An Ellington Watch Party with the Coast Jazz Orchestra

Coast Jazz Watch Party

Ellington/Strayhorn’s "Such Sweet Thunder"
April 09, 2020

This event occurred as part of the 19/20 Hop@Home season. This is an archived view.

Make a date with the Coast and its director to watch and live-chat about their recent performance of an orchestral jazz landmark.

2020/21 Hop@Home

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Hear a gorgeous piece of the Coast's winter 2020 concert and join Coast members and Director Taylor Ho Bynum in live chat! This watch party replays the Coast's February 22 performance of the Ellington/Strayhorn Such Sweet Thunder suite, in which Shakespeare's sonnets and characters rub shoulders with swing, ragtime and other jazz styles. 

Such Sweet Thunder holds a special place in the histories of jazz composition and the Ellington band. In 1956, 40 years into his career as a bandleader, Ellington was undergoing a musical renaissance, with his band triumphing at the Newport Jazz Festival with an ambitious musical suite and Ellington popping onto the cover of TIME magazine. A few weeks after Newport, the band played several nonconsecutive gigs at Ontario's then-new Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Between engagements, Ellington and his composition partner Strayhorn watched plays and hung out with the theater artists. (Both knew their Bard; Strayhorn was such an aficionado, his bandmates called him "Shakespeare.") By the time the band left Stratford, Ellington and Strayhorn had a commission to write a suite of Shakespeare-inspired music for the following summer's festival. Thus they created what poet and music critic A.B. Spellman has called "one of the most remarkable orchestral pieces in all of American music."

The Coast performed Such Sweet Thunder as part of an ambitious two-evening collaboration with the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra which included both ensembles performing together Bynum's new Shakespeare-based jazz oratorio The Temp and Mr. Prosper. Bynum will share a video of that work in an upcoming Hop@Home presentation!

Download the playbill for the February 21 & 22 concerts by the Coast Jazz and Dartmouth Symphony orchestras. playbill

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