She was known as “America’s First Lady of Song” and the ” Queen of Jazz”. He was known as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the finest writers this country has produced. On Sunday, February 11, 2018, at 4 PM at the Hayti Heritage Center the Durham Symphony Orchestra will present one of the most exciting events of the year, “Ella Fitzgerald and Langston Hughes, a Musical Tribute.” It is fitting that we should celebrate these two African-American legends now, for the 2017-18 season is the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth and the 50th anniversary of the passing of Langston Hughes.
The Music Director and Conductor of the Durham Symphony Orchestra is Maestro William Henry Curry, and he has assembled an all-star cast of artists for this event. Singer Yolanda Rabun has a national reputation for being one of this country’s finest pop singers. She created a sensation last year at Hayti, during the DSO tribute to Nina Simone. Local jazz hero, Al Strong, will be the featured instrumental soloist for the occasion and he will, as always, “rock the house!” Gifted African-American writer and social activist, Dasan Ahanu, will be reading excerpts from the brilliant writings of Langston Hughes.
There’s more? Yes! For this concert, Maestro Curry will debut a new jazz band comprised of some of the most talented jazz artists in the state of North Carolina. With Rabun and Strong, they will perform many extraordinary musical arrangements by the finest jazz orchestrators of the 20th century, including Nelson Riddle and Billy Strayhorn. These arrangements will include selections from The Great American Songbook featuring music by Gershwin and Porter and climax with Ella’s break-out hit, “A Tisket a Tasket.”
“I was a young teenager when I first discovered and fell in love with jazz. Since that time, I have been blessed to have had the great fortune to conduct some of the most famous and iconic jazz artists of all time, including Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughn, The Duke Ellington band and yes…Ella. I am thrilled to be directing this concert that will feature my great friends Yolanda Rabun and Al Strong who will be performing the best songs by the best arrangers backed by a hand-picked ensemble of jazz virtuosos. And considering that we are also featuring the genius of Langston Hughes and Dasan Ahanu in the beautiful surroundings of Durham’s legendary Hayti Heritage Center….well, as the song goes, “who could ask for anything more?!” – Maestro Curry
Plan to be a part of this spectacular event which surely will be talked about for years to come