NSO Family Concert: Music of Duke Ellington 
Sunday, March 17, 2 p.m. 
Kennedy Center Concert Hall 


The Kennedy Center is celebrating Duke Ellington’s 125th birthday throughout the 2023-24 season. Born on April 29, 1899, Washington’s native son Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington is an American legend, remembered as a great jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his famed Ellington jazz orchestra. Both of his parents were pianists, and he began lessons at age 7. The lordly title of Duke was given to him by a friend who was probably impressed by the young Ellington’s sophisticated manner, “I think he felt in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So, he called me Duke.” It stuck. One funny story is that Ellington worked as a young teenager as a “soda jerk” at the Poodle Dog Cafe on Georgia Avenue. When the pianist got too drunk, the manager would make Ellington at the piano—thus inspiring his “Soda Fountain Rag.” Just before high school graduation, he dropped out and started playing professionally. He referred to his music as “beyond category” as “American music." He wrote or co-wrote more than 1,000 works, including It Don’t Mean a Thing, Take the A Train and in the classical genre, his 1960 Nutcracker Suite. And of course, his legacy continues in his hometown, with the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown, now celebrating its 50th year. And maybe you’ve gotten stuck in traffic on DC’s Ellington bridge! 

That’s just a little background to tell your kids before you bring them to the NSO’s family concert on Sunday afternoon.  Maybe when they hear his music, they’ll be inspired to practice a little harder! Seriously, this concert of favorite music from Duke Ellington should be enjoyable for the whole family, beginning at age 5. Canadian conductor and educator Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser leads the NSO along with pianist Sullivan Fortner and saxophonist Grant Langford in the jazz legend’s most popular tunes. Even better, kids will have the chance to try out the instruments prior to the performance at the Musical PLAYspace in the Skylight Pavilion on Level A of the REACH. They can stay after the show to ask questions and hear stories from the show’s artists and creative team. 

Carlos Simon’s Requiem for the Enslaved
Kennedy Center Fortas Chamber Music Concerts
Thursday, March 14th, 7:30 p.m. The Club at Studio K

Carlos Simon

Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon’s Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra was featured in several of the National Symphony Orchestra concerts during their recent 9-city European tour. The performance I witnessed, in Milan’s La Scala, was greatly appreciated by the audience. The theme of the piece, illustrated by an insistent two-note “alarm” motto, was as the title suggests, that we all need to “wake up” to the world around us.

Simon’s 2020 Requiem for the Enslaved, the principal offering in the Fortas Chamber Music concert for March 14th is also a wakeup call. It was commissioned by Georgetown University “with support from the President’s Office and the Committee for Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation with support from the Department of Performing Arts.”

Requiem for the Enslaved, which features music that evokes the spirit of those in captivity, is scored for piano, flute/piccolo/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello, trumpet, and rapper and spoken word artist Marco Pavé (Georgetown’s first Hip Hop artist-in-residence). Using the musical structure of a liturgical mass, Requiem for the Enslaved explores the sacred and historical ideology of the sale of those enslaved people by Jesuits by infusing of the music of the Catholic Church and African-American spirituals into an original composition.” The piece ends with “In Paradisum” (In Paradise).

Requiem for the Enslaved premiered virtually on November 21, 2021 at the Library of Congress and featured Hub New Music, rapper Marco Pavé, trumpeter MK Zulu, and the composer at the piano—the same forces who will interpret it in this Fortas Chamber Music performance.

Simon prefaced his note for the premiere with a quotation from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the hope and dream of a slave.”

The first half of the program features the Washington premieres of works by Angélica Negrón, Jessica Meyer, Tyshawn Sorey and Nico Muhly. 


Carlos Simon, piano
MK Zulu, trumpet
Marco Pavé, writer and spoken word artist

Hub New Music
Michael Avitabile, flute
Gleb Kanasevich, clarinet
Meg Rohrer, violin
Jesse Christeson, cello

Angélica Negrón
(b. 1980)
Pedazos intermitentes de un lugar ya fragmentado*

Jessica Meyer
(b. 1974)
Spirits and Sinew*

Tyshawn Sorey
(b. 1980)
For Alvin Singleton*

Nico Muhly
(b. 1981)


Carlos Simon
(b. 1986)
Requiem for the Enslaved 

  • I. invocation
  • II. lord have mercy (let us go)
  • III. we all found heaven
  • IV. grant them rest
  • V. remember me
  • VI. light everlasting
  • VII. deliver me
  • VIII. gloria
  • IX. shine upon them
  • X. in paradisium (into paradise)

*Washington, D.C. Premiere

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