On Dec. 29, a Duke Ellington concert film not seen for more than 50 years will receive its first public viewing since its original broadcast in 1966 at the historic Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom.
Appropriately, the cathedral is where the concert by Ellington and his orchestra originally took place, on Feb. 21, 1966—the European premiere of his first Concert of Sacred Music. Under the title Celebration, it was broadcast on ABC Television for the British channel ITV as part of its Easter programming. One piece, “Come Easter,” was written particularly for the Coventry performance.
“It’s one of the most satisfying things I have ever done,” Ellington said of the concert. “And the most important.”
Ellington’s orchestra for the date consisted of trumpeters Herbie Jones, Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, and Mercer Ellington; trombonists Lawrence Brown, Chuck Connors, and Buster Cooper; the reed section of Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, and Harry Carney; bassist John Lamb; and drummer Sam Woodyard, plus the the Cliff Adams Singers and baritone singer George Webb.
The footage, discovered in the archive of StudioCanal, a film production company based in Paris and London, was digitally restored by Kaleidoscope, an archive television company, with support from the University of Warwick.
“Ellington’s performance in Celebration is absolutely captivating,” said Helen Wheatley, a professor in the department of film and television studies at Warwick, in a press release. “Coventry Cathedral has been an important site of arts and culture, as well as a significant place of worship, since its consecration in 1962. Ellington chose Coventry Cathedral to perform in as a beacon of modernity in the post-war era, and artists today continue to be attracted to this wonderful building and the forward-thinking people that run it.”
The screening is part of a series called “Ghost Town: Cathedral of Culture,” in which rediscovered films are aired in unexpected places.
For more information and to buy tickets, go here.