Charlie Brown’s classic Christmas jazz

Tales from behind the scenes enhance the musical experience

Jerry Granelli brings Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas to the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High Dec. 10.

Jerry Granelli is proud of the near five-decade break he took from what is now a holiday favourite, based on the Peanuts cartoons.

In 1965, he was the newest member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, alongside Fred Marshall on bass, that recorded the soundtrack for what was a low-budget, animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas, now a holiday classic.

“I couldn’t see how I could do it with the artistic integrity that is inherent in writing the piece,” he said during a phone interview from Banff amid a cross-Canada tour for A Tale of Charlie Brown Christmas. “Now I could see how to do it. … It is about the piece, all the elements of the show are there, the children’s voices, the choir.”

Granelli crafted his return to A Charlie Brown Christmas, weaving true anecdotes while capturing the original elements and intent of the music. Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas is a peek backward; part oral history, part concert as Granelli regales audiences with stories and insights, providing an insider’s perspective. He’s joined by renowned jazz artists Simon Fisk on bass and Chris Gestrin.

“All the elements from the original show are there, but it’s not that, it’s something else,” he said. “It’s about the people who come because they get to go on the ride together.”

A Charlie Brown Christmas was based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez. It debuted in December 1965 and showcased Charlie Brown, depressed despite the holidays and mocked by his peers. The story also touches on the over-commercialization of Christmas.

“It was underground in its time. To us at that time it was our Farside,” Granelli said. “There is this quality of going against the grain and I think that’s part of the story of telling what happened when the corporate mind looked at it. … They thought it would just disappear. Instead it’s grown and touched generation after generation.”

The Victoria Jazz Society brings Granelli to the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre in Oak Bay after hosting a series of concerts there this summer.

“It’s a great venue. there aren’t any bad seats in the whole house the sound is great,” said Meghan Thompson, of the Victoria Jazz Society. “It’s a good size.”

While Granelli has performed previously in Victoria, it’s a first for Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The trio performed it for the third time recently in Calgary, and about a third were returnees.

“It’s a new tradition maybe,” Granelli said. “Every time we go somewhere for the first time people don’t now what to expect. … I really don’t know what I’m going to say. I just go out there and say it every night. I said some stuff last night I’ve never said before and may never say again.”

Granelli and his trio spends 90 minutes drawing from the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, sharing the stage with The Victoria Children’s Choir. “We look for every opportunity to provide local musicians opportunities to perform alongside visiting musicians,” Thompson said.

Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas is Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High.

“It’s the classic jazz. It’s one of the few jazz songs that everybody knows,” Thompson said. “You hear ‘Linus and Lucy’ and you know that music. Lots of kids aren’t exposed to jazz and this is one of the ways to bring kids into it.”

Call the Victoria Jazz Society office, Harbour Towers or call 250-388-4423 for tickets, $35 in advance and $39 and more information.

“They’re selling very well so people should come quickly,” Thompson said.