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Duke Ellington’s monthlong tour of Europe between April 1 and May 1, 1939 took him and the orchestra to France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
They spent most of the time in Sweden, where Ellington gave 22 concerts in 14 cities. He played three times in both Stockholm and Göteborg.
In addition, Ellington and the orchestra performed in Oslo, Norway and in Copenhagen, Denmark, (two concerts in each city).
The tour meant that thousands of Swedes, most of them young, experienced Ellington and his music directly. Many of them also made contact with Ellington and band members to shake hands and get their concert programs autographed.
The website has published two articles about the tour in Sweden with some quite unique photos. One is about Ellington’s concerts in Stockholm on April 16, April 24 and April 29 and the other about the concert in Storvik on April 23, 1939
Ellington’s European tour is well documented in The Duke – Where and When with links to what has been witten about the tour and lists of the music played at the concerts in The Netherlands.
Preparing for the Ellington ’90 conference, John E. Hasse researched the Ellington Archive for material about the 1939 tour and on the last day of the conference he made an hourlong presentation on it.
As a true pedagog, Hasse had prepared an eight pages handout with essential information from his presentation. Roger Boyes of DESUK has very kindly shared his copy of the handout with the website to allow us to share it with our readers.
The report from Ellington ’89 that appeared in the 1989-3 issue of the DEMS Bulletin, says “that visitors from abroad appreciated the Smithsonian all-day as ideal”.
For most of them, it was the first visit to the Smithsonian Institution and its National Museum of American History and they got treated to a full day of presentations on the Ellington Collection established the year before.
The Director of the National Museum of American history, Robert G. Kennedy, welcomed the conference participants to the museum and introduced the Ellington Collection together with John E. Hasse, Curator of American Music since 1984.
Hasse also spoke about the museum’s collection on “Development of Jazz” more generally.
Mark Tucker, who had been among the first to make use of the Ellington Collection for his research, followed Hasse and spoke about the music in the Collection
In the afternoon session, there were presentations by, among others, Martin Williams and Patricia Willard.
Williams, the author of many book on jazz, presented his work for the Smithsonian on an upcoming book-and-record-set to be called “Duke Ellington: Masterpieces 1926-1968“.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the album never appeared.
However, in 1994 John E. Hasse produced for the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings a two-CD set with a 28-page booklet. Slightly paraphrasing the title of his book on Ellington published the year before, It was called “Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington“.
The topic for Willard’s presentation was “Billy Strayhorn and the Ellington Collection”. She really foreshadows the importance of the Ellington Collection to ensure Strayhorn’s proper place in the Ellington legacy.
Other presentations on the Ellington Collection during the day – like the one by Marcia Greenlee on “The Smithsonian’s Oral History Project On Duke Ellington” – can be found in the Ellington Archive.
Congressman John Conyers, who had been instrumental in securing Congressional funding for the Ellington Collection, and Mercer Ellington were honored guests at the opening. Their speeches are also in the website’s Ellington Archive.
Finally, after a long day, it was time to summarize and thank everybody. John Hasse did this.