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Annual African American Music Gala 2015: Duke, Dett and Three Premieres

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Roland Carter, guest conductor for the Annual African American Music Gala 2015: Duke, Dett and Three Premieres, chose to honor Duke Ellington in this year’s program, in part to mark the 50th anniversary of Ellington’s “A Concert of Sacred Music.” (The piece premiered in 1965 at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.)

Carter calls Ellington, universally considered a great jazz composer, the greatest American composer period. “I see [Ellington] as a classical composer,” Carter says. “His music is well orchestrated. He has done some wonderfully classical pieces.” Carter plans to approach the Ellington pieces as such. “There’s technique for [Johannes] Brahms. There’s a technique for [Giacomo] Puccini. There’s a technique for doing [Frédéric] Chopin. There’s a technique for doing Ellington.”

Providing a direct link to Ellington is guest performer Devonne Gardner, who sang with Duke Ellington in the last eight years of his life.

The program includes Carter’s well-known arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the spirituals “Steal Away to Jesus” and “You Must Have That True Religion,” also arranged by Carter. Three original works by Houston composers were commissioned for the event including Roy Belfield’s “If I Could Keep One Heart from Breaking”; John Milton’s “Let Us With a Gladsome Mind,” which will be presented by Calvin Vincent Fuller Jr., former chorus master at the Houston Ebony Opera Guild; and John L. Cornelius II’s “I Want to Go Home.”

4 p.m. Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas. For information, call 713-335-3800 or visit houstonebonymusic.org. $30.
Sun., March 1, 4 p.m., 2015

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