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May 2007 - Nr. 6


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Stratford Summer Music

Stratford Summer Music commemorates the
50th anniversary of
The Duke Ellington Orchestra
in Stratford

Toronto, ON… Stratford Summer Music presents The Elegant Ellington Weekend from Sunday, August 5 to Monday, August 6, 2007.  This weekend includes the return of The Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Stratford Festival Theatre and a presentation by the Duke’s granddaughter, Mercedes Ellington.  In 1957 Tom Patterson, founder of the Stratford Festival, invited Duke Ellington and his Orchestra to perform on the Festival stage;  this year’s concert marks the 50th anniversary of that historic event.

Conducted by Barrie Lee Hall Jr., one of the Duke’s original trumpeters, The Duke Ellington Orchestra will perform on Monday, August 6, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. in the Stratford Festival Theatre.  The program will include classic arrangements of such Ellington favourites as Take the A-Train, Sophisticated Lady, Mood Indigo and Satin Doll, as well as selections from Such Sweet Thunder, a suite composed by the Duke and his creative partner Billy Strayhorn and dedicated to William Shakespeare and the Stratford Festival on whose stage the Orchestra performed the work.  

The individual movements of Such Sweet Thunder pay tribute to Shakespearean characters and gives them nicknames such as Lady Mac, Hank Cinq and Sister Kate.  Other movements in the suite have titles such as Madness in Great Ones (Hamlet), The Star-Crossed Lovers (Romeo & Juliet), and Sonnet in Search of a Moor (Othello).  Such Sweet Thunder takes its own name from a track devoted to Queen Cleopatra, whom the Duke called "Cleo".  

Stratford Festival and Stratford Summer Music actress/chanteuse Barbara Fulton, who appears this season in the musical Oklahoma and the drama Pentecost will join the Orchestra as a special guest to add her vocal stylings to the afternoon concert’s repertoire.

The Elegant Ellington Weekend launches on Sunday, August 5 at 2:00 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium with a presentation by the Duke’s granddaughter Mercedes Ellington.  Ms Ellington will share personal stories and insights about her famous ancestor whose archives she is now collecting in a new American organization based in New York.  Bringing a theatricalization of Such Sweet Thunder to Broadway is a goal of her current work.   Admission to this lecture, which is generously sponsored by Jo & Jules Harris, two Friends of Stratford Summer Music, is free to the general public.

The appearance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in Stratford is generously supported by Celebrate Ontario, a program of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism.


Edward Kennedy Ellington, aka "Duke"

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C..  He began piano lessons at age seven but it was only after hearing a dynamic pianist named Harvey Brooks that his interest in the instrument began to soar.  In 1917 he formed his first group, The Serenaders;  in 1923 he moved to New York where, through the power of radio, he became a popular musician and made his first recording. His renamed band, The Washingtonians, established themselves during prohibition by playing at a number of clubs, most importantly The Cotton Club.

In 1928 Ellington and Irving Mills signed an agreement in which Mills produced and published Ellington’s music. The Orchestra became the most sought-after band in the world.  After a sensational career composing and performing internationally with some of the great figures of jazz, Ellington died in 1974.

Mercedes Ellington

A celebrated stage and television performer and choreographer, Mercedes Ellington is a devoted archivist and advocate for the music written by her grandfather and his creative partner Billy Strayhorn. A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, she describes herself as "a composer of dances and situations."

Ms. Ellington participated in many Broadway productions including Sophisticated Ladies, No, No, Nanette, Hellsapoppin and The Grand Tour.  A member of the famous June Taylor Dancers, she was the first and only woman of colour on The Jackie Gleason Show for seven seasons.  Ms. Ellington’s performance career has also included appearances with the New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Opera House and the American Ballet Theater.  As a personal goal she hopes to create a theatrical interpretation of her grandfather’s signature Shakespearean album, Such Sweet Thunder.

Tickets for The Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Festival Theatre on Monday, August 6, 2007 are
$54 & $49 and can be purchased through the Stratford Festival box office at 1-800-567-1600.


The new Stratford Summer Music was launched in 2001 by Stratford producer and cultural entrepreneur John A. Miller to enhance the Stratford summer scene by offering musical programming in addition to the plays and visual arts.  Mr. Miller, a former national director of The Canadian Music Centre and manager of such distinguished Canadian artists as the Orford String Quartet, was also Executive Director of The Glenn Gould Foundation for 15 years until 2004.

Stratford Summer Music runs from Monday, July 23 until Sunday, August 19, 2007.  Admission to all outdoor events and some indoor events is free or by a donation of one’s choice.

For complete concert information go to or call 1-866-288-4313.


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