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Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert

Friday, April 28, 2023 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Adult: $29-$45 • Student: $17.50 • Youth (18 & under): $7.50

Buyers may choose their own assigned seats for this presentation.

Mechanics Hall logo

Music Worcester wishes to thank Janice Hitzhusen & James Pease for generously sponsoring this presentation.

Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert

Duke Ellington called his Sacred Concert “the most important thing I’ve ever done” when it premiered in 1965 at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.

Allmusic reviewer Richard S. Ginell awarded the concert recording 5 stars, saying “the concert taps into Ellington’s roots in showbiz and African-American culture as well as his evidently deep religious faith, throwing it all together in the spirit of universality and sealing everything with the stamps of his musical signatures.”

Ebony magazine called the piece “historic”, situating it as part of a larger movement in the mid-60s that brought together jazz and religion.


Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert
arr. John Høybye & Peder Pederson

  1. Praise God
  2. Heaven
  3. Freedom Suite
  4. The Shepherd
  5. Majesty of God
  6. Come Sunday
  7. David Danced
  8. Almighty God
  9. T.G.T.T. (Too Good To Title)
  10. Praise God And Dance

White Heat Swing Orchestra
Program To Be Announced From The Stage 


directed by Chris Shepard



Pre-Concert Lecture

MORE SACRED THAN USUAL — A pre-concert lecture from Ben Young

7:00-7:30 PM
Washburn Hall

Join us for a pre-concert lecture on the program, free and open to all ticket holders. General admission seating will be available on a first-come-first-served basis in Washburn Hall on the 2nd floor of Mechanics Hall.

Jazz scholar and educator Ben Young has spent 25 years doing first-person research into the history of jazz music, as learned through direct contact with the musicians and the artifacts of their achievements. He was heard for nearly 25 years as a radio host on WKCR-FM in New York City, where he hosted programs dealing with the gamut of Jazz and modern improvised music, and spent a decade as the station’s first Director of Broadcasting and Operations. He has produced, annotated or researched several hundred historical jazz reissues for major interests (Verve, RCA/Bluebird, Mosaic, Savoy) and independent labels (Triple Point, Revenant, Intakt, Cosmic Myth, etc.), and has written a small number of monographs and articles documenting essential figures of the New York’s 20 th Century jazz scene. His forthcoming work is an exhaustive biography of pianist Cecil Taylor. Since 2009 he has been a staff lecturer in the Swing University program at Jazz at Lincoln Center, teaching the Jazz 101/201/301 sequence, and specialized courses on Third Stream music, Free Jazz, Ornette Coleman, and others. Since 2021 he has directed the Jazz History Database at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The Worcester Chorus

The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester has the unique distinction of being one of the most outstanding on-going choral groups in the United States. Founded in 1858 to sing at the first annual Worcester Music Festival in the newly-built Mechanics Hall, the 100-member group includes both amateur and professional singers from Worcester County, northern Connecticut and the Boston area. Its repertoire includes not only choral masterpieces, but also contemporary literature, arrangements of American folk songs, classics from musical theater and commissioned works. Each year the Chorus performs with orchestras and soloists in Mechanics Hall as part of Music Worcester’s main season, including an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. The Worcester Chorus has also made guest appearances throughout the Northeast and overseas.

The Worcester Chorus has appeared with the Hartford Symphony, the American Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center, and the Prague Symphony at Carnegie Hall. The Chorus performed at the 1992 American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division Convention in Boston, and has appeared at the Worcester Music Festival with the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Rochester Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Boston, Baltimore, and Detroit.

Artistic Director Dr. Christopher Shepard has been with the Chorus since 2009. Mark Mummert joined the ensemble as Assistant Director in 2019.

White Heat Swing Orchestra

The full White Heat Swing Orchestra is a hot swing band with a national reputation that is a music landmark for visitors to the Boston area. It recorded for Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Motion Pictures, backed up Norah Jones, Tony Bennett, Cab Calloway, Lou Rawls in concert, and won Boston Magazine’s “Best Dance Band” award. In addition to energetic swing music, WHSO also plays Rhythm and Blues and Motown, Sinatra and salsa. It was the house band at the legendary Roxy in Boston for four years where it performed for near 2 million dancing patrons over a four year run, featured at the Harvard Eliot House Spring Fete undergraduate dance from 2014-2019.

Janinah Burnett, soprano soloist

Raised in jazz music, Janinah Burnett is the daughter of legendary jazz drummer Carl Burnett and writer/educator/artist Imani Constance. As a child, Janinah was surrounded by Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, George Cables, Billy Higgins, and many others who inspired her early musical beginnings. This innovative and exceptionally artistic beginning led to a myriad of musical activities throughout Janinah’s formative years. While in school at the Hamilton Music Academy in Los Angeles, Janinah won the solo vocal jazz competition at Cal State Fullerton, propelling her desire to serve her artistic muse and study vocal jazz music at Spelman College. Never wishing to be limited to any one genre, Janinah was clear she wanted to be able use her voice to sing all styles. During her time at Spelman, Janinah continued her jazz studies and was a member of the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble. Janinah participated in a host of private events and engagements including singing for Margaret Thatcher, several performances with the Atlanta Symphony, singing with the great Ray Charles, and at a private birthday party celebration for Oprah Winfrey at the home of Maya Angelou. However, she was intrigued and inspired by her classmates who excelled in classical music styles, most specifically Art Song, Sprituals, and Opera. Her classmates’ excellence, inspiration from role models of color who excelled in the field of classical music, and many singing and performance opportunities allowed Janinah to get well acquainted with varying classical music styles. This encouraged Janinah to take the path toward Art Song and Opera. Janinah continued her music studies at the Eastman School of Music where she received a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance and Literature. Janinah’s experiences and opportunities while at Eastman were riveting. While there, she studied with accomplished musicians who guided and instructed her immensely. Each summer while at Eastman, Janinah studied Italian at the Centro Studi Di Italiani in Urbania as a participant in the Oberlin in Italy program. In the program she not only learned Italian but had many study and performance opportunities in opera. Her second year in Urbania, Janinah learned and performed the role of Violetta in La Traviata with orchestra in two large opera houses.

