Sacred Concert

Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert. The Høybye/Pedersen version – for soprano solo, mixed voices and Big Band.

Material published as:

Choral score


  1. Praise God
  2. Heaven
  3. Freedom-suite
  4. The Shepherd
  5. The Majesty of God
  6. Come Sunday
  7. David danced before the Lord
  8. Almighty God
  9. T.G.T.T
  10. Praise God and Dance - Finale

About Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert – The Høybye/Pedersen version:

Duke Ellington rarely expressed his association with the church in his music. However, at the age of 66 he was asked to compose music for a series of concerts planned to take place in major churches all over the U.S. He was inspired and accepted the commision. His increased interest in sacred music may have been connected with the fact that his close friend and fellow-composer Billy Strayhorn had become very ill and died shortly after the initial performance of the First Sacred Concert.

Between 1966 and 1974 Ellington and his band toured the U.S. and Europe with the three Sacred Concerts. He used different vocal soloists – one of the more famous being the Swedish jazz singer Alice Babs – and local choirs.

The music consisted of partly old compositions, revised for the occasion, and partly new material. The order in which the different pieces were played was not fixed and the programme could vary from one concert to the next (which is not alien  to a jazz musician). Parts originally written for  the First Sacred Concert could easily be used in the Second….. or Third and vice versa. It seems that Ellington, together with his musicians, decided upon the contents of a concert immediately before each performance. This is probably why no complete score of the Sacred Concerts exists. Consequently, each time leaders of big bands and choirs all over the world have planned performances of this music, they have been forced to make their own arrangements.

In 1993 John Høybye was asked to lead a large, international workshop on Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. As no score was available, he decided to arrange the music along with Peder Pedersen and to have a complete score including orchestral parts and choral arrangements published.

In the original version the choir mostly sang in unison and had a somewhat minor role, partly because the touring composer had a very limited time to rehearse with the successive local choirs. Furthermore, Ellington was not nearly as familiar with the choir as he was with the orchestra.

In the Høybye/Pedersen version the choir and the band are equals - perhaps with a slight emphasis on the  choir. As the new version consists of material from all three concerts, it is simply called Sacred Concert.

Praise God