringing people together through music, and we pay homage to his legacy this fall to bring artists, audiences, and our community together in this historic moment of celebration and expression.”

Sacred Concerts is made possible in part through the generous support of The New York State Council on the Arts.

Performance Information


Sacred Concerts will take place Friday, November 18, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. and November 19 at 2:30 p.m. at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School, located at 63 Fifth Avenue. The venue is accessible by the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, C, E, F, M, N, R, Q, and L train to 14th Street.

Admission is complimentary.  Tickets are available for reservation beginning on September 15 at https://nychoral.org/event/ellingtons-sacred-concerts/. Donations to support this historic project may be made when reserving tickets. 

The performance on November 19, 2022 will be live-streamed, free.

Photo credit: Source.

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