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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Duke Ellington
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0207  Tuesday, 2 February 2005

[1]     From:   Paul Nelsen <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 11:57:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[2]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 11:15:00 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[3]     From:   M Yawney <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 09:23:00 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[4]     From:   Peter Hyland <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 10:53:37 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[5]     From:   Louis W. Thompson <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 15:14:44 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[6]     From:   Louis Scheeder <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 15:38:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[7]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 21:03:57 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[8]     From:   Kevin De Ornellas <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 22:30:43 +0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

[9]     From:   Stephen Buhler <
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        Date:   Monday, 31 Jan 2005 18:31:25 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Nelsen <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 11:57:05 -0500
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

Ellington was commissioned to compose original music for the Stratford
(Ontario) Festival's first production of Timon of Athens by director
Michael Langham in 1963.  According to Robert Cushman's book, Fifty
Seasons at Stratford, "Ellington, a great Stratford partisan, was
inspired to write his superb Shakespearean suite Such Sweet Thunder by
his experience of playing at the adjoining jazz festival" (46).

Last summer's Stratford Festival program book for Timon of Athens (a
splendid production, directed by Stephen Oimette with Peter Donaldson as
Timon) offered this tidbit of background among "Factual Footnotes":
"This is the third production of Timon of Athens at the Stratford
Festival.  The first was at the Festival Theatre in 1963, and the second
was at the Tom Patterson Theatre in 1991.  Both were directed by Michael
Langham.  The 1963 production featured a musical score composed by Duke
Ellington, which was later adapted by Stanley Silverman for the 1991
production.  The same music was used in a 1993 production by Thick
Description Theatre in San Francisco and in a 1999 production by the
Royal Shakespeare Company in England."

Hope this helps.

Paul Nelsen
Marlboro College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 11:15:00 -0600
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

"Such Sweet Thunder", composed with Billy Strayhorn and based on several
plays and poems. Truly a classic.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 09:23:00 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

The Duke Ellington music for Timon was (I believe) commissioned for the
Stratford festival in the 60s.

I heard it in the National Theater of Actors production on Broadway in
1993. None of the original music in the score was especially memorable
or even prominent.

There is better Ellington elsewhere. Look for Beggar's Holiday,
Ellington's adaptation of The Beggar's Opera, for a much more
interesting score.

I do not know of any other music written specifically for a
Shakespearean production, though of course the Broadway musical Play On
was based on Twelfth Night and used Ellington's music.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hyland <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 10:53:37 -0800
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

Jack Heller must be thinking of "Such Sweet Thunder", a kind of suite of
short pieces, each connected to a scene or character, and referring to a
variety of plays.

Peter Hyland

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis W. Thompson <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 15:14:44 EST
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

The Smithsonian is custodian for Ellington's music. You might check with
them.

Louis W. Thompson

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Scheeder <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 15:38:12 -0500
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington composed the music for a production of Timon of Athens,
originally produced at Canada's Stratford Festival.  Michael Langham's
production of the play on Broadway in the early 1990's featured Brian
Bedford, I believe, in the title role and used the Ellington score.
Ellington's music, if memory serves, was chiefly used in the first half
of the play.  It was jazzy, sexy, and fitted text and production quite
well.

The liner notes to the album, Such Sweet Thunder, recount that Ellington
had visited Anne Hathaway's cottage in 1933 during his first tour of
England.  Sometime in the mid-1950s, Ellington and his band performed at
the Stratford Festival.  In response the warmth of their reception and
his appreciation of the Festival's performances, he undertook a suite,
"Such Sweet Thunder," which had its premiere as a complete work on April
28, 1957 at Town Hall, NYC.  The music draws its inspiration from A
Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Othello and other plays.  None of the
pieces seem to have been inspired by Timon.  What is quite interesting
about the album is that Ellington shares authorship credit with Billy
Strayhorn on all but one of the compositions, something he did not
always acknowledge.  The CD should still be available in the Columbia
catalogue.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 21:03:57 -0000
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

 >Apparently, Duke Ellington once composed something for a
 >performance of Timon of Athens. Can anyone comment on
 >it--what kind of work it is, and whether it would be
 >worthwhile to try to buy a copy? I'm also wondering if he did
 >this for other Shakespearean plays.
 >
 >Jack Heller

According to the Shakespeare Music Catalogue Ellington composed the
music for a Stratford, Ontario, production in 1963.  I'm afraid that
there seems to be no published version of the score, and it survives
only in part in their archive (sadly, in my experience, not unusual -
theatre companies are often guilty of not retaining musical scores,
which often seem to walk away in the MD's pocket...) According to the
Catalogue, he also composed, with Billy Strayhorn, a suite for jazz
orchestra, Such Sweet Thunder (1956-7), dedicated to the Shakespearean
Festival at Stratford Ontario, and recorded - though, again, no printed
edition seems to have been published.

David Lindley

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kevin De Ornellas <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 22:30:43 +0000
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

 >Apparently, Duke Ellington once composed something
 >for a performance of Timon of Athens. Can anyone
 >comment on it--what kind of work it is, and whether
 >it would be worthwhile to try to buy a copy?

Duke Ellington's score for 'Timon' is very well known. It was written
for an early-sixties' production of 'Timon' by Michael Langham at
Stratford, Ontario. The music has been commercially released on CD. It
was also used (to little effect; the jazz seemed jolly and quirky in its
Barbican setting, jarring with the desolation of the play's last two
acts) by the RSC when they staged the Gregory Doran-directed 'Timon' at
Stratford and at the Barbican over the winter of 1999/2000. Ellington
was indeed very interested in other Shakespearean plays; his 1957 suite,
'Such Sweet Thunder', was inspired by various characters from
Shakespeare's plays. I would suggest - though it is only a subjective
value judgment - that Purcell's late-seventeenth-century music for
(Shadwell's) 'Timon' is more intriguing and attention-holding.

Kevin De Ornellas
Queen's University, Belfast

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[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Buhler <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 18:31:25 -0600
Subject: 16.0187 Duke Ellington
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0187 Duke Ellington

Ellington's best Shakespearean work is his *Such Sweet Thunder*, a
series of sketches he composed with Billy Strayhorn meant to "parallel
the vignettes of some of the Shakespearean characters"-as the liner
notes for the 1957 album inform us.  The Stratford, Ontario Festival, to
which the suite is dedicated, subsequently commissioned Ellington to
compose incidental music for a staging of  *Timon of Athens* in 1963.
Scores from that production were reconstructed by Stanley Silverman for
a revival at the Festival in 1991; Silverman augmented the original
music with other Ellington melodies, including "The Mooche" and "Creole
Love Call."  *Timon* and the Duke are now so strongly linked together
that the Royal Shakespeare Company used Ellington's music in Gregory
Doran's production of the play in 1999 and 2000.  A soundtrack album for
*Timon* was released on Varese Sarabande in 1993: it's well worth
tracking down, as is any CD of *Such Sweet Thunder*.

An essay of mine on Ellington's Shakespeareana will appear in the
inaugural issue of the journal *Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of
Shakespeare and Appropriation*, edited by Christy Desmet and Sujata
Iyengar.  Other contributors include Frances Teague on the 1930s musical
*Swingin' The Dream*; Terence Hawkes on Shakespeare and The Duke,
Douglas Lanier on Minstrelsy and Shakespearean Legitimation; Celia
Daileader on Othelloophilia in *Wuthering Heights*, *Gone With the
Wind*, and *The Wind Done Gone*; Christy Desmet on William Gilmore
Simms' novelized *Othello*; and Alan Corrigan on the newly rediscovered
script of *Swingin' the Dream*.

--Stephen Buhler

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