In 1958, Duke Ellington met the Queen. The meeting inspired Ellington to write a piece of music, The Queen’s Suite, in her honour. Only one pressing was made of this work and sent to Buckingham Palace in 1959. 50 years on, Peter Edwards, Musical Director of The Tomorrow’s Warriors Jazz Orchestra, rediscovers the rarely performed work and makes it his ambition to perform it to the Queen.
Those of you with long memories may have a feeling of déjà vu, as The Queen’s Suite has been discovered and performed before, recorded by Ellington in 1976 and performed for the first time by the Bob Wilber Big Band in 1989. However, this tale is a little different. A combination of the entrancing nature of Ellington’s work and the determination and passion of Peter Edwards, inspired independent film-maker, Corine Dhondee to make a documentary of the story.
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The intention is for the film to be finished and used as an educational tool to inspire young musicians into discovering how powerful jazz and the creative arts can be. An admirable goal. After watching the trailer, I really wanted Peter to have succeeded in his ambition. Several from the Dune stable appear in the film, such as Gary Crosby, Abram Wilson and Denys Baptiste. With the established educational projects of Tomorrow’s Warriors already active, the film will certainly be used effectively.
They have a deadline of 31st August to raise the remaining funds they need to finish the film and are using creative new ways in which to do so. Namely, by using the innovative Kickstarter website to seek pledges in exchange for prizes such as a recording session at The Premises. We heard today Michael Nyman is to add his name to the list of people making a pledge.
WE DID IT, yes 26 days after LondonJazz posted the review about The Queen's Suite on Kickstarter we have raised our funds and we will also help to set up Stoma Baby as an online charity.
It is great news and everyone involved with the process is extremely happy and proud. We could not have done it without the support of family, friends, and online media platforms such as LondonJazz.
Our supporters include Adam Sieff, Jennie Cashman, Janine Irons MBE and Gary Crosby OBE at Dune Music, Sebastian Scotney at LondonJazz, Donna M at Elements of Jazz, Allaboutjazz, Films & Festivals, OBV, TY the hip-hop music producer, the distinguished executive producer Christopher Hird, the excellent composer Michael Nyman, Jason Hawes the co-producer in Canada, and last but not least, Peter Edwards the Musical Director, arranger and pianist whose dream the film follows, Peter's family, my family, friends and friends of friends.
All have brought us together and have enabled the documentary to succeed. And I thank everyone with all my heart. It's wonderful that we have had such great access, write-ups, and reviews. Whilst Kickstarter has enabled us to achieve our goal. A big shout out to the folks at Kickstarter.
Once the documentary is finished it will go into schools nationally and internationally to spur on young musicians and also guide young people who wish to explore the creative arts.
Friends we will be sipping cold beers and mango lassies laced with rum whilst listening to jazz that will make you want to tear your clothes off, and as Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “paint your body rainbow colours and dance wildly as your pulse throbs like a war drum”.
You'd better believe it 😉
You can read the full update on Kickstarter and you can also be updated on The Queen's Suite page on Facebook.
Sergio Mims, a Chicago based writer and film critic has written a review of The Queen's Suite for Shadow and Act.
A few words about The Queen’s Suite
By Sergio, on September 17th, 2010
Back in June we profiled on S & A a new short film documentary in post-production, The Queen’s Suite, by London based filmmaker Corine Dhondee. It chronicles a young British jazz musician and arranger Peter Edwards who recreated and performed, with a hand picked jazz orchestra, one of the jazz master Duke Ellington’s forgotten works, The Queen’s Suite.
Dhondee was inspired to make the film after attending an open rehearsal of the work in 2008 after not only being won over by the music, but also by the inspiring story of an extremely talented young Black British man who was equally inspired by an important yet forgotten piece of black art and culture.
The work, which Ellington wrote in 1958, was written for Queen Elizabeth II after he met her in Leeds when he was invited to perform at a music festival in Leeds. Only one recording was made of the work, which was sent to Buckingham Palace and it remained unperformed since then, except for one performance in 1988. After hearing the work on a tape, Edwards, in effect, wrote out and recreated the score and spent months arranging the work, putting the orchestra together, went through numerous rehearsals and finally performed the work to a rapturous audience in 2009.
Now after seeing a rough cut of Corine’s completed film I can say without hesitation that it is a wonderful, totally captivating and superbly made film. Not only is it a thrill to hear an overlooked and forgotten masterwork for the first time by one of the greatest musicians and composers ever, but what is remarkable as well is how much Dhondee manages to pack in her film from dealing with Edwards’ background and childhood, his struggles to get the work performed and heard and Edwards’ own apprehension about not only being true to his art and Ellington’s music, but the pressure as well of trying to get everything right. Ironically if there is a fault with the film it is its length, as the film is too short. One wishes it was longer to hear more of Ellington’s incredible music with its distinctive, jagged, syncopated African rhythms running throughout the work.
The film is currently going through a final sound mix before it starts making the film festival circuit and hopefully later will be shown on British and American television. So if an opportunity to see the film comes your way by all means check it out. It would be your misfortune to miss it.
You can read the review here.
Last week Jason the co-producer and distributor for The Queen's Suite was in London from Canada. Jason had helped to raise the finishing funds for the film and because he was so committed I asked him if he would be the distributor. He agreed and last week we were able to film a group thank you.
There are two takes, the first is full of hoorays and excitement. Charlotte's son Cole helped us to express our joy at raising the finishing funds. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s7aORC0W3Y
The second take has less hoorays and more information.
Either way we hope they make you smile and thank you for your support. What I forgot to say in my own excitement is that we simply could not have done it without you.