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The secret history of the jazz greats who were freemasons

 

 

Jazz and freemasonry are unlikely bedfellows, but in the 1950s, the secret society became a support network for musicians and the world’s largest fraternity for black men, among them Duke Ellington and Sun Ra

When the City of London festival found out about a long dormant masonic temple that had been uncovered next to Liverpool Street station, it seemed obvious that this wonderfully opulent hall should be used as a one-off music venue. The only question was – what music should it host?

The recently rediscovered masonic hall next to Liverpool Street, London.

The recently rediscovered masonic hall next to Liverpool Street, London.

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“The obvious choice would have been to host a Mozart recital, because everyone knows that Mozart was a freemason,” says Paul Gudgin, former director of the Edinburgh Fringe and now director of the City of London Festival. “But it just so happened that I was reading a biography of Duke Ellington which mentioned, in passing, his membership of a masonic lodge. I found it astonishing that such an anti-establishment figure turned out to be at the heart of an establishment organisation. And I thought it would be a perfect place to pay tribute.”

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