Duke Ellington celebration comes to WokingBy John Ellul
May 14, 2012
WOKING will become the centre of the jazz world for one weekend when it hosts five days of music celebrating the life and work of composer Duke Ellington.
Evening concerts and free events will take centre stage at the H.G. Wells conference centre and The Lightbox from Wednesday, May 23 to Sunday, May 27.
A lifelong fan of the Duke, organiser Geoff Smith, who lives in Julian Close, Woking, had the honour of interviewing the man himself – a famed big band leader and pianist who wrote more than 1,000 compositions – in 1967, and stepped in to host the 21st International Duke Ellington Conference when counterparts in America dragged their feet.
Recalling his meeting with the great man, Geoff recalled: “I did a full-scale interview with him in Portsmouth in 1967 and it was marvellous.
“We were actually on the stage before the concert at the Guildhall and I got those moments with him, the band were around us ready to play, but he wouldn’t have it, he was saying ‘no, it’s fine'.”
The conference usually takes place in London or New York and Geoff, a member of the Duke Ellington Society committee, decided to take matters into his own hands, hiring the H.G. Wells centre for the occasion, and receiving the support of Woking Borough Council.
The series of talks and events, which has received the backing of the council’s Celebrate Woking agenda for 2012, includes five days of activities to attract the discerning music fan.
One man who is looking forward to paying homage to the Duke is Phil Singleton, a Maybury-based composer and trumpeter who has been commissioned to create a piece to celebrate the conference, Woking and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Exclusively revealing the name of the composition, Portraits in Brass, to the Surrey Advertiser, Phil looked ahead to his involvement in the conference.
He said: “Duke Ellington is someone who is absolutely unavoidable [for musicians] as a personality, and he went beyond simply being a band leader or composer and he wrote music which is accepted as on an equivalent level to the music written by the great classical composers.”
The Phil Singleton Project, featuring Phil on trumpet, Dave Marquee on double bass, Trevor Tomkins on drums, and pianist Matt Cooper, will perform at the H.G. Wells centre at 8pm on Friday, May 25, with a free pre-concert talk by Phil at 7pm.
The conference, which will welcome delegates from all over the globe, starts on May 23 with a free lecture, The Age of Ellington, from 8pm, in which six Ellington experts will present one decade each in which the composer was active, from the 1920s to the 1970s.
After the introductory evening, Ellington 2012 runs all day from May 24 to May 27 with concerts and talks by an international troupe of devotees.
For full programme details, ticket prices and booking details, visit www.ellington2012.com.