NEC Chamber Singers & Symphonic Winds: Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts + Françaix

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

NEC Chamber Singers and Symphonic Winds perform excerpts from Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts, conducted by William Drury and featuring alumnae Patrice Williamson, vocalist, and pianist Helen Sung. Also on the program is Jean Françaix' Sept Danses, conducted by Iverson Eliopoulos '23 MM, and a set for jazz trio performed by Helen Sung, piano, Kristofer Monson, bass, and Caleb Montague, drums.

This is an in-person event with a public live stream.

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  • Patrice Williamson '94 MM, '97 AD, soprano
  • Helen Sung '97 Thelonious Monk Institute certificate, piano
  1. Jean Françaix | Sept Danses

    Le jeu de la poupée
    Funérailles de la poupée
    La présentation des petits amis
    Variation de Paul
    Pas de deux entre Sophie et Paul
    La goûter
    Danse des filets à papillons

    Program note

    In 1935 Françaix wrote a 30-minute ballet scored for symphony orchestra based on the children’s book Les Malheurs de Sophie, by the 19th-century Russian author Comtesse de Segur. The story of Sophie takes place in a French castle, where she manages to get into one mischievous scrape after another, much to the consternation of her mother. Later, in 1971, Francaix gathered seven movements from the ballet to form a suite, Sept Danses, scored for ten winds.

    - Program Note from University of Georgia Hodgson Wind Ensemble concert program, 17 November 2022

    • Iverson Eliopoulos '23 MM, conductor
  2. Helen Sung | Everybody's Waltz

  3. Geri Allen | Feed the Fire

    • Helen Sung, piano
    • Kristofer Monson, bass
    • Caleb Montague, drums
  4. Duke Ellington | from Sacred Concerts

    Transposed and edited by Bill Drury

    In the beginning God
    Almighty God
    Freedom No. 7
    Freedom No. 1 & No. 7

    Come Sunday

    Text and Program Note

    Duke Ellington’s mother took him to two services each Sunday, both at her Baptistchurch and to that of his Methodist father. Ellington’s friend and biographer Derek Jewell tells a story of the adult Duke coming home after work and reading the Bible in his bathtub until the water turned cold.
            His faith came through in many of his compositions including “Come Sunday” from Black, Brown and Beige, and the great Mahalia Jackson’s recording of that tune inspired Rev. C. Julian Bartlett and Rev. John S. Yaryan to write to Ellington and ask him to create a concert to celebrate the opening of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Ellington initially refused out of fears he was not a suitable choice but would eventually agree and premiere the first of three concerts in 1965.
            In his foreword to that premiere, Ellington grapples openly with his worry that some might doubt the sincerity of his chosen form of musical worship. “God has total understanding… and there is no language that God does not understand.” Ellington also cites a short story by Anatole France about a juggler who could not play an instrument and instead accompanied his worship with juggling. “I believe that no matter how highly skilled a drummer or saxophonist might be, that if this is the thing he does best, and he offers it sincerely from the heart in—or as the accompaniment to—his worship, he will not be unacceptable because of lack of skill or of the instrument upon which he makes his demonstration, be it pipe or tom-tom.”
              What emerged was a series offering praise and prayer, some sung, some even danced, and others wordless music settings of Biblical texts. Ellington revised and added to the original Sacred Concert with two other recordings in 1968 and 1973. Speaking to Derek Jewell just before the 1965 premiere, Ellington said, “This music is the most important thing I’ve ever done or am ever likely to do. This is personal, not career. Now I can say out loud to all the world what I’ve been saying to myself for years on my knees.” 
    Adapted from the LA Philharmonic program note by Ricky O’Bannon


    In the beginning God

    In the beginning God. 
    No heaven, no earth, no nothing.
    In the beginning God.

    Almighty God

    Almighty God has those angels away up there above,

    up there a-weaving, sparkling fabrics just for you and me to love.

    Almighty God has those angels up in the proper place,

    waiting to receive and to welcome us and re-make us in grace.

