Friday, August 5, 2016

By George!

George Winston needs no introduction to this blog; his devotion to Guaraldi pre-dates mine by a few years (albeit only a few!), and he has demonstrated his fondness with two gorgeous cover albums: 1996's Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, and 2010's Love Will Come: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2. Nor has George stopped; he tirelessly seeks out and puts his own spin on additional Guaraldi recordings, even meticulously examining brief solos on Vince's recordings with (for example) Cal Tjader.

This fixation is about to bear fruit once again, as George soon will release Bay of Gold: The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 3.

But these albums weren't George's first opportunity to interpret the music of his favorite Northern California-based jazz cat. Peanuts fans know that George was one of several noted musicians selected to score individual episodes of the 1988-89 eight-part animated miniseries, This Is America, Charlie Brown. His assignment, The Birth of the Constitution, ran second in the series, debuting on October 28, 1988.

George routinely writes quite extensive liner notes for his albums, often with additional information available on his web site. These notes read like an ongoing memoir, and in some cases I've gotten the impression that such essays might have been composed for an album project that never quite materialized. In this case, the notes were intended for an individual DVD release of The Birth of the Constitution, which Warner Bros. ultimately opted against. (George chose not to issue an album of his score, unlike Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis, who did share their scores on CD.)

George recently has been going through his massives piles of notes, and he came across some items related to The Birth of the Constitution. He generously agreed to share them here, and so I'll turn the rest of this post over to him.

Take it away, George!


I was amazed when Lee Mendelson contacted me in 1988, about recording this soundtrack. After Vince’s untimely passing in 1976, when everyone decided to continue the Peanuts animations, I had imagined some time recording the soundtrack for an episode, and especially to use a Guaraldi song that he himself had not used in any of his 16 Peanuts scores — as I did here, with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" — and also to use as many Guaraldi songs as possible, also keeping in mind first and foremost what Lee wanted.

George's Guaraldi LPs and singles, displayed on his studio piano.
When I very occasionally do a soundtrack, I have to totally love the project, and I have to already have all the songs and musical fragments that might work. (I’m not a composer on demand, and I admire those who are). I always defer to the director, first finding a song that he agrees works for the segment, and second playing the song to his satisfaction (as I did with producer Mark Sottnick, for Rabbit Ears Productions’ The Velveteen Rabbitand with the late producer George Levinson, for Informed Democracy’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Pumpkin Circle and Bread Comes to Life).

Lee wanted some songs played on harpsichord, to give the feeling of that time period; the harpsichord still was in common use in the mid 1700s, and he had one brought into the studio. I'd never really played one, except for a couple of minutes, two or three times, when I would chance across one backstage in an auditorium, or on a campus. It took some time to adapt to it, since there is no variance in volume dynamics. However, this worked out well in the song that is the highlight of the soundtrack for me: during the basketball scene, where I play "Professor Longhair Variations," which I learned after hearing New Orleans pianist/ composer Allen Toussaint play it in Stephenson Palfi’s film, Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together. I basically played the harpsichord like it was a piano, striking the notes hard with dynamics: The sounds of my fingers hitting the keys produced a sound similar to the dribbling of a basketball, which can be heard in the beginning of that scene (at 11:29).

Much later, Charles M. Schulz asked me in 1998 to do another Peanuts soundtrack, as he recently had negotiated to make 12 new episodes. With his unfortunate passing soon after that conversation, they never happened. That would have been another wonderful experience.



1. Introduction & The Meeting of the Delegates

2. Baseball & The Meeting of the Delegates 2    

3. Basketball & Cast Your Fate   

4. Benjamin Franklin & Sports  

5. The Meeting of the Delegates & Peppermint Patty Worries & The Signing of the Constitution       

6. End Credits


1. "Yankee Doodle" (traditional, public domain, arranged by George Winston) - piano

2. "Kingdom Coming" (Henry Clay Work, public domain, arranged by George Winston) - piano

3. "Linus and Lucy" (by Vince Guaraldi) - harpsichord

4. "Montana Song" (by George Winston) - piano

5. "Long Black Veil" (Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill) - piano

6. "Charlie Brown’s All Stars" (by Vince Guaraldi) - harpsichord

7. "Linus and Lucy" (by Vince Guaraldi) - piano

8. "Professor Longhair Variations" (by Allen Toussaint and Henry Roeland Byrd [aka Professor Longhair]) - harpsichord

9. "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" (by Vince Guaraldi)/"Vira Mundo Penba" (traditional Brazilian, arranged by Bola Sete) - piano

10. "Jenny Lind Polka" (Anton Wallerstein, public domain, arranged by George Winston) - piano

11. "Put Out the Light" (by James Booker) - piano

12. "Yankee Doodle Ballad" (traditional, public domain, arranged by George Winston) - piano

13. "The Last Rose of Summer" (by George Alexander Osborne and Thomas Moore, or traditional Irish; public domain, arranged by George Winston) - piano


And, lastly, the final Music Cue Sheet, revised after the fact, on June 14, 2007.


Produced by Lee Mendelson

Piano and harpsichord solos by George Winston

Engineered by Howard Johnston

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