Tuesday, November 20, 2018 - Updated: 1:29 pm
Renowned jazz instrumentalist and composer Mary Lou Williams will be the focus of a concert and panel discussion on “The Sacred Music of Mary Lou Williams” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.
The PGH Christian Studies program is sponsoring the free event in the University of Pittsburgh’s Bellefield Hall auditorium, 315 S. Bellefield Ave. in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. Music professor Dr. Michael Mackey will speak and perform.
Born in Georgia in 1910 and raised in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, Williams began performing as a child. She wrote hundreds of songs and arrangements for Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and others when there were few female arrangers.
Williams converted to Catholicism and composed many hymns and works of sacred music, including a jazz Mass. She operated a thrift store to benefit the poor, and maintained a faith-based outreach to many famous jazz musicians.
A 2013 Pittsburgh Catholic article said Williams was introduced to Pittsburgh Bishop John Wright by jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
At 71, she died from bladder cancer in Durham, North Carolina. Williams was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood. Her life is chronicled in the book “Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams,” by Linda Dahl.
For information on the PGH Christian Studies program, go to pghchristianstudies.org.