This should be a very exciting year for Guaraldi fans.
Nashville-based musician, composer and arranger Dick Tunney has been commissioned to create what is being dubbed a Peanuts Concerto: an ambitious work that will morph Guaraldi’s most recognizable themes into a symphonic fantasy for solo piano and orchestra.
The project was spearheaded by Tunney’s colleague Jeffrey Biegel, a celebrated New York-based pianist/composer whose accomplishments and accolades would tax even the most encyclopedic biographer.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Tunney notes, during a recent chat, “an off-the-charts, crazy-good Juilliard artist. When he gets something under his hands, he owns it.”
“I read an interview with Charles Schulz’s son Craig, back in 2013 or so,” Biegel explains, picking up the narrative. “Craig was struck by something that worried his father, who at one point wondered aloud, ‘Do you think they’ll remember me?’
“Well, in his case, of course. But the thing is, everything you’ve done, when you pass, it’s over. People will think less about you, and what you’ve done, if you’re not around any more. I sent Craig an email, and told him that really hit home, because not only should Schulz and Peanuts go on, but what about the music? Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts music is either locked up in those specials for eternity, or they’re only heard in orchestral versions usually adapted from the Christmas special.
“There’s not a new performance work at all, based on Guaraldi’s Peanuts music ... and certainly not a concerto for piano and orchestra. So I’ve been commissioned to take the music from those TV specials, and place them into a musical work that orchestras can book and present to audiences.”
Biegel has developed an artistic business model that has been successful for 20 years: He initiates projects with composers; raises all the money from donors and orchestras, to pay the composer to write a concerto for him; and then he (Biegel) gets to play it with the orchestras involved.