    Wash your face and hands and hearts and soul ‘cause you wash so well
    God will keep you safely where there’s no sulphur smell.

    Almighty God has those angels as ready as can be
    Waiting to dress, caress and bless us all in perpetuity.

    Freedom No. 7


    To be contented pris’ners of love,
    or to reach beyond our reach, to reach for a star,
    Or go about the bus’ness of becoming what we already are.



    Heaven my dream
    Heaven divine
    Heaven supreme
    Heaven combines
    Ev’ry sweet and pretty thing.

    Life would love to bring
    Heavenly heaven to be
    Is just the ultimate degree to be.

    Heaven my dream, a dream is my heaven.

    Freedom No. 1 & No. 7 (reprise)

    Freedom – is a word that is spoken and sung,
    Loudly and softly all around the world,
    And in many languages.
    The word freedom is used in many purposes.
    It is sometimes even used in the interest of Freedom.


    To be contented pris’ners of love,

    Or to reach beyond our reach, to reach for a star,
    Or go about the bus’ness of becoming what we already are.


    Come Sunday

    Lord, dear Lord above,

    God almighty God of Love,
    Please look down and see my people thru.

    I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.
    I don’t mind the gray skies, ‘cause they’re just clouds passing by.

    Lord, dear Lord above,

    God almighty God of Love,
    Please look down and see my people thru.

    Come Sunday, oh come Sunday that’s the day.
    I believe God is now, was then, and always will be.
    With God’s blessing we can make it thru eternity.

    Lord, dear Lord above,

    God almighty God of Love,
    Please look down and see my people thru.

    Duke Ellington

    • Patrice Williamson '94 MM, '97 AD, soprano
    • Helen Sung '97 Thelonoius Monk Institute certificate, piano
    • Kristofer Monson, bass
    • Caleb Montague, drums
    • William Drury, conductor
  5. Patrice Williamson

    Jazz Times magazine states that “Patrice Williamson isn’t a singer, she’s a one-woman jazz sampler. –­ She is a woman of many voices, each distinctly intriguing all distinctly her own.”

    Patrice Williamson’s childhood home in Memphis was filled with song. Her late father, Webster Williamson, an avid amateur singer, introduced his children to both sacred music and the secular styles of greats like Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Lena Horne. With the encouragement of her mother, Lillie Williamson, Patrice followed in the footsteps of her sister, Denise, taking up the violin and making her performance debut at age four. From then on, she was hooked on music and performing. To her violin studies, she added piano (at age seven) and flute (at 11).
            Patrice carried the dream into her teens and enrolled at the University of Tennessee as a music major. Her focus remained on classical performance; she served as principal flutist for the opera and symphony orchestras. It wasn’t until the conductor of the UT Studio Jazz Orchestra overheard her scatting during a rehearsal break, and immediately offered her a vocal solo, that she considered singing as a possible career path. Encouraged by UT faculty jazz pianist Donald Brown, she headed to New England Conservatory to focus full-time on her voice, under the guidance of award-winning RCA recording artist, Dominique Eade.

            In Boston, Patrice hit the ground running and soon became a favorite on the Boston music scene while finishing her master’s degree and the Artist Diploma at NEC.  Patrice’s sensitive ballad work and fluent scat style have garnered invitations to perform at The Regattabar in Cambridge, MA, the famed Blue Note Jazz club in New York City, and with many well-known jazz artists such as Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington. Back in her hometown of Memphis, TN, she performs regularly at Lafayette’s Music room and at Alfred’s on Beale Street, one of the most iconic streets in America.
            As a Professor of Voice at Berklee College of Music, her work has taken her to Italy, South Korea, Greece, Peru and India, where she performed with saxophonist Donald Harrison in the New Delhi Jazz Festival. 
            Her independent recordings, My Shining Hour,Free to Dream and Comes Love, an album celebrating the collaboration between Fitzgerald and legendary guitarist Joe Pass, have received high praise from jazz critics around the country.
    Her former teachers, now senior colleagues, are quick with their own praise. Says Dominique Eade, "Patrice is a hard-swinging interpreter and a refreshingly accomplished jazz vocal improviser." Ran Blake, sums it up: "It’s a breathtaking voice."

