Stratford Summer Music
50th anniversary of
The Duke Ellington Orchestra
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
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.
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.