The Legendary Harlem Maestro Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts Back On Stage After 35 Years

September 28, 2022

 The New York Choral Society, is New York’s pioneering symphonic chorus that explores unique collaboration and dynamic repertory.

In partnership with The New School College of Performing Arts, presents Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, November 18 and 19, 2022, at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School. 

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.

A work that is beyond category, Harlem’s 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 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 Donations to support this historic project may be made when reserving tickets. 

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

NY Choral Society

Founded in 1959, the NY Choral Society is hailed as one of the mainstays of the city’s music scene, known for its adventurous repertoire. Committed to presenting a diverse repertoire that spans from well-known choral masterworks, great compositions rarely heard in concert halls, and newer culturally significant choral works, innovative collaborations and exceptional artistry highlight the essential joy and power of live choral music for New York patrons each season. Made up of more than 150 voices, ages 19-90, the chorus is led by Music Director David Hayes and has performed at prestigious venues throughout the New York metropolitan area such as Carnegie Hall, and partnered with major arts institutions like American Ballet Theatre, Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet and Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many others. From their debut concert at the David Geffen Hall, formerly known as Philharmonic Hall with just over a dozen singers in 1965, the New York Choral Society continues to expand its artistic mission, educational commitment, and legacy, bringing choral music into the twenty-first century and beyond.

Productions and programs of The New York Choral Society are made possible in part through the generous support of The New York State Council on the Arts, The John N. Blackman Sr.  Foundation, and The Rae Charitable Trust.

The College of Performing Arts at The New School

The College of Performing Arts at The New School (CoPA) was formed in 2015 through the merger of what were three separate schools at The New School: the Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama. With each school contributing its unique culture of creative excellence, today the College of Performing Arts is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, bold experimentation, innovative education, and world-class performances.

The over 1,000 students at CoPA are actors, performers, writers, improvisers, creative technologists, entrepreneurs, composers, arts managers, and multidisciplinary artists who believe in the transformative power of the arts for all people. Students and faculty at CoPA collaborate with colleagues across The New School in a wide array of disciplines, from the visual arts and fashion design, to the social sciences, public policy, advocacy, and more. 

The curriculum at CoPA is dynamic, inclusive, and responsive to the changing arts and culture landscape. New degrees and coursework, like the new graduate degrees for Performer-Composers and Artist Entrepreneurs, are designed to challenge highly skilled artists to experiment, innovate, and engage with the past, present, and future of their artforms. New York City’s Greenwich Village provides the backdrop for the College of Performing Arts, which is housed at Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street, and the historic Westbeth Artists Community on Bank Street. 

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