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A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald


Born in a working-poor neighborhood of Newport News, Va., her mother was a laundress and a shipyard worker. Her father soon disappeared, and the mother and child moved north to New York. Then the mother died. The young girl ran away and became the 20th century's greatest female singer of jazz and American popular song,

One of the few singers whose work transcends generations and musical genres, Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) could sing anything: a silly novelty song, like her breakthrough hit, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." A samba that scatted. A ballad, spooling out like satin. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums. 

On Saturday, August 26 at 7 p.m., the Space Coast Symphony JAZZ Orchestra will celebrate the centennial of her birth with A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Scott Center for the Performing Arts at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy and on Sunday, August 27 at 3 p.m. at the Vero Beach High School Performing Arts Center.

Under the direction of Stetson University's Dr. Patrick Hennessey, the JAZZ Orchestra's swinging tribute will feature some of the most glorious songs Ella made famous, including “Blues in the Night” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”  Vocalist Linda Cole-- a jazz great in her own right and also known as "Central Florida's First Lady of Song"--  joins the orchestra to pay tribute to Fitzgerald.

A professional singer since she was 3 years old, her family group, "The Singing Coles" are part of Illinois music history. The family began with religious songs, then added popular music to their programs. From an early age, Cole was constantly surrounded by musical talent from within her immediate and extended family, of whom the most well-known was her father’s cousin, Nat King Cole. 

Later Cole branched out into rhythm and blues. She was well known in the Detroit "MoTown" scene, appearing with such groups as The Spinners, Count Basie, and many others. Acknowledged as having the "smoothest voice" in the business, she is currently appearing in jazz spots, night clubs and restaurants throughout the southeast and continues to aspiring and established choristers. 

"Linda's voice and style is second to none," said Hennessey, veteran jazz band leader and SCSO musician. "She is a wonderful interpreter of the Great American Songbook and has performed with the Count Basie Orchestra and greats from the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Glenn Miller Productions.  We are delighted to welcome her back for this tribute to Ella Fitzgerald."

Director of the Stetson University Jazz Ensemble, Dr. Patrick Hennessey is a musical clinician, adjudicator, educator and trombone player, whose performance experiences include Johnny Mathis, Jerry Lewis, the New York Tenors, the Alan Parsons Project, Celtic Thunder, and the Indigo Girls. 

Hennessey's performance credits include the touring Broadway shows A Chorus Line, Hello Dolly, Evita, Peter Pan, Grease, and Anything Goes. He's also taken the stage with such luminaries as Burt Bacharach, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Natalie Cole, Johnnie Mathis, Bob Hope, Marvin Hamlisch, and Rosemary Clooney as well as prominent big bands such as the Del Courtney Orchestra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Harry James Orchestra, the Tom Kubis Big Band and the Bill Watrous Big Band.

$20 advance tickets for adults are available through the orchestra website at http://www.SpaceCoastSymphony.org or at the orchestra's "River House" office, located at the east end of the newly renamed Catherine Schweinsberg Rood Central Library property in Cocoa.  Tickets at the door are $25.  The concert is free for those aged 18 and under or with a student ID.