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Choral society presents Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts

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The Bucks Country Choral Society will present its final program of the season, “Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts,” June 1 in Philadelphia and June 2 in Doylestown.

Ellington’s “Sacred Concerts” still occupy a unique place in the musical repertoire of both jazz and sacred music. Written in the last decade of the composer’s life between 1965 and 1973, Ellington considered his Sacred Concerts to be among the most important works he ever wrote.

According to Choral Society Artistic Director Thomas Lloyd, “This music is at home in the church rather than the concert hall or jazz club, but in church for a Sunday afternoon concert, not a Sunday morning worship service.

“The words Ellington sets are his own, in a colloquial style that is at once poetic and casual, profound and at times whimsical, highly prophetic but also full of exuberance and joy. We are very fortunate to share this performance with such an outstanding array of vocal and instrumental soloists.”

Performing will be: jazz pianist, composer and arranger Dr. Jay Fluellen and his ensemble; new voices on the scene soprano Brittany Rumph and baritone Shafiq Hicks; and DeVonne Gardner, a Choral Society favorite and original Ellington soloist. In addition, two guest choirs will join the Choral Society: the Intermezzo Choir, directed by Carrie Lessene; and the Philadelphia Community Mass Choir, directed by Fluellen.

The program will also feature new arrangements of Ellington’s original charts by Clayton White, retired professor of music and department chair at Community College of Philadelphia. White is the founder and director of the Clayton White Singers, and is an acknowledged expert on African-American music.

The Saturday, June 1 performance will take place at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 23 S. 38 St., Philadelphia, where Lloyd has served as director of music since 2010. The performance on Sunday, June 2 will take place at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doylestown. Both performances begin at 4 p.m. Ticket information is available at buckschoral.org or 800-838-3006.

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