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Duke Ellington’s Shakesperean Suite – SUCH SWEET THUNDER

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Duke Ellington - live at Ravinia 1957

We have at hand a tape with a recording of Duke Ellington’s second public performance of his complete Shakespearean Suite, which took place at Stratford, Ontario in Canada on September 5, 1957 during that year’s Stratford Shakespearean Festival. The first recorded live performance is from April 28 at New York City’s Town Hall, studio recordings were made in April-May 1957. Curiously enough, the two different live recordings were not fully complete, the Town Hall recording omitting Circle Of Fourths and the Stratford one missing Half The Fun. Parts of the suite had also been performed at the Ravinia Park Festival at Highland Park, Ill on July 1, 1957

Half The Fun, Studio Recording

The Stratford concert was broadcast by a Toronto radio station, and the recording we present in the Goodies Room is from this radio broadcast. A complication with that is a non-scheduled interruption due to technical problems. The break occurs between Circle Of Fours and Sonnet In Search Of A Moor, perhaps adding a little 50ies-flavour to the recording.

Ellington’s participation in the Stratford Festival goes back to the previous year, 1956,  when a regular Ellington concert, without any reference to Shakespeare, was performed.  This occasion obviously aroused Ellington’s (and Strayhorn’s) interest in writing music that would be in tune with the main purpose of the festival. According to van de Leur, nine of the total numbers were wititten by Ellington and three by Srayhorn, namely The Star-Crossed Lovers (AKA Pretty Girl), Half The Fun (AKA Lately) and Up And Down, Up And Down. In order to finish before a tight dead-line, Strayhorn chose to include the two previously composed numbers, so his only original writing for the suite was Up And Down, Up And Down, but on the other hand, this might be regarded as one of the best numbers of the suite.

The sequence of tunes are (after an itroduction by the radio station) as follows: *Sonnet For Caesar*Sonnet To Hank Cinq*The Telecasters*Lady Mac*Circle Of Fourths (nc)*broadcast bereakdown*Sonnet In Search Of A Moor (nc)*Such Sweet Thunder*Up And Down, Up And Down*The Star-Crossed Lovers*Madness In Great Ones*

Ellington used some of the numbers like Such Sweet Thunder and The Star-Crossed Lovers for a some years afterwards, while other tunes seem to have faded away from the repertoire.

Happy listening!

 

 

 

 


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