    Helen Sung

    Helen Sung is an acclaimed jazz pianist and composer and a Guggenheim Fellow.  A native of Houston, Texas, and alumna of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, she eschewed her classical upbringing after encountering jazz during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Helen went on to become part of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory, and win the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition.
         Sung’s newest album Quartet+ (Sunnyside Records) garnered a 4.5 star DownBeat review and inclusion in its "Best of 2021 Albums" list, and a JazzTimes cover story (January 2022 issue), while previous releases Sung With Words (Stricker Street), a collaborative project with renowned poet Dana Gioia and Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz) topped the jazz charts. In addition to her own band, Helen has performed and toured with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Regina Carter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Mingus Big Band.
         Recent activities of note include “Re-Orientation: Asian American Artists Out Loud” (made possible by a Chamber Music America Digital Residency grant): provoked by the unfortunate violence against the Asian American community, Helen’s quartet collaborated with a poet, a Hip Hop artist, and an installation artist in a series of interdisciplinary events showcasing the range and diversity of Asian American artistry. Helen’s 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship is being applied toward a multi-movement composition for big band: one of them, Wayne’s World, won the 2022 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize.
         Helen has served on the jazz faculties of the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. She is currently visiting faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and an Associate Professor at Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence at its prestigious Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute exploring the intersection of jazz and neuroscience (this resulted in a partnership with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Zuckerman Institute’s Public Programs, and Arts & Minds – presenting programs centered on the neuroscience behind making/hearing music to engage those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias). Helen is a Steinway Artist.

  6. NEC Symphonic Winds

    Isabel Evernham
    Honor Hickman
    Zoe Ting
    Nina Tsai

    Yuhsi Chang
    Corinne Foley
    Alexander Lenser

    Tristen Broadfoot
    Sarah Cho
    Xianyi Ji
    Hugo Hyeokwoo Kweon
    Chenrui Lin


    Zoe Beck
    Adam Chen
    Jialu Wang

    Guanlong Shen
    Juchen Wang

    French horn
    Mattias Bengtsson
    Graham Lovely

    Xiaoran Xu

    Daniel Barak
    Max Ignas
    Justin Park
    Allie Richmond

    Lukas Helsel
    Noah Korenfeld
    Kevin Smith

    Bass Trombone
    Roger Dahlin

    Hayden Silvester

    Mark Larrivee
    Rohan Zakharia


    NEC Chamber Singers

    Stellan Connelly Bettany

    Emelia Marie Boydstun
    Kayden Carter
    Ashley Chen
    Kathryn Fernholz
    Edward Ferran
    Agne Giedraityte
    Jiawei Gong

    Killian Grider
    Riccardo Lucas Hernandez
    Jackie Hu
    Weza Jamison-Neto
    Yoomin Kang
    Molly Knight
    Corinne Luebke-Brown

    Nicholas Ottersberg
    Anna Poltronieri Tang
    Margaret Storm
    Longfei Flora Sun
    Wanrou Tang
    Chloe Thum
    Calvin Wamser
    Madeleine Wiegers
    Yumeng Xing

    The NEC Chamber Singers is an auditioned ensemble, open to all majors at NEC, of 24-28 musicians who perform challenging works from all style periods, with a particular emphasis on 19th-21st century a cappella works. The choir rehearses three times a week and experiences choral music-making in an intimate ensemble setting, typically in the round. Each NEC Chamber Singer is a musician seeking to  understand the principles and nuance of superior choral artistry so that they may be prepared for professional opportunities and expectations outside of the Conservatory. The choristers diligently prepare their music outside of scheduled rehearsals which makes the brief time spent together musically invaluable. The ensemble typically performs eight to ten times each academic year: on campus in the Conservatory’s Jordan Hall and at off campus venues in and around greater Boston.