From Charlie Brown to Mozart — the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra is serving both light and weighty Christmas treats next weekend.
Selections for the Yuletide Delights concert on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Red Deer College Arts Centre include an original, sweet Christmas Fantasie arrangement by the RDSO’s music director Claude Lapalme, and Bach’s meatier Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.
“We wanted something cute, as well as something more serious,” since the RDSO will perform with young musicians of Lacombe’s Rosedale Valley Strings, said Lapalme.
He searched for “something light and recognizable” — hence the Vince Guaraldi/David Pugh medley A Charlie Brown Christmas, which includes the well known Linus and Lucy keyboards theme and Christmastime is Here.
With Linus’s endless philosophizing, Lucy’s psychiatric advice, and Charlie Brown’s sad sack personality, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts had a melancholy streak that was unusual for a 1960s comic strip, said Lapalme.
Guaraldi, who generally played jazz clubs, was an unusual but inspired choice to write the theme to A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special.
While some of his Peanuts music is undeniably wistful, there’s also a certain quirkiness and whimsy to it that makes it a popular Christmas choice, said Lapalme.
On the loftier side of the program, the RDSO will perform the aforementioned Johann Sebastian Bach sacred tune, as well as Guiseppe Torelli’s Concerto a Quattro in G Minor. Lapalme called the latter a very technical piece that colourfully describes the nativity, while demanding a lot of musicians.
Again on the lighter side, the Rosedale Valley Strings, led by Naomi Delafield, the RDSO’s concertmaster, will play a Christmas medley of popular carols, including a dance by Ottorino Respighi.
The orchestra of mostly children and youths has previously shared stages with the RDSO, Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra and the 100-voice Central Alberta Home School Choir, but also does ongoing charitable fundraising for families in Afghanistan and Africa.
Lapalme created his short Fantasie by drawing on the opening notes of several well-known carols, including Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. “It seems to be that the same two notes open a whole whack of Christmas carols. When I discovered this I thought I should do a piece on it,” he said.
The RDSO will also perform two folksie works — George Bizet’s Farandole from L’Arlésienne and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Three German Dances — With Sleigh Ride.
Both melodies were inspired by country dances. Lapalme joked that in a pinch, composers could always seek inspiration from traditional folk music.
The Bizet piece is taken from an early Provençal dance and a French carol about three kings. The Mozart dances include a minuet and an Austrian landler, and end with the happy sound of sleigh bells.
This concert was virtually a sellout as of Wednesday, but those interested in attending can still call the RDSO office at 403-340-2948 to be put on a waiting list in case some tickets are turned in by subscribers who can’t attend.