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A New Performance of Mary Lou Williams’ “Zodiac Suite”

Mary Lou Williams' extended work will be performed in its entirety by a large ensemble for the first time since 1945.

Mary Lou Zodiac

Photo: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Signs of the times: in the year of her centennial, Williams' 1945 "Zodiac Suite" is getting renewed attention.

After the recent airing of the Night Lights show A Brief History of Mary Lou Williams, I received an e-mail from Michael Heller, a Harvard grad student and doctoral candidate in the university’s music department:

I’m just writing to compliment you on the excellent programming you’ve done over the years on Mary Lou Williams, including the recent program you put together. Great stuff, and I’m so glad her work is being put out there by programmers like yourself.

I also thought you would might be interested to know that on Dec. 17 a graduate student big band at Harvard is going to be performing Williams’ Zodiac Suite, in its entirety, using new arrangements. We’ve been working with Father Peter O’Brien of the Mary Lou Williams Foundation in putting this together, using the original 1945 Town Hall scores as the basis of the new versions. The
foundation is also going to be publishing new editions of the 1945 scores next year.

The performance takes place at Paine Hall on the Harvard campus at 8 p.m. this Friday and will be introduced by Father O’Brien, who was Williams’ longtime friend and manager. Admission is free. More information on the concert here. Heller also appeared on WMBR’s The Jazz Train this past Tuesday to talk with host Jon Pollack about the upcoming concert; the interview begins at about 6:30 into this file.

Mary Lou on Night Lights

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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