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Music for Meditation - Ellington and Mahalia Jackson

Music for Meditation - Ellington and Mahalia Jackson

By Mark George, President and CEO

A weekly recommendation of music for meditation. Find a comfortable chair or lie down, turn on a smart speaker or put in earbuds, and just listen.

My recommendation this week for Music as Meditation composed by Duke Ellington. “Come Sunday” is Gospel tune, part of Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige, an extended jazz piece premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1943. Mahalia Jackson recorded “Come Sunday” with Duke Ellington in 1958.

The quality of Jackson’s contralto voice is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. She expresses so much with just a held note or brief elaboration. The lyrics of the piece are almost unnecessary because their meaning of struggle and hope are deeply embedded in Jackson’s voice.  There is only a brief piano introduction. The tune is repeated three times with the final version sung without words. Listen along for 5 minutes and 48 seconds and let the music touch your heart.

Come Sunday (1943) ...............Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
Mahalia Jackson, contralto

Lord, dear Lord of love, God almighty up above.
Please look down and see my people through
Lord, dear Lord God of love, God almighty God above
Please look down and see my people through
I believe the sun and moon will shine up in the sky
When the day is gray I know it’s just clouds passing by
He'll give peace and comfort to every troubled mind
Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that's the day

Often we feel weary but he knows our every care
Go to him in secret, he will hear your every prayer
Lillies on the valley they neither toll nor spin
And flowers bloom in spring and birds sing
Up from dawn till sunset man work hard all the day
Come Sunday, oh come Sunday that's the day

Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans in 1911 and moved to Chicago at the age of 20. A devout Baptist, she began singing in church as a young child and became the world’s most influential Gospel musician. Mahalia Jackson performed at around the world in churches, in concert halls, and at events such as John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball, the 1963 March on Washington, New York’s World Fair in 1964, and Martin Luther King’s funeral service. She died in 1972.

Born in 1899, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist and leader of a renowned jazz orchestra. One of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century, Ellington subscribed to the notion that great music is beyond category. He composed thousands of songs, many of which having have become standards of American music. Duke Ellington died in 1974.