(Above: Musician Jerry Granelli (centre) with the Goulbourn Jubilee Singers, along with Artistic Director Linda Crawford in red in the back row. Photo by Barry Gray.)
On Thursday night, junior members of the Goulbourn Jubilee Singers will be performing music from A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Jerry Granelli Trio. Guaraldi wrote and recorded the soundtrack with his trio for the 1965 Charlie Brown movie that’s considered by many to be one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.
Granelli is the only remaining member of Guaraldi’s original trio, and he’s performing tonight at Dominion-Chalmers United Church in an event produced by the Ottawa Jazz Festival. StittsvilleCentral.ca recently talked to Linda Crawford, the artistic director for the Goulbourn Jubilee Singers, about the upcoming performance.
StittsvilleCentral.ca: How did your group get invited to do this?
Linda Crawford: They did a smaller scale version of this two years ago… we were involved in that one with another choir. It went really well and we were invited back for this larger production.
SC: What’s the choir’s role in the show?
LC: We’ll have 19 children there. Their ages are anywhere from seven to 14. There’s three pieces associated with the children singing in the original tv show: Hark the Hearld Angels Sing, a piece called My Little Drum which is a jazz version of Little Drummer Boy, and of course Christmas Time is Here is the big number.
Two of the boys are playing the role of Charlie Brown and Linus, doing that scene towards the end where Charlie Brown says “can anybody tell me what Christmas is all about” and Linus has the speech from the Bible about the shepheds.
SC: Several generations have grown up with this music, and Granelli is a renowned jazz drummer. Do the kids have any sense of the scale of what they’re performing?
LC: They do now! I’m a former teacher and my accompanist is a teacher as well and we’ve been talking to them about it. We have three choirs in our organization and we often get together to sing. When we meet together and when we’ve been hanging out, the adults have been talking it up and reminiscing. The kids have been watching the videos. Most are familiar with the show, but now they have to go back and listen to it carefully.
It’s really exciting because Jerry is the original drummer on that cd, so it’s cool that he was part of that band, and this is the 50th anniversary of that movie.
Last time we did this, a lot of kids bought a book about the show, reading about how the animation was done. I have several kids interested in graphic design and animation, so it’s been a really interesting experience for them.
And singing at Dominion-Chalmers is going to be a big deal. Most kids have never seen a church as elaborate as Dominion-Chalmers. I’ve already warned them they’re going to spend the first few minutes on that stage looking around with their mouths wide open! We’ve actually practiced that!
SC: How much rehearsing goes into something like this?
LC: We’ve been working on the music since mid-October, every week since then. I have them for an hour, and that’s it. You can’t assume these days that the children of this generation know Hark the Herald Angels Sing. They don’t know Drummer Boy, maybe some of them do because they’ve heard it in previous seasons, but it’s new territory for these kids.
We only get one rehearsal with Jerry and the trio, the day before. So I’ve been doing a lot of work with kids like – ‘what happens if the piano player starts more quickly than you’re used to’. So my accompanist starts the piece really fast and they have to follow. So they have to listen to the accompaniment before they start to sing and adjust. That’s a big deal for kids to have to do that. They have to listen and be part of the ensemble.
SC: Where do the kids come from who are in the choir?
LC: This is a non-auditioned choir. Anyone who wants to sing is welcome. They join by word of mouth. We have contacts in the schools and some of the other choirs in the area. All of our kids come from Kanata, Stittsville, Richmond, West Carleton, Carp, the west end of the city. We’re the only children’s choir west of Merivale.
There are very few children’s community choirs. It’s not being done in schools as much either. I taught for 30 years in Goulbourn Middle School. So much depends on having a teacher who’s willing to give up the time and having a principal who’s willing to support it.
SC: What is it about the music that has made it so timeless and popular?
LC: Vince Guaraldi made a very conscious decision to keep it simple, and to use some of the traditional music. They wanted to go back to “what is the meaning of Christmas”. The big moment is the Linus speech. Musically, I think they wanted to do that to. And I think that’s part of the appeal. Yes you have the jazz, one of the finest jazz trios in the west coast for years, but it’s a jazz version of Hark the Hearld Angels Sing. It’s Little Drummer Boy with a jazz arrangement, but it’s still Little Drummer Boy. And Silent Night, and O Tannenbaum. He really went back to the original carols, and I think that’s part of the appeal.
Some of the kids find it slow – nobody’s rolling around in cars, crashing into walls, firing off guns or letting off fireworks. But then there are other children who find a relief in it. They love it because it’s simple.
The Goulbourn Jubilee Singers perform “Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the Jerry Granelli Trio on Thursday, December 3 at Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Centretown. Tickets/more info.