Duke Ellington comes back to Coventry

Duke Ellington at Coventry Cathedral. Credit: StudioCanal

A television programme recorded in 1966 will be screened for the first time in five decades

In 1966, legendary American jazz pianist, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington premiered his ‘First Concert of Sacred Music’ at Coventry Cathedral. The momentous event was filmed and broadcast by ITV and on the Midlands ABC channel as part of their Easter programming that year, under the title ‘Celebration’ – bringing secular music into a religious space. It was long presumed that the footage was lost, but has recently been unearthed by StudioCanal, and restored by archive television company Kaleidoscope and the University of Warwick.

The show included British baritone singer George Webb with his orchestra and the Cliff Adams Singers. A piece called ‘Come Easter’ was specially written and only performed at this one concert. Ellington himself said “It’s one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. And the most important.” He died from pneumonia in 1974.

Now, Coventry (named UK City of Culture for 2021) is set to show the film for the first time in over fifty years, at its original venue. The screening is on Saturday 29th December, with free tickets available as part of the ongoing ‘Ghost Town’ series of events. The evening will also include guest speakers, live music, dance, drama and art in the Cathedral – with more details to follow.

Dr Helen Wheatley, from University of Warwick, said: "Ellington chose Coventry Cathedral to perform in as a beacon of modernity in the post-war era, and artists today continue to be attracted to this wonderful building and the forward-thinking people that run it."

Tickets are free and available via: https://bit.ly/2FFUOzt 

More from Music News