Remembering Duke Ellington -Mar 26

Save the date! On Sunday, March 26, First Church will remember an extraordinary event that occurred on March 29, 1967. The great Duke Ellington came to First Church with his big band to perform a concert of sacred music, including the classic “Come Sunday.” Peter Sykes reports that “the music for our Morning Worship this March 26 will reproduce many of the pieces that were performed during that 1967 concert. Carolyn Wilkins will lead a group of musicians, including our own choir.”

Dan Smith looked back to that 1967 concert in his March 18, 2012, sermon “Sir Duke.” Dan based his sermon on extensive research on the event in First Church’s archives and the archives of the Episcopal Chaplaincy. As he noted, “(t)he concert came about as part of a so-called ‘Year of Experimentation’ that is described on the back of the program in which the Episcopal and United Church of Christ chaplaincies of Harvard and Radcliffe were together exploring the ‘religious potential in the arts.’”

Duke Ellington was perhaps the greatest jazz composer of all time and, as Dan pointed out, “Duke’s themes were well rooted in Scripture.” In spite of this, there was no doubt some resistance to staging this concert in the Sanctuary. As the program of the event noted, “There are some who would argue that musical innovation and modern sounds do not belong in the Church and with this we would disagree. For us Duke Ellington’s music represents the vitality and joy that is at the root of man’s religious quest. Its subtle themes cover the range of human experience and speak to the deepest human needs.”

On March 26 we’ll come to worship and to celebrate a musical event that became a landmark in First Church history. See you there!