Choir and jazz ensembles combine for a night of Ellington and Hughes

This marks the first time the bands will perform together.
The saxophone section of the MU Concert Jazz Band plays Monday during the rehearsal for Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts. The Concert Jazz Band and the Choral Union will preform together Thursday for the concert.

For the first time, the Concert Jazz Band and Choral Union will collaborate together for a fusion of jazz, voice and African-American culture.

The "Sacred Concerts" will contain pieces by the legendary composer Duke Ellington, in addition to poetry selections from Langston Hughes.

Jazz Band Director Arthur White said he was excited for the collaboration of the two groups and especially for working with Choral Union Director Paul Crabb.

"I think the collaboration was born out of a mutual respect between the jazz and choral programs," White said in an email. "Plus, it's a unique and unusual pairing, and I love performing works, pieces, etc. that are rarely performed, particularly when written by one of the great, and most important, composers in American music."

Crabb said it would be a new experience because of the different instrumentation.

"This is, of course, a different style from an orchestra, so there is a lot more improvisation with a lot of percussion influence," Crabb said.

Rachel AuBuchon, Choral Union's pianist and a music teacher from Stephens College, will play "Songs of the Slave," a piece with choral and solo parts from the opera "John Brown." She will also perform three pieces from Hughes' poetry and "Harlem Songs" by Gwyneth Walker. Her participation is the connection between both musical groups.

"You do the best you can to bring out the elements of music that are going to be the strongest audible landmarks for (each group)," AuBuchon said. "By always giving them a firm pulse to attach to when they work the actual combo, it won't be as difficult for them to blend in."

For both the jazz and poetry elements of the concert, both directors said their rehearsal methods would still stay the same despite the unique combination.

White said the ultimate job of the jazz group would be to listen to, absorb, interpret and infuse the work and the Jazz Band with the sound of Ellington's original recordings.

Crabb said the choir has gone the extra mile to prepare, as well as undergoing the usual rehearsal.

"We have a scholar of Langston Hughes who is going to do a poetry reading of (his poems), and that will be separate from the concert, but part of our preparation as a choir is to understand the poetry," Crabb said.

In addition, Crabb explained the African-American artistic impacts on history as the concert's focus.

"This concert is something that will reveal to people the beautiful and significant contributions (of African-Americans) in poetry and music and simply a part of our American history that sometimes we have not become as well acquainted as we should," he said.

AuBuchon said this is something musical groups should do more often because it is American music.

"We are exposing people to these types of music that they have maybe never heard before,” she said. “This is classical music today.”

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments


This item does not have any approved comments yet.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.