Chicago Jazz Ensemble To Perform Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music


In honor of Black History month, Chicago Jazz Ensemble and composer/conductor William Russo of Columbia College Chicago will pay tribute to Duke Ellington, as they perform Ellington’s First Sacred Concert in several shows in Chicagoland throughout February.

Concerts will be held at the Music and Theatre Centers at Columbia College Chicago; Barrows Auditorium in the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College; and Centre East Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Just two years after Ellington first performed his Sacred Concert in the ‘60s, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble performed the piece on the University of Illinois’ Chicago Circle Campus. Per an agreement between Ellington and Russo, the scores were given to CJE staff for photocopying one week before the Circle Campus concert. Ellington was interested in the fact that the Chicago Jazz Ensemble would be the first band, other than his own, to perform this music, and was invited to attend one of the CJE’s rehearsals.

“We were honored to receive the scores,” Russo says. “Ellington told me that it was the first time he’d let anyone have a copy of his own large pieces. He was also very impressed with the CJE when he showed up for rehearsal. He loved the way the band played his music and ended up giving us his blessing.”

The 20-voice Wheaton College Choir, featured soloists and dancers, will join the Chicago Jazz Ensemble for the Duke Ellington, Sacred and Secular concerts. Tickets are $25.00 ($20.00 for seniors and $15.00 for students). Information for all concert dates and venues may be made to 312-344-6245 or by visiting the ensemble’s web site at

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