Symphony Orchestra, Big Band swing during the holidays with Tchaikovsky, the Duke and Billy – URI News
KINGSTON, RI – December 1, 2021 – Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” is as Christmas as candy canes, ornate rooms and snowy vigils. The fairytale ballet and its iconic soundtrack have long been a holiday staple.
But the University of Rhode Island Symphony Orchestra and Big Band are teaming up to offer spectators rare pleasure with dueling versions of “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, December 4 in the concert hall of the Center des Beaux. -arts, 105 Upper College Road, on the Kingston campus. The Symphony Orchestra will open the show with four selections of Tchaikovsky’s 1892 masterpiece and the Big Band will then brighten things up with five songs by Duke Ellington and the jazz treatment of the suite by Billy Strayhorn in 1960.
“We really want this to be a different type of holiday gig,” Big Band director Emmett Goods said. “It would be great to just play ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and tell everyone to sing along at the same time. But this is the opportunity to present two masterpieces which are definitely linked to the season and which are extremely stimulating for our students. “
“It’s very rarely done,” added Ann Danis, director of the Symphony Orchestra. “The chance to hear a full orchestra and then a jazz band doing the same music should be mind-blowing. “
While concert goers can probably hum entire movements of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, Ellington’s reimagining is somewhat less well known outside of jazz aficionados. But in recent decades, the jazz score, first released in 2010, has grown in popularity as a holiday performance.
Goods first heard it in the late 1980s or early 1990s. “I remember hearing it in college when I was still a little new to the music business and was just blown away, “he said. “I knew ‘The Nutcracker’. My school had taken us to downtown Pittsburgh to see the ballet. But hearing it like jazz was amazing.
Ellington, pianist, composer and leader of one of the most influential big bands of the 1930s and 1940s, came to rework Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” in 1960 after seeing the importance of his group decline and then rebound in the years. 1950. Creator of dozens of jazz hits, he is also a writer in the tradition of classical composers.
“People have come to Ellington with the expectation that this is great art,” Goods said. “He thought like all great composers from the Western tradition, but he uses this music of African origin, this Americanized music called jazz. Then when it comes to “The Nutcracker Suite”, it’s the perfect combination. It’s not just about taking the best of jazz from him and saying it’s a sequel. It is about him who takes a real following and makes jazz of it. He is the genius of the moment.
Scholarly research into Ellington’s collected works in the 1990s showed that Strayhorn, Duke’s longtime collaborator, wrote most of the songs on the 1960 album, Goods said. The original album cover art, a photo of which is included in the concert program, includes an acknowledgment of Strayhorn’s contributions, with his name at the top between those of Ellington and Tchaikovsky.
“This is probably one of the only times Billy gets credit and it was so important to Duke that he asked the record company to put in all three names,” said Goods, who will provide a story and the meaning of “The Nutcracker” in between. the two representations.
On Saturday, the orchestra will perform some of the most popular songs from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” – “March”, “Reed Flute Dance”, “Sugar Plum Fairy Dance” and “Trepak”. The Big Band will perform the corresponding jazz versions – “Toot Toot Tootie Toot”, “Peanut Brittle Brigade”, “Sugar Rum Cherry” and “Volga Vouty” (with the iconic “Overture”).
“You’re going to feel the difference because you’ll hear the orchestra and they’ll have played them exactly as you expect,” Goods said. “Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn took that material and kept the same melody, then put it in a jazz context. What really makes the jazz version work is that you can sing along to the melodies. It fits perfectly. He’s the genius of Billy Strayhorn.
In Tchaikovsky’s interpretation, the 52-piece orchestra will include 16 musicians from the Warwick Symphony Orchestra, including its musical director, Catherine Gagnon, a regular member of the URI symphony. While “The Nutcracker” is a ubiquitous holiday classic, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy lift for the orchestra, Danis said.
“The students have heard it but haven’t played it before, so it’s a big part of the music to learn,” she said. “Tchaikovsky is never easy for an orchestra.”
To recreate Ellington and Strayhorn’s score, a few of the Big Band’s 18 musicians had to get hold of a new instrument – like clarinet, piccolo, finger cymbals, and tambourine – a lesson in what it takes to be a versatile, working musician.
But also, Goods said, part of the lesson for his musicians is to get back to basics after the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It means learning the music of Count Basie, who was at the center of the Big Band’s fall concert, and Ellington – “two of the most important black big bands in jazz history,” he said. .
“The ABCs of how to play big band jazz is, can you play Count Basie and can you play Duke Ellington? Goods said. “If you can play these two styles, you can play just about anything.”
Saturday’s concert in the concert hall begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $ 12 for general admission; $ 7 for students, seniors (60 and over) and free for children under 12. To purchase tickets and view the University’s COVID-19 guidelines, please visit event site.
If you can’t attend the holiday show in person, you can still see it for a limited time on Youtube.
Staff of the URI Symphony Orchestra: Sarah O’Brien and Molly Vallée, flute; Lindsey Moran and Tyler Vanable, oboe; Autumn Casey, Cailin Fairbrother and Jayden Weichtmann, clarinet; Anthony Andriole and Catherine Gagnon, French horn; Emily Redmond and Joseph Riley, trumpet; David Canavan and Ben Marcotte, trombone; Daniel Mach-Holt, tuba; Eric Léonard, tympanum; Andrew Dyson, percussion; Gia Antolini (concertmaster), Madison Cahoon, Margaret Dein Bradley, Alan Renfrew and Skye Min, violin 1; Jessenia Grijalva (principal), Abby Hang, Elizabeth McNab, Judy Keller and Tyler Chin, violin 2; Norman Winn (principal), Emilia Delemontex, Julia Canuel and Cieria Westbrook, viola; Ryan Chauvette (principal), Elizabeth Rogers and Jose Amador, cello; Wyatt Crosby (principal) and Louis Kogut, bass.
Guest musicians of the Warwick Symphony Orchestra: Patricia Moody, flute; Linda Carpenter, clarinet; Gerry Héroux, French horn; Kacie Saint-Sauveur, trumpet; James Himmelman, trombone; Nika Webster, Paul Liu and Alexander Carroll, violin 1; Helen Ianni, Liam DeRosa and Vittoria Monte, violin 2; Elizabeth Morrison and Dana Borgia, viola; Emily Johnson and Nina Perry, cello.
Big Band URI staff: Fernando Marzan, Andrew Liguori, Jude LaRoche, Joshua Raposo, Nick Medlen and Cedric Mayfield (guest artist), saxophones; Emily Redmond, Dante Lopes, Joseph Riley and Kylan Harding, trumpets; Daniel Mach-Holt, Ben Marcotte, Ryan Sullivan and David Canavan, trombones; Aiden Rogler, guitar; Wyatt Crosby, bass; Andrew Dyson, drums Mason Tucker, piano – with Tara Gozaydin on vocals on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.