Another major role Janinah learned and performed at Eastman was the role of Mimì in La Bohème. Directly following those performances and upon graduation from Eastman, Janinah joined the cast of Baz Lurhmann’s La Bohème on Broadway as Mimì and thrilled audiences. Several exciting events occurred as a result of this show including her performances on the Tony Awards, performances at esteemed events for Prada and Tiffany’s, and her win of the LA Theater Alliance’s Ovation Award, to name a few. Janinah was even featured in the National Enquirer!

Directly after the whirlwind that was La Bohème on Broadway, Janinah joined an International tour of Porgy and Bess as Clara and Bess. On this tour she sang in several major opera houses in Austria, Japan, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Denmark. Upon returning to the US, Janinah sang the following leading roles: Violetta in La Traviata, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Norina in Don Pasquale, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Margru in Amistad, Marguerite in Faust, Leïla in Les Pecheurs de Perles, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Micaëla in Carmen, Suzanna in Le Nozze Di Figaro, Mimì in La Bohème, and many others in over 25 international and domestic cites.

Janinah’s brilliant technique and exceptional character interpretations led her to join the Metropolitan Opera Company for their productions of Carmen, La Bohème, Parsifal, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Rondine, The Enchanted Island, Iphigénie en Tauride, Elektra, and Manon. Janinah made her MET debut as Bianca in La Rondine and spent eight seasons singing at the MET. During this time, Janinah performed with the likes of Plácido Domingo, Susan Graham, Paul Groves, Angela Georgiu, Roberto Alagna, Dwayne Croft, Samuel Ramey, Jonas Kaufmann, Ramón Vargus, and many others. Also during this time, Janinah sang the role of Lucy in Treemonisha with Grace Bumbry and Willard White. She also sang Leila in John Adams’ I was Looking at the Ceiling and Suddenly Saw the Sky, both productions were performed at the Théatre du Châtélet in Paris which were huge successes featuring people of color and dealing with controversial socio-political themes.

Building a career as a successful, consistently working artist, Janinah was called upon for many world premiers. The first being Three Mo’ Divas, sister group to Three Mo’ Tenors, in which she worked with the virtuosic pianist/producer/arranger Joseph Joubert. Janinah originated the role of “Diva” and enjoyed performing genres that inspired and influenced her, including jazz and R&B. This foray into theater was more intimate and called for dancing and acting di erent from opera, a challenge Janinah rose to meet. Her subsequent world premier presentation was starring as “Harriet Tubman” in Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Road to Freedom presented by American Opera Projects.

Additionally, Janinah recreated the role of “Lolo, the VooDoo Queen” in Harlem Renaissance composer Harry Lawrence Freeman’s revival of VooDoo to much acclaim, earning her a glowing The New York Times review and feature. Janinah was also featured on the cover of the Arts Section of The Washington Post. Janinah is in high demand and has recently returned to Broadway, where her professional career began. She is currently making appearances as “Carlotta Giudicelli” and “the Innkeeper’s Wife” in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Working on Phantom has been a welcomed gift allowing Janinah to make her home in NYC and focus on creative musical projects near and dear to her heart. Janinah currently produces her own solo concerts of diverse vocal styles. These diverse vocal stylings are presented on her debut album entitled Love the Color of Your Butterfly. Love the Color of Your Butterfly is a foray into the fusion of classical, jazz, and other popular idioms delivered with exceptional musicianship and emotional authenticity. This presentation of musical literature is reimagined by Janinah with the assistance of some of the world’s finest jazz musicians including Sullivan Fortner, Christian Sands, Casey Benjamin, and Terreon Gully who produced the album.

Additionally, Janinah produces performances of her own writings juxtaposed with photography, art songs, freedom songs, and spirituals entitled I, Too Sing America: A Lament for the Fallen which exists to provide quality performances rooted in education, activism, committed artistic expression, and healing while honoring those who have been killed due to social injustice. Janinah’s artistry is far reaching and while she is moved to present the music of the past and present in innovative artful ways, she is also inspired to assist the future generations of singing artists. In her vocal studio La Janinah Voice Studio she privately teaches some of today’s rising singing stars and regularly presents masterclasses to students at colleges across the US. www.janinahburnett.com

Joyce Tamer, Telegram & Gazette

The Worcester Chorus is truly a local gem.


Friday, April 28, 2023
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm


Mechanics Hall
321 Main Street
Worcester, Massachusetts 01608
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Music Worcester