The score for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was written by American jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its haunting and almost melancholy tones were groundbreaking for television animation at the time. Among the original works composed by Guaraldi for the special was the iconic “Linus and Lucy,” which has since become the de facto theme of all the subsequent Charlie Brown animated films. Another original song for the production, which became an immediate hit, was “Christmas Time is Here” written by Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson. Friday night’s concert has been named after this song.
Museum Manager Matthew Hileman said, “The museum offered a jazz concert last spring featuring Christopher Azzara, the pianist who will be performing for us on Friday night. As I was sitting behind the audience that night, it dawned on me that this would be a beautiful Christmas concert for 2019. I approached Christopher after the performance last March and he immediately grinned. Guaraldi had been an enormous influence on his career and he was delighted at the idea.”
Christopher Azzara will be joined by Eric Schmitz on drums and Eugene Bisdikian on bass. Azzara is a pianist, arranger, author, and educator who has made important contributions to advancing the understanding of creativity and improvisation in the music learning process. An innovator in music teaching and learning, Dr. Azzara is Professor of music education in the Department of Music Teaching and Learning and an affiliate faculty of jazz studies and contemporary media at the famed Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
Dr. Eric Schmitz is Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at SUNY Oswego, where he directs the Oswego State Jazz Ensemble and Latin Jazz Ensemble, co-leads and performs with the Oswego Jazz Project (faculty jazz quartet), and teaches jazz and rock history, improvisation, jazz arranging, and music theory and composition.
Freelance bassist Eugene Bisdikian is a music educator and audio engineer based in Rochester. He is currently pursuing a Master’s of Music in music education at the Eastman School of Music. He has toured the United States and regularly performs with jazz, rock, funk, and pop groups in both Rochester and the New York metropolitan area.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered on CBS Television in 1965. The special was based on Charles Schulz’s syndicated comic strip “Peanuts,” which began running in the fall of 1950. It was written over just a few short weeks and was produced in six months on a shoestring budget. The special’s original producers, and the network, expected it to be a failure. However, on December 9, 1965, the show’s premiere was viewed by viewed by over 15 million households and received critical acclaim by television critics of the day. It has aired every Christmas since and has been embraced by generations of fans.
The free concert featuring the Christopher Azzara Trio will be held at the Bromeley Family Theater in Blaisdell Hall. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:00 p.m. There is no admission fee for this open-seating event and tickets are not required. The concert is presented as part of Holidays at the Horne, the Marilyn Horne Museum and Exhibit Center’s annual holiday community engagement programming.
To learn more about the museum’s events and programs, visit marilynhorne.org.
About the Marilyn Horne Museum and Exhibit Center
The Marilyn Horne Museum and Exhibit Center is a division of the University of Pittsburgh. The museum’s mission is to further interest in the art of opera and to inspire and educate new generations on the importance of art, culture and philanthropy through the life, achievements, and personal archives of renowned mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horne. The 3,400 square-foot exhibition space features 19 interactive exhibits, a documentary film, costumes, and artifacts from the personal archives of Marilyn Horne. Open daily. Admission is free.